1899 Carlisle-Hamilton College Game

Recently, I received a question about the 1899 Carlisle Indian School-Hamilton College football game. That person hadn’t been able to find anything about it and wondered if it was actually played. I had never given that game any thought because the Indians played three of the Big Four and beat Penn for the first time that year. 1899 was also Pop Warner’s first year at Carlisle and Walter Camp named Isaac Seneca to his All America First Team, the first Carlisle player to be so named. It’s easy to see why the game with Hamilton College could be overlooked. For starters, this was the first, and only time these two schools played. Secondly, the game was played in Utica, NY and was probably the only time Carlisle played in that town. Thirdly, even though Hamilton had been having decent seasons the past few years, they weren’t in the class of the big teams Carlisle normally played on the road. After all, Pop Warner’s Cornell team beat them 41-0 the previous year. But that may be the hint we’ve been looking for.

Pop Warner may have had a relationship with Hamilton’s coach plus Hamilton College may have offered Carlisle a good bit of money to play them. Clinton, NY, Hamilton’s home is near Colgate and Cornell plus Warner’s home was in Springville, NY. So, there may have been some familiarity. Hamilton was more than holding its own against Colgate at that time and was even competitive against Cornell in 1899. Hamilton supporters may have thought that they had a pretty good team that year and wanted to see how they stood up against a powerhouse.

I found Carlisle Indian School newspaper mention and New York Times coverage of the game, so it was definitely played. What is most interesting is why was it played? More research is needed to determine that.

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7 Responses to “1899 Carlisle-Hamilton College Game”

  1. John Pitarresi Says:

    I am aware of this game, and someplace I have a Xerox copy of the program. I do believe Hamilton has an original copy in its archives. Hamilton was pretty good, and a year later, Walter Camp ranked them No. 10 in the nation when they went 8-1 and shut out eight opponents – including both Colgate and Cornell, I think, and Williams and Trinity, both pretty good in those days.
    I surmise there were a couple of reasons the game was played. I do believe Melancthon Woolsey Stryker, the president of Hamilton, was very much an admirer of the Carlisle team and big believer in football as a maker of men. Also, the Hamilton coach was Edwin Sweetland, who was a former Cornell player who had a relationship with Warner that lasted for many years. You can find out about him on line. So, I think that’s why the game was played at Utica Park in way East Utica. In those days and until somewhat after World War I, Hamilton routinely play Colgate, Cornell, Syracuse, Columbia. As you know, there was not the great gulf between small and big schools that there is now.

  2. John Pitarresi Says:

    This is from the Carlisle newsletter 1899. You probably already have it.

    Mr. Thompson reports the game at Utica, N.Y., last Saturday, as very
    satisfactory. Our boys won by a score of 32-0. They were treated as
    gentlemen, and the praise of the boys regarding Hamilton College and the
    surroundings are profuse. Congressman Sherman, of the Indian Committee
    of the House of Representatives, with a number of friends witnessed the
    game. He was very enthusiastic over “our boys” as he called them.
    Leander Gansworth, ’96, who is on the Booneville Herald, as printer,
    also was there. He is looking in splendid health all say, and is
    getting on well.

  3. John Pitarresi Says:

    The (Utica) Congressman Sherman referred to was James Schoolcraft Sherman, who was vice president under Taft.
    Thanks for the interesting bit of history.

    • tombenjey Says:

      Hi John,

      It’s nice to see that you follow my blog. At times I wonder if it’s worth the effort. Comments like yours make me want to continue it.

      My only knowledge of Hamilton College was of passing through Clinton (which I thought was a beautiful little town) on my way from Griffiss AFB to Eddie Hanna’s rope ladder factory in Waterville where I had a part-time job in late 1968-early 1969. It was a daunting drive in the winter in a car with bald tires.

      Any suggestions you might have for articles would be appreciated.


      Tom Benjey 717-258-9733 voice 717-243-0074 fax blog: http://www.TomBenjey.com

  4. John Pitarresi Says:


    Clinton is a beautiful little town and Hamilton is a beautiful little college and a very good one, if you credit the testimony of an alumnus who graduated by the skin of his teeth.
    I knew Ed Hanna well. He was the mayor of Utica for several widely separated and extremely controversial terms. The ride town Route 20 and over Paris Hill can indeed be perilous.
    Can I buy your latest book right off your web site, or would Barnes & Noble have it?

  5. tombenjey Says:


    When I knew him, Ed Hanna had a brand new ’69 Olds Toronado. With snow treads on the front wheels, it looked strange to me but boy could it plow through snow. I recall a conversation I had with his wife during the Apollo 8 mission. She couldn’t understand why anyone would risk his life to do that but thought that Eddie would go if he had the chance.

    I assume that Ed has passed long ago as has Griffiss AFB.

    My books are available at BN.com and can be ordered by brick & mortar stores if they don’t stock them. The advantage of getting them from http://www.Tuxedo-Press.com is that I will sign them if the buyer provides the desired inscription. That is, if you consider having it signed is a positive.


    P.S. I remember being one of several cars in a line that almost didn’t make it over Paris Hill.

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