Basketball 1916
Photograph courtesey of the Dickinson College Archives

This photograph was actually taken in the 1916/1917 school year, contrary to the evidence in the photo.  It is a picture of the basketball team of the sophomore class, the graduating class of 1918.  The photograph could have been taken in a photography studio, several of which were present in Carlisle at that time.  It is impossible to be certain as to the exact location of this photograph, but the intricate rug, indistinct background, and formal posing gives rise to speculation that this photograph must have been taken by a professional.

Basketball (or Basket Ball) as a sport was invented at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891.  It was intended to provide physical activity during the winter months, when outside games were impossible.  The original games under the aegis of the sport's creator Dr. James Naismith, used a volleyball and a peach basket, complete with bottom, for the ball and hoop.

Basketball came to Dickinson College in 1895 when the students at the Carlisle Indian School beat Dickinson in the first game the College ever played.  The Indian School students had been playing basketball for some years by this time, due to the policy of the founder, Pratt, who believed that Indians became surly and depressed when deprived of physical exercise.  In fact, the Carlisle Indian School was noted for its athletics, and defeated Dickinson in nearly every sport.  The Red Man, the Carlisle Indian School newspaper, covered the game in full and notes that, while the Dickinsonians wore sleeveless and legless suits to play, the Indian School students wore long sleeved, full legged uniforms.  The Dickinsonian college newspaper failed to report the game, except to say that some Dickinson students and some Indian students had been involved in a 'scrum'.

Uniforms are, in fact, an interesting side note in this essay - to modern eyes, the khaki shorts and belts of this team seem incongruous.  At the time, however, they were standard issue for most basketball teams, although uniforms were not as strictly conformist as they are today.  The number of players in the team varied with the size of the court which was divided into three seperate equal areas, with an equal number of players put on each section.  The larger the section, the more players.

Eventually the Dickinsonians recovered from their embarrassment and a second game against the Indian School was played in 1897.  A varsity team was formed in 1899, only to be suspended several times in the following decade for financial problems.  The team was dissolved  in 1912.  From 1912-1918, the only basketball games played at Dickinson were inter-class games and games against the Law School.  Professor Hitchler of the Dickinson Law School was the motivating force behind these games, and he attempted to get a varsity team put back into place, but because of W.W.I the College held off until after the Armistice.

The team above includes (from left to right) James Hennan of Altoona, Pa., Howard Breisch of Hazelton, Pa., Robert Faddis of Parkersburg, Pa., Edward Brady of Minersville, Pa., Eugene Flood of Beaver Meadows, Pa., and Alvin Chilcoat of Rockhill Furnace, Pa.  Flood and Hennan were the forwards, Breisch was the captain, Faddis was the center, and Chilcoat and Brady were the guards.  Brady was also the team's manager.  Of the six young men in this picture, only Robert Faddis failed to graduate on time, perhaps as a result of joining the military during W.W.I.  This photograph appears in the 1917 Microcosm, the Dickinsonian yearbook.

Maureen McIlhaney

 1917 Microcosm, 1918 Microcosm, W. J. Gobrecht's, History of Basketball at Dickinson College