Chicago Dunks Iowa!

On January 16, 1896, Henry F. Kallenberg, an instructor of physical education at the University of Iowa, welcomed Amos Alonzo Stagg, athletic director at the recently founded University of Chicago, to Iowa City for an experimental game in a new sport. The contest, refereed by Kallenberg, was the first unofficial college basketball game played with five players on each side. The University of Chicago won by a score of 15 to 12.

Charlotte Hall Military Academy. Basketball player IV. Charlotte Hall, Maryland. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Kallenberg had met Stagg at the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) training school in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the two of them were students in 1890. In December 1891, Canadian-born James Naismith, director of physical education at the school, invented the game of basketball.

Initially, players passed or batted (with open hands) a soccer ball up and down a court of unspecified dimensions. Points were earned by landing the ball in a peach basket. Iron hoops and a hammock-style basket were introduced in 1893. Another decade passed, however, before the innovation of open-ended nets put an end to the practice of manually retrieving the ball from the basket each time a goal was scored.

Indian Head Camp, Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Boys on basketball field. Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographer, August 23, 1951. Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

I’m a plump, Middle-Western, Middle-class, middle-aged woman, with white hair and simple tastes…I am mad about Kansas skies, Cedar Rapids by night, Iowa City any time, Miami Beach, San Francisco, and all American boys about fifteen years old playing basketball.

Rose Wilder Lane,” October 10, 1940, p. 5. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

For many years the sport remained closely identified with the Y.M.C.A., even as its popularity as a college sport for men and women steadily increased. It acquired an even greater following with the introduction, in 1963, of nationally televised broadcasts of the National Collegiate Athletic Association championships. By the 1980s, basketball had gained an equal footing with baseball and football among American sports fans.

[Girls' basketball team posed]. Copyrighted by J.E.R., February 25, 1910. Photograph & Photographs Division

Women’s college basketball, introduced by Senda Berenson at Smith College in 1892, has become increasingly popular since the abolition in 1971 of rules limiting players’ mobility to half-court.

Learn More

  • Search on basketball in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940 to find more recollections of the game. After retrieving a list of hits, scroll down to any item and click on the View Results link to jump to the segment of the piece pertaining to basketball.
  • Find photographs of basketball players. Search across all the photographic collections on basketball. Of particular interest are Theodor Horydczak’s images of basketball players at Charlotte Hall Military Academy in Maryland, found in the Horydczak Collection.
  • Find more information about sports in American history by searching Today in History on sport or on particular sports. Subjects featured include football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, tennis star Althea Gibson, legendary pitcher Cy Young, the first game of the modern World Series, and baseball great Jackie Robinson.

Hello, Dolly!

“She is glorious,” theater critic Walter Kerr raved about Carol Channing’s January 16, 1964, debut in Hello, Dolly! Wearing a carrot-colored wig, her large eyes accentuated with false eyelashes, the actress and comedienne sparkled in the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi—a widow brazenly intent upon remarrying into money. Hello, Dolly!, a musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker, received ten Tony awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for Channing’s performance. It was also named best musical of the 1963-64 season by the New York Drama Critics Circle.

Carol Channing
Portrait of Carol Channing, en Chinoise. Carl Van Vechten, photographer, 1956. Van Vechten Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Carol Channing was born in Seattle, Washington, on January 31, 1921 and grew up in San Francisco. She first achieved stardom in 1949 for her portrayal of gold digger Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Several of the songs from that show, including Channing’s rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” became popular-music classics. In addition to her legendary Broadway career, Channing starred in nightclub acts featuring her impersonations of other popular entertainers.

Playwright Thornton Wilder was among the most acclaimed American writers of his time. He won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and the 1938 and 1943 Pulitzer Prizes for drama for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, respectively. Wilder premiered The Matchmaker, a revision of his 1938 play The Merchant of Yonkers, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1954.

Charles Dillingham and Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.
Charles Dillingham and Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., Present A Musical Entertainment Entitled The Century Girl, Century Theatre, New York, November 6, 1916. American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920

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