American artist Frederic Remington (1861-1909) is famed as the preeminent painter and sculptor of the Old American West, with classic and exciting action images of cowboys, American Indians and the Cavalry. Many sports fans familiar with his work, however, don’t realize that not only did Remington play football at Yale University, but he made numerous sketches of 19th century football published in the Yale Courier and Harper’s Weekly. These sketches were made into wood-engravings and can be found and collected by fans of antique football memorabilia.
Remington was born into a wealthy and prestigious New York family. His father was a successful business owner and colonel in the Civil War, and Frederic was the cousin of the founder the Remington Arms Company, America’s oldest gunmaker.
Frederic attended art school at Yale University where he was a member of the 1879 co-National Champion football team captained by Walter Camp. Camp is often called the “Father of American Football,” invented the line of scrimmage and down system and helped make Yale a national powerhouse. Remington wasn’t a star on the team, but was always proud of his playing days.
While at Yale, Frederic met Poultney Bigelow, who was editor of the student newspaper Yale Courant and went on to co-own the New York Evening Post. Bigelow invited Remington to submit sketches, and Remington’s very first published sketched was a caricature of a football player bandaged up in the student paper’s November 1878 issue.
Remington left school early to take care of his ill father, then went out West and found the inspiration for his Western art. Along the way, he continued to contribute sketches to magazines, most notably Harper’s Weekly. As was the practice, the magazines’ printers used the sketches to make wood-engraving prints for the magazines. Many of the pictures are of wild west themes– taming the land, Indians, cowboys, settlers, battles–, but there are also over twenty wood-engravings of football, including of Yale.
While the old Yale student publications are hard to find, the Remington football wood-engravings from Harper’s Weekly can be found with some ease (there’s one on eBay now). He is usually credited in the caption and/or in the graphics for easy identification. As the wood-engravings are large, they can make for great display pieces. And, while an original Remington sculptor or oil painting can fetch upwards of millions of dollars a piece at auction, a Haper’s Weekly are easily affordable for most any collector.
The following are some examples of wood-engravings from Harper’s Weekly.