Incredibly early drawing of a football match in America from 1861

Is this the world’s first ever image of a football game from a newspaper?

This full-page engraving is from the August 31st 1861 Harper’s Weekly newspaper depicts a scene from the Civil War, featuring Union troops  from the 1st Maryland Regiment ‘playing football before evening parade’.

I discussed in my last blog the world’s first photograph of a football team in a newspaper from 1876 but early drawings were more common, nevertheless 1861 is still very early:


Here is a close up of the action:

It predates north America’s first ever football club. the Oneida Football Club (1862)  (founded in Boston Massachusetts), by one year and exemplifies the worldwide fascination with kicking a football.

I cannot find an earlier representation of a game of football (folk,rugby or association) in a newspaper  that predates this American 1861 sketch.

The image below is of an Australian rules football match at the Richmond Paddock (now Yarra Park), Melbourne, in about 1866. The building in the background is the Melbourne Cricket Ground pavilion.

The earliest Association football drawing that I am aware of is featured in my book and is from 1875.


The above image is important because it uses the word ‘Association’ and the match features goals but the football match during the American Civil war could well be the first drawing of a football game ever used in a newspaper.

If you find an earlier depiction of a football match in a newspaper earlier than August 1861 please get in touch.

My book ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ is available to purchase at