How The Fabulous 1890s Weekend Started
The story behind the annual Fabulous 1890s Weekend is as fascinating as the first night football game itself.
In the mid-1930s, a Mansfield University alumnus with a love of history, discovered accounts of the 1892 game when Mansfield Classical Seminary played Wyoming Seminary in Smythe Park. The alumnus was county historian Chester Bailey who was also a reporter for the local newspaper, the Advertiser, and he understood the importance of recording the event. Bailey had it documented and placed in the Football Hall of Fame.
In 1976, as chairman of the County Bicentennial Committee, Bailey had the game formally recognized when Mansfield University and Mansfield Borough jointly erected a plaque in Smythe Park commemorating the 1892 game.
The idea for staging a re-creation of the event began 1990 in Mansfield University’s Public Relations Office.
When the staff met with the Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce with the idea of creating a whole weekend devoted to the 1890s, the Fabulous 1890s Committee was formed almost on the spot. Since the historic game was played at the Great Mansfield Fair, it seemed like a natural to plan a weekend of family-filled activities. In the 1890s, the county fair was the social event of the year, and the place where new products, inventions and ideas were tested – ideas like a night football game.
As word spread of the plans to turn back the town 100 years, so did the enthusiasm.
In addition to the Chamber and university, the Southern Tioga School District, Mansfield High School, Mansfield Borough, ministerium and numerous community and university organizations joined to help.
In an advertisement in local papers, Mansfield University answered Wyoming Seminary’s rematch challenge issued in 1892. Both schools wanted to celebrate their place in history by playing each other again on the centennial anniversary. Since NCAA Division II did not allow MU’s team to play Sem, MU formed a club team. The two teams met at 7 p.m. on the field at Smythe Park – 100 years to the hour after the 1892 game.
During halftime, members of Alpha Chi Rho staged a re-creation of the 1892 game. Striving for historical accuracy, they had spent months learning the rules and plays of the day. The uniforms and the ball were from a General Electric commercial which aired nationwide, commemorating the 1892 game.
From the first Fabulous 1890s Weekend to this year’s event, the goal has been to create a historically accurate, family-oriented weekend celebrating the last and most colorful decade of the 19th century. The weekend culminates with the re-enactment game and fireworks.