When the varsity football team charges from its locker
room to play its season opener on
Homewood Field this Saturday, they might want to raise
their helmets in salute to the Class of 1884,
founders of the sport at Johns Hopkins.
George D. Penniman, a member of that class, recounted
the origins of the game in a talk to the
Class of 1939 during his 55th reunion. His remarks, on file
in the Hamburger Archives of the
Eisenhower Library, tell how he and some of his classmates
introduced the game not only to Johns
Hopkins but to Baltimore. He also tells how the colors
black and blue were chosen for the first
The class decided, Penniman said, "that we must have
our own football team, and therefore that
we must select the Hopkins athletic colors." He said
football "was absolutely unknown in Baltimore"
then. It was played mainly at Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
"And we boys suffered because our friends
who went to those colleges were very snooty and patronized
us" because Johns Hopkins did not have a
A committee, of which Penniman was a member, decided
the uniforms should be "black with a
light blue stripe." He said that "the jerseys arrived and
were beautiful at first, but the light blue
stripe showed the dirt so clearly that we changed it to a
very dark blue and black as we felt that
combination would stand wear better." Their uniforms
included "little woolen caps with tassels."
Penniman said that at first none of the students knew
anything about the game, but they
persuaded some graduate students who had played elsewhere
to teach them. They practiced in Druid
Hill Park, traveling there from the campus near Howard and
Center streets by horse-drawn streetcar.
He said they "created quite a sensation" as they rode to
About the same time the Johns Hopkins students were
learning the game, some members of the
Baltimore Athletic Club were beginning to play, and the
university played its first game against the
club on Oct. 7, 1882, losing 4-0.
Penniman said that by the time he graduated in 1884,
Johns Hopkins football "had not attained
any eminence but several students had learned the game and
were quite efficient members of the
This year's season opener, on Saturday, Sept. 6, pits
the Blue Jays against St. Lawrence. The
action begins at noon on Homewood Field.
This is part of an occasional series of historical
pieces by Ross Jones, vice president and secretary
emeritus. A 1953 graduate of Johns Hopkins, Jones returned
in 1961 as assistant to President Milton
S. Eisenhower and was a close aide to six of the
university's 13 presidents.