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Black and white drawing of three men playing hockey from the cover Spalding's How to Play Hockey
Cover from Spalding's Athletic Library- How to Play Hockey by Arthur Farrell, 1910

King of Winter Sports

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For the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Games I wrote about an exhibit I created of ‘classic’ winter sport and game books (1800-1950) in the post  He Shoots, He Scores: A Love of Winter Games. In this post I mentioned that the Library has been involved in digitization of its pre-1923 U.S. monograph imprint collection. Over the last four years  the Library has digitized tens of thousands more titles and added them into the Internet Archive.

It is another Winter Olympics (Sochi, 2014) and it occurred to me that I can take this opportunity to showcase more digital selections of winter sport books, but this time I will highlight titles related to my favorite sport- ice hockey. For the lover of the fastest game on earth, this digital collection includes a nice selection of early U.S. ice hockey guide and rules books from 1898-1921.

The Library holds a rather large collection of the Spalding Athletic Library series. If you have been involved in a sport, I am sure you recognize the Spalding name as the sporting-goods manufacturer and retailer. In the late 19th century Spalding also created a publishing house- the American Sports Publishing Company- which was responsible for publishing the infamous Spalding Guide series of sport/game/recreational guides, rules and almanacs.

A good portion of the Library’s Spalding collection has been digitized (check out the Spalding Baseball series and Internet Archive collections). What I love about these ‘old’ Spalding Guides is you can venture back in time and trace the evolution of a sport by reading about the early history, rules, regulations, leagues, and teams. The Spalding Guides are also a treasure trove of sporting goods equipment and gear advertisements. So if you are curious about the technology and style of ice skates in early 20th century- look no further.

Hockey skates advertisement from the Spalding's 1907 Official Rules for Ice Hockey, Speed Skating, Figure Skating and Curling series
Hockey skates advertisement from the Spalding’s 1907 Official Rules for Ice Hockey, Speed Skating, Figure Skating and Curling series

One of the earliest publications of ‘official’ U.S. Ice Hockey rules for the mass market was published in the Spalding Athletic Library series. The Library has digitized Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide (c1897/1898) edited and compiled by J.A. Tuthill, manager of the Montclair (New Jersey) Athletic Club Hockey Team. This volume not only contains the rules from various leagues and the history of ice hockey, but it also contains the record of the complete 1896-97 hockey season.

Arthur Farrell was a Canadian hockey player in the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, playing with the Shamrocks from 1897-1901. The American Sports Publishing Company hired him to write a Spalding series on ice hockey for the American audience, which was published in 1901 as Spalding’s Athletic Library Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide and was part of the Official Rules for Ice Hockey, Speed Skating, Figure Skating and Curling series. Farrell was passionate about the sport and writes:

Hockey! Fast, furious, brilliant, it is a most popular winter sport. Verily, it is the game of games. Offspring of ‘Our Lady of the Snows,’ hockey is among her many, varied games, the most fascinating, the most exciting, the most scientific (Spalding’s Athletic Library Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide, 1901: p.7 )

The Library also digitized the 1905 and 1906 volumes of Spalding’s Athletic Library Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide (Official Rules for Ice Hockey, Speed Skating, Figure Skating and Curling series) by Arthur Farrell as well as his 1910 How to Play Ice Hockey. These titles not only contain the early rules of the game, but also have sections about the history and origin of ice hockey and its various leagues and players. There is even a mention of ‘ladies’ teams springing up in Canada.

The Library has also digitized Spalding’s 1907 , 1909, 1911-14-, and 1915-18  Official Ice Hockey Guides edited by Frederick Toombs (1917-18 edited by Tom Howard). Also digitized is How to Play Hockey (1912) written by the former captain of Harvard’s Hockey Team S. Trafford Hicks. The 1921 Official Rules for Ice Hockey and Winter Sports edited by Tom Howard contains a great essay on “Hockey in the United States” (during the 1919-20 season) written by William Haddock, President of the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association. There  is also a short essay about the “Olympic Hockey Championship” at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp- which happens to be the first appearance of ice hockey in the Olympics. These later guides contain amazing details of  U.S. (and Canadian) ice hockey for those respective years. I especially love the essays of the various hockey teams by city (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, etc.) and the details of women (ladies) ice hockey teams.

Illustration from 1901 Spalding's Athletic Library Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide (Official Rules for Ice Hockey, Speed Skating, Figure Skating and Curling series.)
Illustration from 1901 Spalding’s Athletic Library Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide (Official Rules for Ice Hockey, Speed Skating, Figure Skating and Curling series.)

These early Spalding ice hockey titles provide a snapshot of the evolving sport in the U.S. However the Library has other digital collections, such as newspaper articles, related to the early history of ice hockey that can enrich our understanding of the history of the sport with regional and local reactions. Fellow librarian and ice hockey enthusiast Amber Paranick of the Library’s Serial and Government Publications Division selected examples of early news reports of ice hockey in the U.S. using Chronicling America, a digital collection of historic American newspapers.

She writes:

In 1890, two ice hockey athletic teams are formed in Montreal and the rest is history. Even though hockey’s origins are traced back to Canada that doesn’t mean it wasn’t reported in newspapers and serial publications here in the United States. One of the earlier U.S. reports of the game is found in the January 7th, 1894 edition of the Salt Lake Herald newspaper: “Ice Hockey. The King of Winter Sports- The New Games of the North.”

Though sport-loving Americans and Canadians quickly adopted the game, the trend didn’t stop in the colder regions of North America.  Even Hawaiians adopted a form of the game not played on ice. Check out  the front page of the January 21st, 1904 edition  of the Hawaiian Star: “Hockey- not ice- to be introduced in Honolulu.”

The El Paso Herald reports about the king of winter sports in the January 7th, 1911 article “Hockey, the Canuck Pastime Which has Leaped to the Front as the Leading Winter Sport of America.” And an  Aberdeen Herald newspaper reporter writes “Ice hockey: that fast, furious, and brilliant national pastime of the boys across the border…will now occupy a conspicuous place in the limelight of the sporting world here” in the January 20th , 1910 article “Hockey Season in Full Swing.”

Since many U.S. residents were unfamiliar with the sport of ice hockey in the early 20th century, many newspapers published the rules of the game and even what to wear when playing. See “Ice Hockey Gaining Strong Foothold” from the January 29th, 1911 issue of the Washington Herald.

The first U.S. Olympic hockey team (Antwerp Games,1920) from 1921 Spalding's Official Rules for Ice Hockey and Winter Sports
The first U.S. Olympic hockey team (Antwerp Games,1920) from 1921 Spalding’s Official Rules for Ice Hockey and Winter Sports

There are many more early U.S. ice hockey newspaper articles and images just waiting for you to discover in Chronicling America.

See what other LC bloggers have written about the Winter Olympics:

The Signal from Digital Preservation: Capturing and Preserving the Olympic Spirit via Web Archiving

In Custoda Legis from the Law Library: Regulating the Winter Olympics in Russia

Teaching with the Library of Congress from Educational Outreach: Bringing Olympic Games into your Classroom with Primary Sources

From the Catbird Seat (Poetry & Literature at the Library of Congress): Olympic Promotional Ads Inspire through Poetry

This blog post was written in collaboration with Amber Paranick,  a Reference Librarian with the Library’s Serial & Government Publications Division.  A native of the Pittsburgh, PA area, Amber came to the Library of Congress as a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences.  While she herself prefers to participate in winter sports by watching them on television, the hockey gene is in her family: her cousin is the broadcaster for the Canadian ice hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.


  1. Thank you. This is very important information that you share with us about King of Winter Sports.

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