J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

New Rule! No Football Games in the Streets

On 25 Nov 1657, the selectmen of Boston issued a new rule about a pressing public concern:
For as much as sundry Complaints are made that severall persons have Received hurt by boyes and young men playing at foot ball in the streets; these are therefore to Injoyne that none be found at that game in any of the streets, Lanes, or Inclosures of this town, under the pœnalty of twenty shillings for every such offence.
The selectmen immediately went on to issue another rule about people “buing out of servants tymes and redeeming others from Engagments,” and then letting those now free people become burdens on the government. The selectmen warned “that what ever person or persons they soe sett att Liberty they are to see after their Imployment, and to secure the Town from any charge that might otherwise be ocasioned by such.” In both cases, the town fathers were concerned with too much freedom.

The rule against playing football in Boston’s streets was still in effect over a century later on 3 Jan 1787, when the selectmen issued another warning:
The Selectmen recommend to the several Masters of the public Schools, that they make their respective Scholars acquainted with the By Laws forbidding to throw Snow Balls and play Foot Balls in the Street and any other of those Laws that concern their Scholars
The game of football has changed greatly, but local authorities are still worried about football-related rowdiness in the streets today. Let’s enjoy the game sensibly.


J. L. Bell said...

Well, that was exciting, wasn’t it? The New Yorkers earned their win.

Samuel said...