Collectors Corner: 1895 was a lively year for Carolina football.


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In this feature of Collector’s Corner Scott takes a deep look back in Carolina football history

1895 was a lively year for Carolina football. 

One of the prouder aspects of my football collection is that I have several items from every decade that Carolina has played the game with the exception of the 1880s, UNC’s first. Seeing as Carolina first took up the sport in 1888 and played just five games total (I do not count the Duke forfeit of 1889), the odds of ever adding that decade are pretty much stacked against me.

I do, however, have multiple items form the 1890s, and I’d like to share a pair from the interesting year
of 1895.

About a year ago a fellow came across a notebook from the man who managed football at Navy that year, Charles Poor. Mr. Poor had kept up with all of the business correspondence for Navy football that year by pasting the letters he received into the pages of a notebook. The finder of that notebook offered the correspondence for sale on Ebay. His asking prices were high, and most of the auctions ended without any bids, and, fortunately for me, UNC was among that number. I negotiated with him for the two letters presented here today, making me the proud owner of a pair of unique 19th-century Carolina football items.

The two letters are between Mr. Poor and his Carolina counterpart, Walter Brem, Jr. Mr. Brem, the author of each letter, was the son of a Charlotte insurance magnate, making him an obvious choice to head up the team’s business affairs. In those days, athletics were entirely controlled by the students, an arrangement that would change at UNC the following year. The students even passed the hat to pay for that year’s coach (more on him later).

In these letters, Mr. Brem, who was also a reserve on Carolina’s baseball team, was negotiating with Mr.
Poor to arrange what would have been the first-ever meeting between Carolina and Navy. The highly
odd part, especially by today’s standards, was that the two were negotiating in October to play a game
on November 2!

In the first letter, dated October 7 (note that “football” is still written as two words in the letterhead),
Brem wrote:

If you still have open Nov. 2, we will play you in Annapolis there, you to pay our necessary expenses as per your offer of last spring. I trust that you have not given the date elsewhere and that we will have the pleasure of meeting you this fall. Please let me hear from you at once regarding this matter.

Mr. Poor must have, indeed, responded quickly because Brem wrote on Oct. 12:

I am very sorry that we cannot meet this fall but it will be impossible for me to accept the guarantee you name ($175.oo). I might have managed to meet you Nov, 9th though that date is already filled.

Using an online inflation calculator, I have determined that $175 in 1895 would equal $4,525 today. I would imagine Bubba Cunningham would be a very happy man if he could manage a road game today for that price.

For the record, Carolina ended up playing at Washington and Lee on Nov. 2. I wonder how much the Generals guaranteed? Carolina did not play on Nov. 9.

As for Oct. 12, the day Brem wrote the second letter, Thomas Gawthorp “Doggie” Trenchard made his coaching debut as UNC met North Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical College for the third time ever.  As would be the case for the first six times Carolina played State, UNC shut out the visitors from Raleigh, this time by a 36-0 count.

Trenchard was the second person to coach Carolina for the entire season, and, when he returned in 1913, he became the first man to coach Carolina for more than two seasons. Going 26-9-2 in four seasons, his 73% winning percentage still ranks second at Carolina among those who coached at least four seasons. Trenchard was an All-American at Princeton in 1893, and he earned the
nickname “Doggie” for his shaggy hairstyle.

Two other games of note occurred that season. The first was an Oct. 26 meeting with Georgia in Atlanta. No less of an authority that John Heisman purported to have witnessed the first forward pass in football history during that game.

The other memorable contest was Carolina’s only loss, 6-0, to Virginia in Richmond on Thanksgiving Day. A record crowd of 12,000 turned out to see and participate in UVa’s victory. Twice during the game, members of the crowd spilled onto the field to block open-field UNC runners who would have otherwise scored.

Seeing as how the forward pass was not legal in 1895, yet UNC beat Georgia, 6-0, using one, I guess karma was alive and well in the Nineties.

Check back next week for another edition of Scott’s Collector’s Corner.

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