The match-up between the football teams of Harvard and Yale is one of the greatest rivalries in sports history. The teams faced off for the first time in 1875, with the Harvard Crimson winning over the scoreless Yale Bulldogs. At the time touchdowns were not counted towards the score, a rule that was in place until 1876. For the rest of the 19th century the two teams met on the field almost annually, with only a few exceptions. Although the teams have officially only played each other once a year, on at least one occasion the two teams enjoyed a much more informal game. On Wednesday, August 28, 1901, the Harvard Crimson and Yale Bulldogs played such a game in the hall of Elm Farm in Windham. Although many of the details surrounding the game have likely been lost to history, it can be surmised that players from the two teams were likely boarding at Elm Farm at the time. After spending the summer day at Cobbett's Pond or Canobie Lake, the players could have ended the day with an evening game of football.
Without the pressure of referees, cheering and booing crowds, and the media, the players could have played without the high stakes of the official games. It is unknown how the hall was setup for the game, or what improvisations were made for the uprights. As seen in the postcard view above, the building itself is not unusually large, and there is nothing to suggest it was particularly suited for a game of college football. However, when the game concluded Yale was the victor with a 19 to 14 win over Harvard. The two teams engaged in a "peanut contest" after the game, in which Yale was also victorious; the score was 4 to 2. While it is unknown exactly what the contest entailed, literature from the period suggests there were many variations of such contests. One of the most plausible is "peanut pushing". Participants would have used their nose to nudge a peanut a certain distance.
Derek Saffie is an avid Windham historian who enjoys researching and sharing his collection with all those interested in the history of the New England town.