The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Books > Badminton > Chapter XXVI: Archery in the United States
Chapter XXVI
Archery in the United States
By Mr. L. W. Maxson
Part 1 of 4

SOME years ago the writer attended a meeting of the Washington Anthropological Society to hear a series of papers upon the subject 'Poison Sticks and Arrows of the American Indians.' Listening to these and the ensuing discussion, he was interested in the manner in which tribal relations and race types were traced in the primitive weapons of the savage, their progress toward civilisation being gauged by the nature of their feathered shafts. He felt a thrill of satisfaction that, not from the makers of these ingeniously contrived weapons, but from the higher type of the British bowman, the American archer has drawn his inspiration and skill. With him it is an imported pastime, and his practice differs little from that which is seen on any English range.

At the date of the revival of British archery, in the latter portion of the last century, the United States had but recently begun its independent national existence, and the conquest and settlement of new territory engrossed the minds of its citizens. They were thus uninfluenced by the new growth of the pastime across the sea; and it was not till the second quarter of the present century that modern archery left its first trace on the rural sports of America.

As the population grew more dense, and the pleasures of field and forest were denied to the urban resident, that love of outdoor sport, so characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon race, forced him to seek some new means of amusement and Physical culture. Waring's little treatise on Archery and the pleasant tales of those who had shot abroad supplied the hint, and soon archery had become a popular sport in several sections of the land. Many clubs were started, and a lively interest was aroused; but in a few years, with one exception, these clubs passed away. This was the United Bowmen of Philadelphia. Beginning, in the fall of 1828, with an equipment that would have done honour to a museum, they formed an association that for thirty years gave pleasure and profit to many who have since become prominent in public affairs and private business. Who can say how much of the success of after years they owed to the clear head and steady nerve gained on the verdant range?

Archery equipments were not easily obtained; but before the beginning of the second season they had, as Franklin Peale, one of their original members, states, an outfit of the best quality, which consisted of a lemonwood bow, and spare strings, a dozen arrows contained in a quiver, a belt, pouch, grease-box, and tassel, a splendid pair of targets, and, finally, Waring's "Treatise on Archery," accompanied by a bill as long as a woodcock's of heavy charges, no inconsiderable item of which was Uncle Sam's thirty-three and a third per cent. duties. Weekly meetings for practice and public target meetings were held, while generous prizes were provided to tempt the lagging bowman. A fine silver vase, valued at several hundred dollars, was purchased as the Championship trophy, to be shot for every year by the members. This is now deposited with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia. The names of all the club members are carved upon it, and the medals of the victors of the past hang pendant from the brim. The old vase stands a monument to the best club that marked the first epoch of American archery; for, in 1859, the secretary closed his record with the words, 'No grounds; no meeting.' It did its duty well, and gave to American bibliography its first archery treatise --'The Archers' Manual'-- a revision of Waring, published in 1830 at Philadelphia.

During the next two decades no trace is found of any important clubs or public meetings. Here and there a lover of the greenwood still drew the bow, and a few enthusiasts, like Maurice and Will H. Thompson, used the weapon in hunting. In 1877 and 1878 a series of articles, written by the former, appeared in the leading American magazines. The very air of the field breathed through these, and ere they had been collected and published under the title of The Witchery of Archery,' thousands had been fascinated by the tales, and throughout the northern section of the country bow clubs were springing into existence. Apt teachers were found in the few who had shot alone or had followed the sport in the mother-country, but the 'Theory and Practice of Archery' by Ford was the one great source of information. Ford impressed his individuality upon the mass of American archers, and his system, or slight modifications thereof, has been all but universally adopted.

Pursuant to a call issued by the officers of the Chicago Archery Association for a convention of archery clubs to consider the propriety of organising a National Association, representatives of eight societies met at Crawfordsville, Indiana, on January 23, 1879. A constitution and rules were adopted, the Hon. Maurice Thompson was elected president, and the first National Archery Meeting set for Chicago in the month of August 1879. Prior to this meeting many additional clubs had become members of the Association, and a three days' contest was held, in which twenty ladies and sixty-nine gentlemen participated. Interest chiefly centred in the individual and team championship matches. The Championship was won by Will H. Thompson, establishing the first American record. for the Double York Round:--

100 yards 80 yards 60 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
70 236 63 233 39 155 172 624

Owing to the recent introduction of the pastime into public favour, it was necessary to create new rounds at shorter distances than those commonly shot in England. The American Round, consisting of thirty arrows each at 60, 50, and 40 yards, was selected for the team contest between the various clubs forming the Association. The ladies competed for Championship honours at the Columbia Round, consisting of twenty-four arrows each at 50, 40, and 30 yards. Mrs. S. Brown, of Hastings, Michigan, won, scoring at the Double Columbia Round:--

50 yards 40 yards 30 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
28 132 36 152 46 264 110 548

Many special matches were shot at this and other early association meetings; but these, in a few years, gave place to established rounds.

In 1881, at Brooklyn, the National Round, consisting of forty-eight arrows at 60 yards and twenty-four arrows at 50 yards, was adopted for the Ladies' Championship contest, the Columbia being retained for the Short Range Championship. In 1883 the American Round was. adopted for the Short Range Championship for gentlemen; and in 188'7 the Potomac Round, consisting of twenty-four arrows each at 80, 70, and 60 yards, was introduced as a mean between the long and short ranges. In 1880 the Ohio Round, consisting of ninety-six arrows at 60 yards, was adopted as the team round for gentlemen.

At first, membership in the National Association was restricted to clubs, but this proving disastrous to both the Association and the pastime in general, in 1887 a new constitution was adopted, practically putting the membership upon the individual basis. Money as ell as special prizes were contested for at the first, but at all subsequent National Meetings money prizes have been barred. The Association possesses handsome gold challenge medals not only for the Round Championships, but also for each of the distances shot.

The second National Meeting was shot at Buffalo, July 13 to 15, 1880, eleven ladies and thirty-five gentlemen competing. Mr. L. L. Peddinghaus won the Championship by best gross score. The records of National Meetings hereinafter given are above 500 for the Double York and Columbia Rounds, and 350 for the National Round. Those for this meeting were:--

Name 100 yards 80 yards 60 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
L. L. Peddinghaus 55 221 56 274 41 211 152 706
Will H. Thompson 59 223 58 256 43 223 160 702
Walter Burnham 56 206 62 256 41 211 159 673
F. Walworth 55 215 50 198 39 177 144 590

The Ladies' Championship was won by Mrs. T. Davis on gross score:--


Name 50 yards 40 yards 30 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
Mrs. T. Davis 30 110 37 203 47 283 114 598
Mrs. J. S Noyes 26 120 39 177 43 233 108 530
Mrs. E. T. Church 26 82 38 180 46 254 110 516

The third National Meeting was held at Brooklyn, New York, July 12, to 14, 1881. Nineteen ladies and fifty-seven gentlemen shot. This meeting brought out a more general attendance, and showed a rapid development of the sport. Clubs from Massachusetts to California were represented.

The York Round was the centre of interest. During the first day victory rested between three comparatively new archers, Mr. Sidway scoring 91-405, Mr. Walworth 94-396, and Colonel Williams 87-377. Mr- Walworth won the Championship with 5 points, having lost 1 point to Mr. Sidway by a rebound at 100 yards. It was in this contest that Colonel Williams first came to the front:--

Name 100 yards 80 yards 60 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
Frank Walworth 67 261 67 262 42 240 173 763
R. Williams, jun. 62 222 57 253 48 270 167 745
F. Sidway 68 262 63 249 41 195 172 706
Will H. Thompson 53 262 54 224 40 196 147 583
Adam Gray 37 155 48 202 33 167 118 524
E. L. Morse 35 122 45 185 40 198 121 505

The Ladies' Championship was won by Mrs. A. H. Gibbs: with the entire 8 points. But two scores above 350 were made:--

Name 60 yards 50 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
Mrs. A. H. Gibbs 61 233 36 160 97 393
Miss E. T. Morton 49 201 32 152 81 353

The fourth National Association Meeting was held at Chicago, July 11 to 13, 1882. Thirteen ladies and thirty-one gentlemen shot. Mr. Taylor won the Championship with 6 of the 10 points, Mr. Nash having won 4 points or gross score and hits and score at 100 yards. Great interest was. aroused toward the close of this match, for a single miss on the part of Mr. Taylor in his concluding nd at 60 yards would have given the Championship to Mr. Nash:--

Name 100 yards 80 yards 60 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
D. A. Nash 58 210 65 257 44 246 167 713
H. S. Taylor 55 151 67 275 46 252 168 678
R. Williams, jun 49 179 55 235 44 236 148 650
W. A. Clark 45 197 64 244 41 195 148 636
Will H. Thompson 40 178 54 234 44 198 144 610
F. E. Perry 42 148 56 226 39 179 137 553
C. S. Upson 40 140 54 174 41 193 135 507

Mrs. A. H. Gibbs again won the Championship medal, securing the entire 8 points at the Double National Round:--

Name 60 yards 50 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
Mrs. A. H. Gibbs 63 251 38 198 101 449
Miss F. Morrison 61 237 33 137 94 374
Mrs. C. R. Wild 46 174 39 187 85 361
Mrs. H. C. Carver 43 188 34 162 82 350

The fifth National Meeting was held at Cincinnati, July 10 to 12, 1883, twenty-seven ladies and forty-two gentlemen competing. This was one of the best meetings ever held in America, all National records being advanced. Colonel Williams won the Championship with g points, the point for hits at 60 yards being divided between Messrs. Taylor and Nash:--

Name 100 yards 80 yards 60 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
R. Williams, jun. 76 300 79 371 44 236 199 907
H. S. Taylor 53 191 51 223 45 235 149 649
W. A. Clark 56 192 63 257 39 171 158 620
D. A. Nash 35 135 57 243 45 209 137 587
C. S. Upson 38 96 67 242 44 222 146 560
C. J. Strong 42 156 42 164 39 195 123 515
M. C. Howel 26 90 47 201 40 216 113 507

Mrs. M. C. Howell won the Ladies' Championship, with 6 of the 8 points, from the best field that ever graced the National range, Mrs. S. A. Whitfield having won the points for hits and score at 60 yards:--

Name 60 yards 50 yards Total
Hits Score Hits Score Hits Score
Mrs. M. C. Howell 85 413 47 277 132 690
Mrs. S. A. Whitfield 88 435 39 185 127 621
Mrs. T. F. George 71 299 45 237 116 536
Mrs. H. M. Pollock 76 328 42 198 118 526
Mrs. J. Arthur 72 296 43 213 115 509
Mrs. J. P. Newman 47 195 37 185 84 380
Mrs. C. R. Wild 56 220 38 152 94 372
Miss. L. Maish 46 196 33 159 79 355