Our present-day American culture is obsessed with sports. To cite just two pieces of evidence of this, on average, more than 67,000 fans attend each National Football League game and more than 30,000 fans attend each Major League Baseball game. This is to say nothing of the millions of fans who watch these sports on television or listen to them on the radio.
When did America become a place filled with sports nuts? When did the business of professional sports become a thing in the United States?
Early American history has answers for us as does Kenneth Cohen, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the author of They Will Have Their Game: Sporting Culture and the Making of the American Republic.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.
Kenneth Cohen, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the author of They Will Have Their Game: Sporting Culture and the Making of the American Republic, leads us through an exploration of early American sport and sporting culture.
As we explore sport in early America, Ken reveals what early American sporting culture was and the types of sport early Americans engaged in; Taverns, race tracks, and other venues for sport in early America; And, details about how the American Revolution impacted the development of sport and sporting culture between the colonial and early republic periods.
What You’ll Discover
- Early American sport and sporting culture
- Gambling in early America
- Sporting culture as social control and a way to establish social hierarchy
- Taverns as venues for early American sport
- Regulation on gambling and sport in early America
- The role and place of women in early American sporting culture
- African and African-American participation in early American sports
- Impact of slavery on early American sport and sporting culture
- Thoroughbred horse racing
- The impact of the American Revolution on early American sporting culture
- The comeback of genteel sporting culture after the Revolution
- Sport in the early American republic
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Ken Cohen
- They Will Have Their Game: Sporting Culture and the Making of the American Republic
- National Museum of American History
- American Democracy, A Great Leap of Faith
- Many Voices, One Nation
- What would you like to know about early American History? Send me your questions!
- Episode 135: Julie Holcomb, Moral Commerce: The Transatlantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy
- Episode 136: Jennifer Van Horn, Material Culture and the Making of America
- Episode 140: Tamara Thornton, Nathaniel Bowditch: 19th-Century Man of Business, Science, and the Sea
- Episode 144: Robert Parkinson, The Common Cause of the American Revolution
In your opinion, what might have happened if revolutionary leaders had not taken such a negative stance toward sports during the American Revolution? If they had had a more positive view of sporting culture, how would sports and sporting culture have developed differently in the United States?
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