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The growth, popularity and the economic importance of sports from 1870 until the First World War are well reflected in the varied collections of photographs and drawings held at The National Archives. Our sporting images include unique photographs of early sports heroes and teams, as well as advertising posters and other ephemera.
The mid to late 19th century saw the establishment of rules for Association Football, Rugby Union and cricket and soccer began to pay players from the establishment of the Football League in 1885. Teams were supported by ever larger numbers of working-class fans, who for the first time had the money and a Saturday half-holiday to see their teams play every weekend. The middle classes enjoyed sports like tennis, golf and cycling.
Sport soon became big business. Sporting goods companies such as the Concrete Football Boots used poster advertising; others used sporting events to sell their products, such as Margesson’s Golf Club Toilet Soap. Gamages Ltd, the London sports outfitters, commissioned a series of humourous images for tennis, cricket and other sports in 1901.
Many sportsmen of the period were badly paid and earned extra money by endorsing products. The great England batsman Jack Hobbs endorsed the 'Force' cricket bat.
The National Archives holds a large collection of team photographs and portraits of individual players. There are many pictures of individual players such as Charlie Athersmith, an explosive winger for Aston Villa capped 12 times by England in the 1890s. Many of the teams are still household names today, such as the Everton championship winning team of 1891 and Chelsea’s team of 1905. Chelsea was then a small fish in football terms!
Regulation Lawn Tennis Balls, 1900/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-160-f480-regulation-lawn-tennis-balls-1900.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/160 f480
Newcastle Races, 1898/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-147-f112-newcastle-races-1898.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/147 f112
Margerison's Golf Club Soap 1899/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-155-f360-margerisons-golf-club-soap-1899.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/155 f360
Chelsea FC, 1905/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-490-chelsea-fc-1905.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/490
Croquet, artist Tom Browne, 1904/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-216-(119c)-croquet-tom-browne-1904.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/216 (119c)
England Ladies Cricket XI, 1890/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-400-f286-english-lady-cricketers-group-1890.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/400 f286
Charlie Athersmith, Aston Villa Football Team, 1891/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-406-(27)-C-athersmith-aston-villa-football-team-1891.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/406 (27)
Novelties in athletic costumes, Lloyd, Attree & Smith, 1894/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-111-f80-novelties-in-athletic-costumes-lloyd-attree-and-smith-1894.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/111 f80
Frank Shortland, Cuca Cocoa Cycling Challenge Cup Champion, 1892/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-410-(34)-frank-shortland-cocoa-cocoa-cycling-challenge-cup-champion-1892.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/410 (34)
Rugby tackle, 1910/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-550-rugby-tackle-1910.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/550
Jack Hobbs of Surrey examines the 'Force' cricket bat at Summers Brown & Co, London, 1911/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-555-f1-jack-hobbs-of-surrey-examines-the-force-cricket-bat-at-summers-brown-and-co-london-1911.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/555
A W Gamage Ltd, AWG Athletic & General Outfitters, London, 1901/images/imagelibrary/showcase/sports/copy1-183(3u)-a-w-gamage-ltd-awg-athletic-and-general-outfitters-london-1901.jpg
Catalogue reference: COPY1/183 (3u)
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