A VISITOR TO ANDOVER HILL on any given weekday afternoon in the fall or spring of the year is immediately taken by the helter-skelter of variously clad students in the process of fulfilling their athletic obligation, a requirement which many enjoy but which is compulsory for all. The more-than-casual observer, curious to see the entire physical education program, would find the new combination Borden-Memorial-Abbot Gymnasium bursting with activities: 44 girls performing in a highly disciplined ballet program and another 36 in modern dance, or a combination of both; 22 boys and girls in a karate class and 15 more practicing Tai Chi Chaam, another form of martial art; 4 of both sexes doing swim fitness and swim instruction in the pool; 20 in the squash courts, 19 more playing volleyball, 27 doing weight training exercises on the "universal gym" or the new "Nautilus" equipment. After a visit to a class in yoga serving 15 students, the spectator, touring the playing fields of the spacious campus, would encounter the following: 34 boys and 12 girls running a cross-country course; 60 girls playing field hockey; 100 boys playing football at three different levels of competence; 10 students playing platform tennis; 130 playing court tennis; 81 boys playing interscholastic soccer at four levels; 48 girls in soccer, competing at two levels---varsity and J.V.---and 176 more playing soccer at the intramural, or "cluster" level. To see the rest of the outdoor programs would require travel: a few miles north to Den Rock to see 24 boys and girls rock-climbing in the outdoor action program called "Search and Rescue" or six miles to the Merrimack River to watch 66 boys and 4 girls rowing eight-oared racing shells up and down that stream. In the course of his journey to and from the boathouse he might run into 17 young men wearing crash helmets and riding ten-speed bicycles within a radius of twenty miles of the school.(1)
To accommodate student choices of athletic offerings in the winter term requires the multiple use of the indoor facilities and the staggering of practice times for individual groups; consequently, many teams work out until 9:45 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The individual may select from twenty-two activities. The competitive team choices for both boys and girls are basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, skiing, squash, swimming, and track. The boys also wrestle interscholastically. The individual programs include fencing, fitness, jogging, karate, ballet, and modern dance. The winter is a hectic time on Andover Hill.(2)
With the exception of those 55 girls enrolled in ballet or modern dance, athletics in the spring moves outdoors once more. The competitive team activities for boys include baseball, lacrosse, tennis, golf, crew, track, cycling; for girls, softball, tennis, golf, crew, track, lacrosse. The physical activities range from ceramics and community service to search and rescue, jogging and fitness, instructional squash, Tai Chi (a form of karate), and Frisbee! The diversity of the program is partly necessitated by the limitations of the facilities and mainly by the desire to fit the offerings to the students' needs. Certainly there must be something in the plan for most.(3) Except for the sick, the disabled, or a few assigned to special projects in community service, every student must undertake some physical endeavor every term. The program is comprehensive; the facilities are elaborate but crowded, particularly in the winter term. While the offerings become more diversified each year and the clamor from those physically indolent for more exemptions persists, the principle of "mens sana in corpore sano" prevails as fundamental to the Andover athletic program. It was not that way in the beginning.
In 1778 there was little room in Samuel Phillips' philosophy for fun and games. For him and his friend Eliphalet Pearson, as well as for the other supportive members of the Phillips family, the purpose of the new school was explicitly set forth in the constitution:
A serious consideration of the premises, and an observation of the growing neglect of youth, have excited in us a painful anxiety. . . , and determined us... to lay the foundation of a public free SCHOOL OR ACADEMY for the purpose of instructing Youth, not only in English and Latin Grammar, Writing, Arithmetic, and those Sciences, wherein they are commonly taught; but more especially to learn them the GREAT END AND REAL BUSINESS OF LIVING.(4)
Since life was a serious exercise in the improvement of one's soul for the glorification of God, the Puritan forefathers had no time for wasteful diversion or recreation. Games as physical conditioning were not included in the curriculum of the new academy. There was, however, concern for the health of the scholars. The Master was to give special attention to this matter and "ever to urge the importance of the habit of Industry. For these purposes it is to be part of his duty, to encourage the Scholars to perform some manual labor, such as gardening or the like."(5) Nevertheless, "the first and principal object of this Institution is the promotion of true Piety and Virtue."(6) Certainly student health was not a high priority in the early years of Phillips Academy, even though the need for exercise was suggested, indirectly perhaps, by Samuel Phillips. Nor was there any time for relaxation in the daily schedule, whose demands were successfully met only by the most assiduous and persevering. Eliphalet Pearson, the first Master, writing to the Trustees in 1780, gives us the earliest account of the routine of the Academy:
School begins at eight o'clock with devotional exercise; a psalm is read and sung. Then a class consisting of four scholars repeats memoriter two pages in Greek Grammar, after which a class of thirty persons repeat a page and a half of Latin Grammar; then follows the "Accidence tribe," who repeat two, three, four, five and ten pages each. To this may be added three who are studying arithmetic; one is in the role of three, another in Fellowship, and the third is in Practice. School is closed at night by reading Dr. Doddridge's Family Expositor, accompanied by rehearsals, questions, remarks, and reflections, and by the singing of a hymn and a prayer. On Monday the scholars recite what they can remember of the sermons heard on the Lord's Day previous; on Saturday the bills are presented and punishments administered.(7)
|The Abbot House where the Constitution of Phillips Academy was signed on 21April 1778. This building, which used to stand on Phillips Street, was torn down in 1889.|
No wonder, then, that Josiah Quincy, who at age six, sitting beside the twenty-nine-year-old Revolutionary War Veteran James Anderson and much more interested in "ball and marbles,"(8) wondered many times why he was subjected to the tortuous regimen of the early Phillips Academy.
Life at Phillips Academy under Preceptor Pearson became an endurance contest for many of the younger pupils. Discipline was severe, and the scholastic regimen was based largely on rote memory. There never was much time for relaxation or recreation of any kind, even on the Sabbath. The entire scene was disheartening to young Quincy.
The truth was, I was an incorrigible lover of sports of every kind. I needed and loved perpetual activities of body, and with these dispositions I was compelled to sit with four other boys on the same hard bench, daily, four hours in the morning and four in the afternoon, and study lessons which I could not understand.(9)
It was something of a miracle that the young man not only survived the ordeal of Phillips Academy but lived to become one of the most eminent scholars and statesmen in the history of Massachusetts.
Principal Pearson was a remarkable man in many ways, but essentially a typical New England scholar of the times. A stubborn and autocratic pedagogue of the old school, he imposed a disciplinary system on the school based on fear and maintained solely by his inflexible judgment. Domineering in manner and demanding in his requirements of his students, he inspired very little love and affection in them. Nevertheless, he commanded the respect of the Andover community because of his impressive scholarship, particularly in languages, and his tremendous versatility as a musician and a shrewd businessman. He stamped upon the school during his eight-year term the principles of high scholarship and rigid discipline.(10)
There can be no doubt that Sam Phillips and his friend of school and college days, Eliphalet Pearson, set the tone of Andover for one hundred years. The times were difficult, living was a serious business, and the primary purposes of an educational institution were to promulgate classical knowledge and advance Calvinist theology. As if the school were not pious enough, Andover Hill received a new infusion of even sterner Calvinism when the Andover Theological Seminary was founded under the leadership of Eliphalet Pearson exactly thirty years after the Academy had opened its doors and six years after judge Phillips' death. Not surprisingly, it was Dr. Pearson who framed the new institution's constitution, chose the site of its buildings, laid out its grounds, and was almost solely responsible for effecting a combination of the different theological parties upon whose cooperation the success of the Seminary depended.(11) Zion reigned supreme on Andover Hill, a condition which was to prevail until the late 19th century and would have, at times, a rather serious negative effect on the development and growth of Phillips Academy.
From the outset both schools were governed by the same Board of Trustees, and it early became apparent that the Seminary would get more from the Board in the way of buildings, staff, and money than would the less prestigious Academy. The major problem was that funds were limited, and the Board had seen fit to expand one school into two with different foci. The Trustees' notes reflect their major concerns about the school: it was a matter of repairing a pump, or purchasing a stove as economically as possible, of watering the village elms, of regulating the swimming privileges of the boys, or petitioning the General Court of Massachusetts for an appropriation of books from the libraries of the "absentees," otherwise known as Tories. The note of economy was everywhere present.(12) Perhaps, again, it was no coincidence that within two years after the establishment of the Theological Seminary, the enrollment at the Academy had dropped to a critical low of twenty-three students. (13)
Though the Board of Trustees were primarily interested in the physical plant and the financial management of the school, they did occasionally concern themselves with its day-to-day problems. The students---their development, their behavior, and their welfare---were primarily the responsibility of the Principal. Under his dictatorship aspiring scholars were inspired or dismayed, recalcitrants or delinquents were peremptorily punished with even-handed severity, and all lived in fear of failure or chastisement. (14) Only when the First Master (early changed to Principal) needed support in the establishment of general principles which affected student life were they called upon to confirm or reaffirm by vote administrative decisions made by the incumbent Head. On at least two occasions in the first quarter century of the Academy, the Trustees stepped in to establish rules pertaining to the physical activities of the boys. In one instance the policy adopted made eminent good sense; in the other, measured in terms of modern mores, the ruling would seem ridiculous.
Obviously one of the students' favorite recreations was swimming in the Shawsheen River or in Pomps Pond, both within easy walking distance of the Academy. Since school was in session during most of the summer months and since what we know today as Rabbit Pond, on the school campus, was then a meadow, the aforementioned swimming holes were very popular spots. The Trustees, sensitive to the dangers of the situation and responsible for the lives of their wards, made two very sensible rulings at the meeting of the Board on 11 July 1791:
That no scholar shall be allowed to bathe in any mill pond, and That no scholar, who cannot swim, shall be allowed to go into water except in company with two or more scholars who can swim; or in the presence of a man who shall be approved by the Principal or assistant, or any of the Trustees.(15)
There is no indication either in the Trustees' reports or the student catalogues as to why at this particular juncture the Board took steps to make swimming less hazardous. It is reasonable to assume, however, that some accident or near accident must have triggered their reaction. Certainly in later years the dangers of swimming in the Shawsheen were tragically brought home to a later generation. There appeared in the July 1858 issue of the Philo Mirror an ode to "The Shashin"(16) written by a student. Some pages later in the obituary column appeared the following:
Drowned in the Shashin River, while bathing June 19th, Israel J. Briggs, a member of the 1st junior Class in Phillips Academy, and a native of Wareham, Mass.
Leaves have their time to fall,
And Flowers to wither at the north wind's breath,
And stars to set, but all
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, O death.(17)
In any event, in 1791, the Trustees saw fit to impose on student bathers precautionary regulations which are similar to the "Buddy" system which we use today.(18) For example, nobody---student or faculty member---is ever allowed in the pool alone, and all group swimming must be supervised by a qualified Red Cross Life Guard. Consciously or unwittingly, the Trustees had exercised their first control over an athletic activity.
Another example of Trustee regulation of student moral and physical deportment appeared in the minutes of 8 July 1800, wherein they voted: "That the scholars be prohibited from exercising themselves in any wheel called a FEDERAL balloon or a Fandango, or by any other means."(19) Typically, the guiding patrons of Phillips Academy had taken a hard stand against dancing in general and a certain kind of dance in particular. While there is a paucity of information in the interdict, a reasonable explanation for this action is readily apparent in Harriet Webster Marr's study of all the old New England Academies founded before 1826. "The years following the Revolutionary War, like any other post-war period, saw the relaxation of the pre-war strictness, and amusements such as dancing were permitted at least with parental permission."(20)
Samuel Moody, the preceptor at Governor Dummer, had engaged a French gentleman to teach "the graceful art," of dancing in the 1760s,(21) while at Bradford, Massachusetts, dancing was permitted until the wee hours according to the Reverend Jonathan Allen, who was regarded in some quarters as a "Modern, Liberal, Frolicking Minister."(22) After 1800, however, the objections to dancing became more pronounced as the Methodist denomination grew and its evangelical discipline was introduced. In all this controversy Phillips Academy had remained adamantine in its stand against frivolity----and worse---in the form of dancing.(23) Furthermore, they were even more sensitive to the problem when, just before the turn of the century, a new type of dance had been popularized in Vienna---the "Valse," in which partners held each other closely. Obviously the Federal balloon and the Fandango, a lively Spanish dance, had lewd and lascivious implications. Principal John Adams in one instance used all his influence to have a French dancing master expelled from the town.(24)
Could those serious-minded founders of the school look in on the athletic program at Andover today with its extensive offerings for both sexes in Ballet, Modern Dance, and Gymnastics, would they regard it all as "redeeming the time?" We have made considerable progress in two hundred years; but the present Andover curriculum would have been unacceptable to those single-purposed Puritans.
The most vivid and revealing description of life on the Hill after the establishment of the Theological Seminary can be gleaned from Sarah Stuart Robbins' Old Andover Days. Describing the campus and the buildings of the Seminary, which housed the "awful fathers of mankind," she pays lip service to the other school:
There were also on the Hill the recitation hall of Phillips Academy and a few other buildings; but the heart of Old Andover was the Seminary Common, over which trod intent black figures passing between chapel and home or dormitory.(25)
How could one sitting at the seat of Jehovah not be disdainful or that pitiable little school of twenty-odd students!
When John Adams, who was to remain as Principal of the Academy for twenty-two years, came to Andover, "he found the school weak and disorganized; he left it one of the strongest schools in New England."(26) But Adams was no innovator: the traditional daily schedule was adhered to; the boys spent all day in the school building, with an hour's break for lunch, and did most of their studying in the recitation rooms under the teacher's surveillance.(27) Even the early twilight hours for the most part were taken up with evening devotions and dinner. Time for recreational activities was minimal. Principal Adams was a rigorous and exacting disciplinarian. Captain John Cadman, of the class of 1823, described one of his methods of corporal punishment called "shingling":
In the old Academy building we sat facing the two thrones of judgment. As they faced us, that of Master Clement, the assistant, was on the right of that of Master Adams, the principal. Each had his wand of office; that of Master Adams was the most fortiter in re or rather in manu. It was a villainous ferule about a foot long, with a little bulb at one end so that it might not slip from his own hand, and with a sort of salad-spoon termination at the other just fitted to the palm of a boy. The sceptre of Master Clement was a cowhide or a big hickory switch with which he argued a posteriori. (28)
Not even the stern and austere Eliphalet Pearson would have resorted to such methods in the name of the Lord or Mason's Self-Knowledge.
During its first century the ravages of sickness plagued those on the Hill. Lung ailments of one kind or another were endemic. The bitter weather of New England winters, inadequate living quarters, and the punishing academic schedule took their heavy toll among the scholars of this citadel of orthodoxy. One particularly sad example was J. William Person, a Foundation boy, now known as a scholarship student, who had walked the sixty miles from Providence to Andover in two days in order to attend Phillips Academy. An illigitimate child, deserted by his parents in infancy, he worked his way through Andover in three years, doing chores to pay his tuition, room, and board. On 18 February 1815, he described conditions on the Hill:
The cold has been remarkably intense for several days, and in addition to my stated duties, such as sweeping, ringing, making fires, etc., I have undertaken to cut wood also and prepare it for three fires, which in this inclement weather require constant attendance, and consume the fuel almost as fast as it is prepared.(29)
When he left Andover for Harvard, his constitution was so undermined by the privations he suffered at the time and by excessive study that he died in Cambridge before graduating.(30)
On the night of 30 January 1818, the first Academy building, which had been built in 1786, was destroyed by fire. Two months later, to replace it, subscription papers were sent out making a vigorous appeal for funds.(31) In its stead the Trustees erected an "elegant brick building" which became known as the "classic hall," or the Brick Academy. From an athletic point of view, the significant feature of its construction was that the upper room of the new structure was set aside for "gymnastics and declamations.(32) There is some indication that this stern and pious Principal, Adams, was not completely insensitive to physical frolicking. One of his students wrote, "Once when a very little lad, I was greatly surprised to see my grave teacher laughing heartily at the antics of another youngster in the gymnasium. I whispered encouragingly to myself, 'He is not so terrible after all.'"(33) At least activity was going on in the building which was to be a "gym" of sorts for the rest of the century; the idea of the relationship of physical conditioning to health was beginning to germinate among some educators.
During the years between 1828 and 1860 there took place many subtle but visible changes in the size, shape, and philosophical configuration of Phillips Academy. These years saw the establishment of a female seminary which directly abutted Phillips Academy between School and Phillips streets. The relationship between Abbot Academy, as the girls' school was called, and Andover would have significant repercussions in the realm of secondary education in the next one hundred and fifty years. They saw also the resignation of John Adams, followed by the brief, sad stewardship of Osgood Johnson; then, in 1837 the beginning of the longest reign of any headmaster in the history of the school---the dictatorship of Samuel Harvey Taylor, which was to last until 1871.
|Samuel Harvey Taylor, Sixth Principal of Phillips Academy. Though he did nothing to promote athletics, he did allow student-initiated sports programs to develop.|
Samuel Harvey Taylor was undoubtedly the most powerful and the most controversial of the early principals of Phillips Academy. For almost thirty-four years he reigned alone on Andover Hill. Like two of his immediate predecessors, Adams and Pearson, he was a fundamental Calvinist and abhorred Harvard, which had turned to Unitarianism. He, like them, was a classical scholar and drillmaster in the classroom, never concerning himself with new-fangled pedagogical theories. He was judge and jury attending to the unfortunates guilty of breaking the rules. Like Pearson, he even dictated to the Trustees of the school. An indefatigable worker, he taught four to five hours a day, held devotions or prayers morning and evening, and apparently spent the rest of the time, night and day, attempting to apprehend those who even dared to think about committing an offense against the school's moral code. Card playing, smoking, and dancing were his favorite bêtes noires. As one of his former pupils put it:
Under Doctor Taylor's powerful discipline it is true that the weak sank down at once, the mediocre struggled bravely awhile; the few maintained the unequal fight until, like the Indian's slaughtered foe, his strength passed into theirs.(34)
No Principal in the history of the school excited stronger admiration or aroused more bitter and lasting animosities among his pupils. But the strength and leadership of his personality and his teaching brought national acclaim to Phillips Academy; boys from all across the country now came to Uncle Sam's school until five years before the Civil War the enrollment had jumped to just under four hundred.(35) By the time of his dramatic death on his way to class on a Sunday morning in January 1871, the world had grown out of sympathy with Dr. Taylor's aims and methods. But in his sternness, his relentless campaigns against frivolity and idleness, his hatred of evil, his attention to scrupulous accuracy, his adherence to the letter of the moral code, his belief in conversion, and his trust in his own infallibility, he stood as the last Puritan of a bygone age.(36)
Although there is no indication that Uncle Sam was overly concerned about student health, there were others on the Hill who were. In 1828 Mr. William Bartlet of Newburyport, the most generous benefactor of the Theological Seminary and permanent member of their visiting committee, felt very strongly that despite the austerity of the daily regimen, which included manifold housekeeping chores, the Seminarians were not getting enough exercise. A man of strong mind and nerve himself, his common sense told him how much these had contributed to his own success. After all, the body is the vessel of the soul; physical strength could increase one's effectiveness, even in the holy ministry. He agreed to a project designed to strengthen the bodies of students, even though the plain statement that a healthy body makes for a sound mind and an undefiled soul would probably have been considered rank heresy in the Andover of those days.(37)
According to plan, in 1828 a stone shell of a building was erected as a carpenter shop, later to be remodeled as Stowe House. All the equipment such as benches, tools, and lumber were provided and the program was launched. Mrs. Robbins describes it in detail:
Thither were led---for I am sure very few ever went there of their own accord---the Juniors, Middlers and Seniors, to grow into the full stature of a glorious, rounded manhood. And what do you suppose the authorities chose as among the chief objects in the construction of which the theological students, weary, perhaps, from a lecture on the future of the wicked after death, should relax their minds and invigorate their bodies You will hardly believe me when I assure you that they were set to making---coffins! There you have a theological consistency worthy of John Calvin himself.(38)
Thus the Seminary had provided Andover Hill with a weird kind of physical education program. Fortunately for them, the Academy students did not have to engage in this gruesome pastime, which was soon abolished, and the students once again were left to their own devices to find physical amusement and recreation which suited their fancies.
It was during the Taylor administration at the midpoint of the century that the "Theologues" (Seminary students) converted Stowe House into a true gymnasium. The "Cads" (Academy students) could use it by paying a fee of one dollar. In a letter to his mother, one student described the new addition:
There is apparatus there for the development of every part of the body. It is a favorite resort of the students, and will undoubtedly add years to the lives of the students here. I spend the hour from 4-5 in the afternoon there in leaping, running, jumping, swimming, etc. I possess as yet little skill but make up in my zeal my want in that respect.(39)
This "stone shell of a building" was later converted into a residence for Professor Calvin E. Stowe and his wife Harriet Beecher Stowe, wherefrom the building derives its name.
Evidence that the Trustees, as well as students like Stevens, continued to be concerned about health on the Hill appears occasionally during this entire period. On 2 August 1853, the Trustees voted "that a sum not exceeding ten dollars be appropriated for the purchase of anatomical Plates or Charts."(40) Such charts could serve to familiarize students with the functioning of the human body so that they might be better able to ward off sickness and disease. Again, there appeared in March 1855 a brief notice in the Philo Mirror entitled "New Hospital."
We learn that in consideration of the low state of health among the students, a hospital is about to be established in connection with Phillips Academy. The statistics of sickness have been gathered from counting the vacant seats at the speaking of mathematical exercises. The teachers of those classes, being peculiarly impressed with its importance, have by their contributions laid the foundation of a permanent fund for its support. Connected with this Hospital are to be several Chairs of Medical Professorship.(41)
Nothing further on the subject came up again. It would be many long years before a hospital on the campus became a reality.
Aside from the problems of sickness and the increasing size of the school, happenings in the world beyond the Hill began to intrude on the parochialism of the Academy. After the middle thirties, railroad transportation to Boston was established.(42) In the next decade, there sprang up next door to the north the industrial town of Lawrence, similar to the one established at Lowell a generation earlier. Not only were these two cities to have a profound effect on the economy of the area, but also were to provide an attractive link between the school and the real world for those restless and daring students willing to seek the pleasures of those fleshpots.
The job of the Principal to preserve order and discipline was obviously complicated by these increasing encroachments on the privacy of the school. Strict disciplinarian though he was, Uncle Sam did not try to interfere in the students' affairs just so long as these did not violate any important rule. They were, therefore, allowed to form eating clubs and other social, literary, and athletic organizations; even secret societies were tolerated. Also, the stern Doctor was compelled through circumstances to ignore many forms of student rascality. Campus bonfires were lighted on Halloween and Thanksgiving Eve, and there were many night excursions to Lawrence, Lowell, and Haverhill. There was no rule requiring the students to be in their houses by 8:00 p.m., and, if there had been, it could not have been enforced.(43)
Much of the disorder and mischief was due to the "lack of organized athletics which today give robust boys a legitimate bent for pent-up energy. The Commons pupils probably found exercise enough in sweeping their rooms, carrying away ashes, and bringing pails of water from the well. But there were no compulsory sports, and a boy physically indolent might remain at Phillips Academy for three or four years without taking part in an outdoor game. "(44)
But for the more enterprising and energetic there were many things to do of a physical nature. In addition to the swimming excursions referred to earlier, walking was very popular in the spring, summer, and fall. The favorite jaunts were to the Shawsheen River, even to the "mighty Merrimac," or to Indian Ridge and Den Rock. On an informal basis, games resembling baseball and football were being played by a variety of class teams among the "Cads" and the "Theologues." Apparently one of the favorite pastimes in the winter was snowballing. In the Philo Mirror for March 1858, there appeared the following plea: "Members of the school are particularly requested not to throw snowballs at the teachers of the Academy or the professors of the Theological Seminary."(45) The urge to throw or kick a ball is basic to the male of the species; yet it has ever been a fond dream of each older generation to curb the snowballing habits of the younger. May they never succeed.
Another winter activity is discussed in considerable detail in the same issue, under the "Editors' Table":
For sport and exercise, Old Winter has favored us to an unwonted degree, with excellent skating. The dignified professors, the thoughtful "Theolog," the fun-loving Academy boy and---last but not least---the gleeful damsels have, each, taken their share of the healthy and pleasing exercise. "Women's Rights" have been nobly asserted upon the ice and, when under the influence of a fair breeze, with a full spread of crinoline, she fairly put "Young America" into the shade.(46)
Apparently the tensions which had existed between the "Cads" and the "Fem Sems" (Abbot Academy students) earlier on had largely dissipated, at least temporarily. What greater exhilaration than outdoor skating with a lovely damsel from the neighboring Abbot Academy! This exercise anticipated Title IX by a century and a quarter; certainly the women's libbers of today would have approved of such an activity, as obviously did the editors of the Philo Mirror back in 1858.
One member of the Class of 1865 elaborates on the winter recreational scene and what was and was not available to the students:
There was at that time little or no interest in athletic sports and no interscholastic contests. The first college circuit of baseball did not begin until 1879, basketball was not invented until 1892, and the rules of the rugby football game were not adopted by Harvard and Yale until the early 1870's. Nor was there any hockey as I remember. It was also later that tennis became popular. But we did have and enjoy winter sports. A long, cold New England winter gave a fine opportunity for skating, sleighing, and bobsledding. The quite steep street running down the hill past the girls' school gave a wonderful opportunity for sliding on the bob-sled and this was a favorite sport. We used to water the grooved track made by the runners of the bobsled which held eight or nine boys packed on it. The ice thus made enabled us to rush down the hill at break neck speed, and if there was not a train in sight and if there was enough momentum, across the railroad track down the little hill beyond, an invigorating ride followed by the long walk of a mile back to the starting point. An ideal way of spending a moonlight winter evening.(47)
Popular as skating and coasting were, they were not without their hazards. There were reports from time to time that boys had fallen through the ice on the skating pond but that the water was so shallow that the only consequences to them was a cold bath. The skaters of today probably will never experience the thrill of feeling the ice beneath them give way and finding themselves waist or neck deep in the freezing water, their heavy clothing soaked through and weighing an additional ten pounds; then to face the predicament of extricating themselves to walk home, a distance of a mile or two, while the now frozen clothing has taken on the comfort of a suit of chain mail!(48)
Bobsledding represented hazards of a different kind. The "bobs" were heavy vehicles sitting fairly high on two double-runner sleds. The front one controlled the steering; braking was accomplished by the simple, but dangerous, device of dragging one's feet or jamming one's heels into the icy snow to slow down the monster. The only way to stop it immediately while in full flight was to tip it over deliberately and take one's chances. Nevertheless, until such time as there developed an organized athletic program, "sliding" was the most popular winter sport. But coasting remained a controversial activity. Aside from the danger to the sliders, the inhabitants of Main Street, School Street, and Phillips Street were not too happy with the constant turmoil outside their doors. Nor were the Town Fathers thrilled with the continuous prospect of traffic accidents and the additional chore of policing these nocturnal revels. The editor of the Mirror, summarizing the events of the past year, touched upon the problem:
Our gallant double-runners have rivalled the cars in speed as we went "downward o'er the shining snow." We enjoyed those moonlight evenings, and the thought of the morrow's hard lesson was lost amid the smiles of the Fem Sems. But the edict was passed forbidding us the pleasure of coasting. We submitted as gracefully as the law-abiding "Phillipians" always do to those decrees which they cannot alter.(49)
One other physical activity engaged the attention of some students. The fire brigade was a passable substitute for a football team. To protect school property the Trustees had purchased and repaired a decrepit second-hand fire engine, which was dragged out at the slightest provocation. Uncle Sam was the Officer-in-Charge. While the apparatus was effective against small brush fires, it could not possibly handle a sizable conflagration. "In 1851," as the Honorable John Winslow used to tell the story, "one of the English Commons caught fire, and the brigade, under Dr. Taylor's orders, undertook to operate the engine, but wholly without success." Winslow then told Uncle Sam that he had once managed a similar machine, and that, if everybody would man the brakes and obey instructions, all would go well; thereupon the stalwart Principal fell back with the rank and file, and Winslow conducted further proceedings. In the end the dormitory was destroyed, but the adjoining buildings were saved.(50) Actually, the fire brigade performed yeoman service over the years and did provide, at times, strenuous exercise for a few members of the student body.
In restrospect, however, prior to the Civil War the authorities at Phillips Academy, aside from setting the moral and academic tone of the school, paid little attention to the physical and recreational needs of the boys. By the 1850's and early 1860's the voice of student protest was becoming more strident against the unbalanced educational regimen to which they were being subjected:
From morn till sultry noon
From noon till dewy eve,
From eve's last lingering light
Till silence crowned the night
He toiled without reprieve.
"The color had left his cheek and strength his muscles; thus perish many of America's most gifted sons. The blame must rest mainly on our institutions of learning. The world has been too much cursed with bookworms. "(51)
Six months later, in November 1863, the Mirror again editorialized on "The American Educational System":
And it may not be out of place to speak of the cultivation of the physical nature in any colleges. Where a few years ago this was almost entirely neglected, in the earnestness to cultivate the mind, now you will no longer see so many students worn out by hard study, and by taking too little exercise.(52)
There was some indication at the end of the period that student opinion was beginning to have some influence on the administration, at least on the Trustees. In 1859 they authorized the Treasurer, under the advice of a committee, to expend a sum not to exceed fifty dollars to provide apparatus for providing exercises for the students of the Academy.(53) Six years later, after the end of the Civil War, they voted "that when the Old Brick Academy is no longer needed for the purpose of recitations, the same be surrendered to a Gymnasium Committee to be fitted up as a gymnasium for the students of the Theological Seminary and the Academy."(54) With the fitting out of part of the Brick Academy (now Bulfinch Hall) as a gymnasium in 1867, the students had passed their first milestone on the way to a full program of physical education and game sports.