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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Curling in the USA before 1832

Last week we established who, how and when the Orchard Lake Curling Club was declared the first in the USA.  This week we will discuss curling in the USA before 1832.

1892  New York Times article on January 25, 1892:  “Away back in the colonial days one reads of curling as being quite a popular sport during the Winter, and history states that about a century ago some Scotsmen of New York used to curl on “rinks” on the two ponds near the city in what is now known as “the swamp”, or leather region, and between the rope walk and the Boston highway (ed. Note:  now called Broadway), or in the centre of the present Sixth Ward (ed. note:  Five Points).”

1895 New York Times article on November 17, 1895:  “Curling used to be played in this city, seventy-five years ago, where the busy thoroughfare of Canal Street now is, by members of the St. Andrews Society, when they could get so far uptown for an afternoon’s pastime.”

The main source to the 1895 article was Mr. David Foulis, secretary of the Grand National CC.  The same man who had declared the OLCC as first.  Huh?  He changed his mind?  He discovered new information?

1904  In the book ‘Curling in Canada and the United States’ by John Kerr, the author offers a story where and when curling began without mentioning the discrepancy with his previous book written in 1890.  His source is the same Mr. David Foulis who had written another article for an American magazine in 1899.  Mr. Kerr wrote:  “The game used to be played some eighty years ago in New York City, where the busy thoroughfare of Canal Street is now.  It was there the members of the St. Andrew Society would go for an afternoon’s pastime, when they could get so far up town.”

The pond mentioned in the above articles was called The Collect Pond.  It was a body of fresh water used by the early inhabitants of the island of Manhattan.  In the 18th century, the pond was used as a picnic area during the summer and skating and, apparently, curling during the winter.  However as the city grew and expanded the pond was used by tanneries, breweries and slaughterhouses.  By the early 1800’s New York City had transformed the sparkling waters into a communal open sewer. Disgusted, local authorities initiated a project to fill the sewer with earth from an adjacent hill. In 1805, in order to drain the garbage-infested waters, designers opened a forty-foot wide canal that today is known as Canal Street.  By 1811, the City had completed the filling of Collect Pond; therefore any and all curling happened here before 1811.  Sorry Orchard Lake CC, you lose your title. 

The Collect Pond derived its name from seventeenth century Dutch settlers, who called it “kolch” meaning “small body of water”. Following the English capture of New Amsterdam (1664), the name was corrupted to “collect.” 

This raises a new question…Is it possible that the Dutch settlers and not the Scotch were the first men to curl on the Collect Pond?  Wow.  That would open up a whole new can of worms.

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