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Walter Camp

AKA Walter Chauncey Camp

Born: 7-Apr-1859
Birthplace: New Britain, CT
Died: 14-Mar-1925
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, CT

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Football, Author

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Father of American football

Prior to Walter Camp's time, soccer had been the dominant roughneck sport on American colleges, but Yale and Harvard agreed to play rugby instead. Camp played in the first Yale-Harvard rugby game, in 1876, and virtually invented American football with his copious changes to rugby rules. He is credited with deciding that eleven players would constitute a team, and changed rugby's scrum to the scrimmage system, where teams have four downs to advance ten yards (in Camp's original concept, it was three downs to gain five yards). He played on the varsity team at Yale from 1877 to 1882, serving as Captain in 1878, '79, and '81. As coach from 1888-91 he devised the basics of football strategy, including set plays and sequences, and for many years he served as a volunteer advisor to the team.

He edited the annual Spalding's Official Intercollegiate Football Guide and wrote books and articles about football and athletics in general, even baseball, golf, and bridge, and some of the first celebrity exercise guides. The "All-American Football Team" is now almost a generic term, but the original notion of honoring the best collegiate player at each position was also Camp's idea, in collaboration with Caspar Whitney at This Week's Sport magazine. They picked their first All-American team in 1886, and Camp's selections became an annual feature in Collier's magazine. In 1912 Camp picked his own son, Walter Camp Jr., to the second-string All-America team.

In his time, football was almost entirely an amateur endeavor, and Camp worked in sales and management at a clockmaking business. He received a small salary as treasurer of the Yale Financial Union, overseeing all of the school's athletics, and after more than a decade in that position the YFU had accumulated $100,000, which helped fund construction of the Yale Bowl, where the school still plays its home games. He served on the Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee for many years, and in this capacity Camp worked to ban the "flying wedge" play, which had killed several players, and originally opposed allowing the forward pass, but eventually acquiesced. He died of a heart attack at the 1925 meeting of the rules committee.

Artist Frederic Remington played on Camp's early teams at Yale, and created several paintings portraying Camp and the team. Camp's brother-in-law was sociologist William Graham Sumner. In 1887 Camp was arrested after an ex-girlfriend's new suitor was shot in New York City, but he was released without charges when the victim told police that his assailant had been a much larger man.

Father: Leverett Lee Camp (b. 1828)
Mother: Ellen Sophia Cornwell
Girlfriend: Sallie Barnes
Wife: Alice Graham Sumner (m. 30-Jun-1888, one son, one daughter)
Son: Walter Camp, Jr. (b. 1891)
Daughter: Janet Camp Troxell (b. 1897)

    High School: Hopkins School, New Haven, CT (1876)
    University: BA, Yale University (1880)
    Medical School: Yale Medical School (attended 1880-82)
    Coach: Yale University (1888-91)
    Coach: Stanford University (1892 and 1894)

    College Football Hall of Fame
    New Haven Clock and Watch Company (1883-1925, as President 1903-23)

Author of books:
American Foot-Ball with Thirty-One Portraits (1891)
Foot-Ball Rules and Referee's Book (1892)
Walter Camp's Book of College Sports (1893)
Football Facts and Figures: A Symposium of Expert Opinions on the Game's Place in American Athletics (1894)
Football (1896, with Lorin Fuller Deland)
Drives and Putts: A Book of Golf Stories (1899, with Lillian Brooks)
Yale: Her Campus, Class-Rooms, and Athletics (1899, with Lewis Sheldon Welch)
Sports and Games (1903)
Spalding's How to Play Foot Ball: A Primer on the Modern College Game, with Tactics Brought Down to Date (1907)
The Substitute: A Football Story (1908, novel)
Jack Hall at Yale: A Football Story (1909, novel)
The Book of Foot-Ball (1910)
Old Ryerson (1911, novel)
Frank Armstrong at Queen's (1911, novel)
Frank Armstrong's Vacation (1911, novel)
Frank Armstrong, Drop Kicker (1912, novel)
Danny Fists (1913, novel)
Frank Armstrong at College (1914, novel)
Captian Danny (1914, novel)
Danny the Freshman (1915, novel; illustrated by Norman Rockwell)
Keeping Fit All the Way: How to Obtain and Maintain Health, Strength and Efficiency (1919)
Athletes All: Training, Organization, and Play (1919)
Handbook on Health, and How to Keep It (1920)
Football without A Coach (1920)
Walter Camp's New Way to Keep Fit (1921, with Robert B. Wheelan)
Training for Sports (1921)
The Book of Sports and Games (1923)
The Daily Dozen for Men and Women (1925)
How to Play Football (1927)

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #3810 (37, issued 8-Aug-2003)

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