In honor of today’s New Jersey Super Bowl, we bring you this New Jersey First. The first intercollegiate football game was played by Rutgers and Princeton in New Brunswick on November 6, 1869. Rutgers won 6 to 4.
New Jersey officially recognizes 1664 as the year the state was founded when land owned by the Duke of York was given to Sir George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley. That transaction record proclaimed that “said Tract of Land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Cesarea or New Jersey.” That makes this year New Jersey’s 350th Anniversary! To celebrate this major milestone, we’ve undertaken a project we’re calling 35 New Jersey Firsts where we highlight 35 things that first came to life in New Jersey.
Rutgers University and Princeton played on a field where the Rutgers gymnasium now stands in New Brunswick. The game was played with two teams of 25 men each using rugby-like rules. Rules were decided upon by the captains of each team, both of whom would later become very prestigious names in New Jersey. William J. Leggett, captain of the Rutgers team who later became a distinguished clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church, suggested that rules for the contest be adopted from those of the London Football Association. Leggett’s proposal was accepted by Captain William Gunmere of Princeton, who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
At 3 p.m. on a November Saturday, the 50 players and about 100 spectators gathered on the field. Spectators sat along a wooden fence and Rutgers students and players turned their scarlet-colored scarfs into turbans to distinguish themselves from the Princeton group.
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