Archival Adventures in Small Repositories
Cricket in Chestnut Hill
Grab your wickets and stumps, and put on your kit! Today we're talking about the Philadelphia Cricket Club records at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society. Did you know that Philadelphia used to be the cricket capital of America? A New York Times editorial wondered in 1903, "It has long been a problem for the psychologist or sociologist...why Philadelphians play cricket and why they are the only Americans who do play it." (qtd in Tom Melville, The Tented Field: A History of Cricket in America, p. 119) Philadelphia began distinguishing itself for its cricket-playing prowess in the 1860s, and by the time an all-Philadelphia team soused the competition on an 1884 English tour, Philadelphia's reputation for producing champion cricketers was firmly established.
The Philadelphia Cricket Club, founded in 1854, was part of the local cricket craze. The group lacked a home field until 1882, when businessman Henry H. Houston willed them a large plot of land in Chestnut Hill to call their own. The club flourished in its fashionable new digs, and well over 150 years later, it lays its claim as one of the oldest country clubs in the United States!
Some of the records of the Philadelphia Cricket Club are at our project home base, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, but 22.5 linear feet of materials are located at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society. These include financial and administrative records of the club, as well as publications and ephemera, photographs, and newspaper clippings. If you are interested in the history of the club, your research may also be supported by a collection of Henry H. Houston estate records, and scrapbooks from the Houston/Meigs family. If you are interested in the history of sports, outdoor activity, and recreational clubs, you may also want to check out the Philadelphia Canoe Club records at Chestnut Hill.