April 27, 2015, 12:00 AM
A collector from the United States has shared with SIHR what is believed to be the earliest known engraving or painting depicting an ice hockey like activity on skates. The depiction of the stick and "bung" or puck are also important.
The print has the inscription "London Published by J Le Petit 22 Suffolk Street, Middlesex Hospital 1st Sep 1797" and measures 4 3/8 (height) x 3 11/16 (width) inches. It is on wove paper with no watermark and was uncovered in Maine.
Joseph Le Petit Jr. (London c. 1770 - 1858 Dublin) was a member of a French immigrant family of print publishers in England. Little is known of Le Petit, who worked between 1797 and 1820 in London and then Dublin, publishing a variety of prints.
Although the lower margin of the print has been trimmed and designer and engraver therefore are not identified, a similar 1798 print by Le Petit titled Winter, in the British Museum's collection, was drawn by the Anglo-Dutch artist Benedict Anthony van Assen (1767-c. 1817). The print can be seen here.While more research is required, it is likely that the Le Petit "ice hockey" print was drawn and engraved by Van Assen in December of 1796 when the Thames is known to have frozen over, recording what was a common-enough winter sport in the vicinity of London to garner the attention of the artist and publisher, who themselves were young men and possibly enjoyed playing the game. The owner also believes that it depicts Isleworth Ait, with the obelisk of Kew Observarory in the background .
This London book hides the first known contemporary use of the word hockey which predates earlier findings by 25 years. Johnson's work describes a number of games for children and includes the chapter "New Improvements on the Game of Hockey". In six pages the author gives the rules of the game and hints about how to make the best hockey-sticks, goals and bungs. This chapter also has the first known illustration of the game on ground.
Besides this - the book gives even earlier references to the game - as Johnson tells how he played hockey during his own school-days in the 1740s.
The information given in Juvenile Sports and Pastimes strengthens the view that hockey was first played by boys in the London schools during the mid-1700s, and from there spread over the rest of the British Empire.
Unlike the SIHR Origins Report, which sought to identify the first organized game of hockey, the purpose of this timeline is to clarify the evolution of early stick and ball games, played on both ground and ice - until those became more distinctly separated from each other.
One of the objectives is to show that despite many different names, those games were seen as pretty much the same by contemporary sources - a fact not entirely known and accepted by modern historians.
The Preview document is available publicly, while the complete Timeline is exclusively available to SIHR members. To date, we have included about 400 notes, but more are being researched. Our intention is to regularly update the documents with new content as it is uncovered.
We welcome all questions, comments, objections and contributions. Non-members are asked to contact us by using the email form found here and selecting Hockey Timeline from the subject menu.