BY David Eskenazi 01:48PM 01/20/2011

Wayback Machine: Tweeting, 1911 Style

What University of Washington football looked like 100 years ago

Gil Dobie's 1911 UW football team, playing against Lincoln High School at Denny Field / David Eskenazi Collection

By David Eskenazi

Major college football and methods of communication were more than slightly different one hundred years ago, as illustrated by this postcard image and message from 1911.

This real photo postcard depicts the University of Washington’s first football game of the 1911 season, pitting Gil Dobie’s UW varsity against….Lincoln High School! Not surprisingly, the UW squad prevailed by a score of 42-0.

Rather than tweeting or blogging about this contest, postcard-author “JBW”, aka “Burl” sent this photo and missive from Seattle up north to R.S. Wilson in Burlington, WA (see below)

Gil Dobie / David Eskenazi Collection

This contest was the UW football squad’s first game of the 1911 season, and took place at Denny Field in Seattle, the home grounds for UW football from 1895 to 1920, when the Purple and Gold (the nickname “Huskies” wasn’t adopted until 1922) moved into Husky Stadium.

Look closely at the photo postcard for Gil Dobie, 20 games into his 61-game undefeated streak as UW football coach, assuming his usual sideline crouch.

Dobie arrived at Washington as a 29-year-old in 1908 after having coached just two seasons on the collegiate level, at the University of North Dakota. Dobie went undefeated in his two years in North Dakota (total record of 8-0), foreshadowing one of the most remarkable coaching tenures in Univerity of Washington athletic history.

Over the next nine years, Dobie compiled a 58-0-3 mark as his various Washington squads combined to outscore opponents by 1,930 points to 118.

Nicknamed “Gloomy Gil, the “Dour Dane” and “The Apostle of Grief,” Dobie presented the mien of a stern disciplinarian and perfectionist so determined to get the best out of his players that he once made them engage in a full practice immediately after a 53-0 victory. Dobie, according to newspapers of the day, thought his team had played “sloppily.”

Despite his glittering record, Dobie met with bad end at Washington. When a UW player was accused of cheating on an exam, Dobie sided with the player against the wishes of UW administrators, particularly school president Henry Suzzalo, who detested football and its growing influence on campus. Suzzalo elected to make an example out of Dobie, firing him over great protests in the Seattle community.

Undeterred, Dobie went on to win three national championships as the head coach at Cornell University, and made a fortune in the stock market, as well.

Dobie’s 1911 team, pictured above in its season-opening game against Whitman, went on to complete an undefeated season (7-0-0), outscoring its opponents 277-9.

Sports historian David Eskenazi can be reached at (206) 441-1900, or at

(“Wayback Machine” is published every Tuesday as part of Sportspress Northwest’s package of home-page features collectively titled, “The Rotation.”)


  • Hawk Nut

    Column sounds a little snarky there, Art.

    Here’s the deal: You win, you get to control your destiny.  You’re on a team that wins 9 out of 32 of the games that count over two years, NOBODY controls their destiny and almost everybody’s going to get fired.

    I’d rather lose while going in a positive direction than lose sticking with once-great players whose skills are clearly in decline, as if “continuity” could overcome lack of talent, durability and physical strength.

    And frankly, after years of watching Ruskell’s “little, high-motor” guys on the defensive line look like the French Army refereeing a damned track meet in second half after second half after second half — after the elephants they were playing against simply wore them out and overpowered them — I’m amazed Timmy can find a job in pro football where they let him anywhere NEAR talent evaluation.
    I love what PC and JS are doing with the Hawks even if it takes a while to get back to the Super Bowl.  Bigger, faster, stronger, younger works just fine for me, plus give me two guys with a clear vision of what they want to do — and the cred that says they know what they’re doing — and I’ll gladly indulge them and follow. 

  • SpudzDP

    Junior Siavii, Pep Levingston, Jeff Reed and David Vobora were all cut as four players were added – by the time I finish posting this a half a dozen other transactions will have probably taken place.