The Birth of
Modern North
American Lacrosse
1850-1900

More than 100 years after the game was first played by whites, a non-Native American lacrosse team was formally organized. Dr. William George Beers, a Montreal dentist, who is described as the father of modern lacrosse, created the Montreal Lacrosse Club in 1856. In 1867, when the number of Canadian lacrosse teams rose dramatically to 80, Dr. Beers finalized his uniform code of rules for modern lacrosse when he created the Canadian National Lacrosse Association. The development of Dr. Beers' rules was the first step in the modernization of the game, including replacing a hair-stuffed deerskin ball with a hard rubber ball which is still used today. Two years later, Dr. Beers published the first book on lacrosse, Lacrosse: The National Game of Canada.

Although the game experienced a quick growth in Canada in the middle of the 19th century, it took a bit longer for it to gain popularity in the United States. The first collegiate lacrosse team in the U.S. was not created until 1877 at New York University, ten years after the first Canadian collegiate team was created. After this, the popularity of the game grew quickly. In 1879, the United States National Amateur Lacrosse Association was formed by John R. Flannery. It was composed of eleven college and club teams. In one of the first competitive inter-club games in the U.S., 4,000 people showed up on May 29, 1879 to witness the Ravenswood Club beat the Baltimore Athletic Club 3-1. Two years later, in 1881, the first ever intercollegiate lacrosse tournament was held, with Harvard defeating Princeton 3-0 in the final. In 1894, the Crescent Athletic Club was formed to "play for pure enjoyment and raise the standards of the game."
This team became a catalyst in the development of lacrosse in the United States, because over the next forty years, the Crescents' domination over their opponents increased fan support and the popularity of the game.


Johns Hopkins did not field a team until 1904


During this period of growth and modernization, Native tribes continued to play lacrosse as they always had. The Natives' game was modernized in that it was not played so savagely. However, it had not modernized as much as the game played by whites. In the early 20th Century, the Great Lakes and Southeastern variations of lacrosse were very rare, but the Northeastern version of the game was still played. The Six Nations of Iroquois played the game competitively against other countries, including Canada, and once toured Europe. However, American Indian lacrosse in all areas but the northeast was experiencing a demise because the games had become too violent and too many people were gambling on them, thus impoverishing and damaging the Native way of life. In 1900, lacrosse was banned among the Oklahoma Choctaw when it was found that they were attaching lead weights to their sticks to crack another's skull.




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