James Naismith collection  1893-1962 (bulk 1917-1961)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence, speeches, ephemera, and photographs related to James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Naismith's incoming correspondence includes letters about the history of basketball in locations across Canada and the United States, and his typed speech notes primarily concern the relationship between athletics, morality, and religion.

The Correspondence series contains 44 letters, including 27 Naismith received about the history of basketball and the implementation of basketball programs. Between 1917 and 1939, Naismith collected responses to his inquiries about basketball from Canada, Uruguay, and universities within the United States. These letters often reported the dates of the first recorded local basketball games, and some described early equipment and rules. A letter from Edmonton, Alberta (October 15, 1929) concerned the development of women's basketball, and one from Osage City High School stated that theirs was the first high school in Kansas to have a basketball team (March 22, 1932). Some correspondents inquired about Naismith's experiences with the game, shared their own experiences, or discussed rule changes.

Letters written after Naismith's death are commemorative, including one signed by members of the Wheelchair Bulldozers, written on stationery bearing the team's logo (November 6, 1948). Additionally, Raymond Kaighn, the last surviving member of Naismith's first basketball team, wrote 8 letters to Kenneth Crouch between April 16, 1958, and July 28, 1962, reminiscing about his experiences and extolling Naismith's contribution to the world of sports. The collection also holds four letters Naismith wrote, providing his thoughts on the center jump ball rule (January 7, 1930), requesting information on Canadian basketball (with two responses, December 15, 1930), describing the game around the time of its invention in 1891 (February 4, 1939), and addressing his wife about personal matters (undated).

The Speech Notes and Essays series contains 7 typed speeches delivered by Naismith, with his manuscript annotations. The speeches pertain to the historical and contemporary relationship between athletic activities, morality, and religion, such as the role of athletic and physical education in moral and ethical development. Naismith lamented the commercialization of basketball and discussed the effects of the radio on the presidential election of 1928 (October 1928). One undated essay relates to sexual immorality among soldiers in the United States military.

Photographs and Ephemera include one photograph each of James Naismith and Raymond Kaighn, a souvenir program, a magazine article, and an invitation.

An inventory of items in the final two series appears in the Detailed Box and Folder listing below.

Show all series level scope and content notes