(Roughly) Daily

“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”*…

Those were the days…

Ah, polo, that sport of kings, where players race down the field atop horsepowered beasts. Behold their mallets and wheels, whirling throughout the chukka; inhale the earthy scent of mown grass, leather, and gasoline; listen to those bumping bodies, as the transmission’s planetary gearset reins in speed. You’re less likely to find this game played before Pimm’s-sipping crowds, however. It is auto polo — a short-lived sport thought to have been created as an advertising stunt to sell Ford Model Ts in 1911.

Invented, or at least popularized, by the Topeka car salesman Ralph “Pappy” Hankinson, auto polo quickly spread across the United States. Five thousand people supposedly attended the first round, played between the Red Devils and Gray Ghosts on an alfalfa field in Kansas. League matches popped up in the following years, and within a decade it was possible to spectate the sport at Madison Square Garden and Coney Island. Auto polo then went international. King George V enjoyed a match in England; French teams raced around the Place de la Concorde; and touring exhibitions introduced auto polo across continental Europe…

For more background (history, rules) and more photos (from a 1912 match held at Hilltop Park, New York): “Photographs of Auto Polo (ca. 1912),” in @PublicDomainRev.

See also: Bicycle Polo.

* Shakespeare, Hamlet


As we muse on mallets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1889 that John L. Sullivan defeated Jake Kilrain for the bare-knuckle heavyweight title at a then-undisclosed location in Richburg, Mississippi, when Kilrain’s manager threw in the towel after the 75th (1 minute) round. This was the last official bare-knuckle title fight in history as boxing adopted the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, which mandated gloves.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 8, 2023 at 1:00 am

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