From Benjamin Franklin Awards Reviewers






Gridiron Gypsies is a unique early history of a fascinating football team. The informal, entertaining narrative conveys the author’s enthusiasm for his subject. The sentence structure and paragraphing are very good. No spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors found. Written in chronological order gives organizational strength. The source notes, chapter illustration references, and the index all at the end of the book are outstanding elements. The season game summaries at the end of each chapter are superb. Also, the photographs and illustrations throughout enhance the narrative for the reader greatly. The old fashion illustration of the football players along with the title and subtitle on the front cover are well placed. The colors on the cover and the quotations are great design elements. Gridiron Gypsies is an outstanding early football history.


The cover with the schematically-conceived football players does seem to capture the

essence of the text and sets the stage for the time period covered. One could be reminded of

the Katzenjammer cartoons of an earlier 20th-century decade, an era in which the Carlisle Indians might have been more publicly known or familiar to sports fans. The printed text is literally alive with black and white photographs and period cartoons and an assortment of tables and lists. This is followed by a list of active football players and when they played as are the extensive notes which allow fans to delve further into this topic. A bibliography and a necessary index conclude the work. A relatively unknown, mostly forgotten, era in football history featuring Native Americans has been brought to life here.


The author is careful to acknowledge his debt to an impressive cast of scholars and experts whose participation testifies to the prodigious task of research behind this documentary history of the football program of the Carlisle Indian School in the verdant Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania. He chronicles, season by season, with rich detail about the players, the coaches, the logistics of training and travel and the action on the field as the team took on collegiate opponents as far as away as Berkeley, California during the nascent days of American football. A chapter is devoted to every football season from 1893 through 1918, when the facilities were commandeered by the U. S. Army for the care and rehabilitation of soldiers wounded during World War I. The writing throughout is both engaging and sourced with precision, resulting in an authoritative, if overly dense, chronicle of an athletic program of great significance in the development of the nation’s most popular team sport. The book is useful, too, for its inclusion of the rules changes that came to the sport before each season covered by the chapter to follow. Summaries are provided listing each game, with their dates, venues and final scores, with the outcomes of each of the contests.