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Baseball at Hoboken's Elysian Fields, 1845-1865: A Visual History

originally published: 06/15/2022

Baseball at Hoboken

(HOBOKEN, NJ) -- If you build it - a presentation on the groundbreaking implications of a single photograph of a "Base Ball" game being played in Elysian Fields circa 1865, that is - they will come!

Join the Hoboken Historical Museum on Saturday, June 18 at 4:00pm - um, it's kind of a perfect pre-Father's Day outing - for a special event at the Museum with esteemed baseball historian, author and collector Jonathan Popovich. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.  The event will also be live-streamed here.

Popovich's recent work on the Elysian Fields of Hoboken was selected as the “Special Presentation for 2022” by no less than the prestigious Society for American Baseball Research in Cooperstown, N.Y. The museum is thrilled that he will be sharing his expertise and the results of his research at the Museum. Jonathan will be joined by guest host Irwin Chusid.

Jonathan will bring the circa 1865 photograph depicting a “Game of Base Ball at Hoboken” (yes, historically two words!) which launched him into an exploration – with greater depth than any to date – into the geography, layout, and utilization of the Elysian Fields during the height of its popularity.

In Jonathan's words, "Between 1845 and 1865, Hoboken’s Elysian Fields became a preferred locale for New York baseball clubs who were losing playing fields to Manhattan real estate development. Hoboken thus became one of the most significant hotspots in the early growth of the National Pastime.

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"During its heyday, Hoboken’s renowned athletic grounds bore witness to a number of baseball milestones, some of which were recorded visually by means of sketches, carvings, and paintings. When combined with written accounts of the period, we can start to imagine what the Elysian Fields may have looked like when it first opened to the membership of the Eagle, Empire, Gotham, and Knickerbocker Clubs of the mid-19th century.

"While artistic interpretations of the grounds are valuable to our understanding of the Elysian Fields as an actual location in place and time, they leave us with little more than an impression of the landscape and fall short of the standard that something such as a photograph would more fully impart. However, no such medium depicting baseball subject matter at Hoboken during this period was known to exist…until now.

"This presentation will highlight that image and the research process that has led to a broader and deeper understanding of Hoboken’s fabled Elysian Fields."

Visitors will receive a very special souvenir postcard of this historic photograph! 

Jonathan Popovich is the author of two books on vintage baseball equipment and memorabilia, and has has been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research for the past 10 years. He has presented his research and findings on a variety of 19th Century baseball topics at each of the past seven meetings of SABR’s 19th Century Research Committee in Cooperstown, NY.

Irwin Chusid is a 30-year Hoboken resident, a 40-year member of the Society for American Baseball Research, and a 47-year broadcaster on WFMU.

Hoboken Historical Museum is located at 1301 Hudson Street in Hoboken, New Jersey.  The museum collects and displays artifacts in themed exhibitions on Hoboken history and offers educational programs, lectures, tours and hosts films and plays. The museum is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Recent exhibits have included a focus on Hoboken’s relationship with the Hudson River and its role as a sweets producer. Other exhibits included shipping history, an anniversary of the movie “On the Waterfront,” the city’s contributions to the world of music, and its struggle and revival through the 1970s. Their upper gallery space features six local artists’ work per year.

The museum is open six days a week in a 2,000-square-foot space in one of the oldest buildings on Hoboken’s waterfront, the former Bethlehem Steel machine shop, now known as the Shipyard.

The musem also publishes books and walking-tour maps, as well as a series of oral history chapbooks documenting the diverse communities of Hoboken’s recent past. Each exhibit offers a tailored curriculum for local schools and groups of youngsters.



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