The fairly simple sport of soccer, known internationally as football, is the world’s most popular ball game in numbers of participants and spectators. With the 2022 Men’s FIFA World Cup currently in play, the IDHH would like to highlight the sport of soccer and its rise in popularity in the United States. Soccer was brought to North America by European immigrants in the 1860s, with informal matches being contested by Canadian and American teams by the mid-1880s. Already a pastime with a devoted audience and professional associations in Britain, soccer was not immediately popular in Canada or the United States, as ice hockey and gridiron football (American football) were becoming more prominent respectively.
However, American cities with large immigrant populations, such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City, saw the sport played widely, and led to the official formation of the United States Soccer Federation in 1913. Over the first half of the 20th century, soccer’s popularity in the United States would steadily rise without ever truly finding a regular fan base. The sport’s fortunes would shift in the 1960s and ‘70s, though, as American teams began signing international players, such as the Brazilian athlete Pelé, and the passage of Title IX in 1972 further encouraged the participation of female players. Viewed as less violent and more socially inclusive than American football, soccer benefited from an influx of younger soccer players in the 1980s and ‘90s. The United States would host the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, setting an all-time attendance record as the U.S. women’s team led by Mia Hamm clinched the Cup. In the last two decades, soccer has solidified itself as a significant sport in the United States, with the creation of various national soccer associations and leagues, and a devoted following of American teams on the international stage.
As students return to campus and the Fall academic semester begins, the IDHH is featuring Millikin University, one of our many academic partners. Millikin University is located in Decatur, Illinois, along the Sangamon River and Lake Decatur in Central Illinois, and was founded by businessman James Millikin. Born in 1827, James Millikin grew up the son of a moderately wealthy farmer in Pennsylvania, helping to drive cattle to New York City as a child. While attending Washington College, Millikin vowed to establish a center of learning himself, though this ambition would not become a reality for another 55 years. Known at one point as “the cattle king of the Prairie State” due to his sizeable herds of livestock, James Millikin settled in Decatur in 1856, eventually transitioning into the banking business in 1860. In the last decade of his life James Millikin would finally realize his long-held desire to found an institution of higher education, founding Millikin University in 1901.
From the start, Millikin University operated under the philosophy of providing an education that combines theory with practice, embracing James Millikin’s wish for a university that would emphasize the practical side of learning. Today, this approach is embodied in Millikin University’s rich tradition of Performance Learning. Through various hands-on, real-world experiences, Performance Learning prepares students for life post-graduation, honoring James Millikin’s vision of students living out their learning. Digital collections shared with the IDHH of the university’s student-run newspaper, The Decaturian, and of select School of Music Programs illustrate just a few of the many unique ways in which Millikin University students perform their knowledge, while the Big Blue Photograph Collection offers snapshots of the history of the university.
Here are a few of our favorite Millikin University items from their collections (including a delightful April Fool’s issue of The Decaturian):