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Big Pictures

Picture a photo of Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell, Class of 1907: imposing in a Swarthmore football uniform, bruised, broken-nosed, and bloody after a 1905 game against the University of Pennsylvania. Picture U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, shocked by that photo, roaring an ultimatum: College football must implement new safety rules or he will abolish it.

That’s the story, anyway. It’s true that after that game, Roosevelt began conversations that culminated in the formation of the NCAA. As for the infamous photo, scholars have pretty well debunked the legend. No one has located this image, and we certainly don’t have it in the Swarthmore College Archives.

Thanks to a recent donation, we do now have several dozen photographs of Maxwell: in a Shakespearean play, on the beach, wearing his uniform. He attended Swarthmore from 1904 to 1906 but did not graduate. In 1906, Maxwell played for one of the first pro football teams, Ohio’s Massillon Tigers. He returned to the College in 1909 to serve as assistant football coach. Later, he worked as a referee and sports editor before his fatal 1922 car accident.

The original photos came to us in a collection assembled for a 1984 Sports Illustrated article.