Antedating of "baseball" (except Jane Austen)

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Tue Feb 28 16:16:45 UTC 2006

On Tue, 28 Feb 2006, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> Given the Austen citation, I am not surprised that there are earlier
> ones, from England I presume.  What struck me--but I didn't say in my
> previous message--that this 1861 citation is from America and not
> much before the OED3's first American citation of 1870.  (As for
> "base ball" vs. "baseball", the 1870 citation is hyphenated, perhaps
> indicating a period of transition from two words to one?)
> Is the 1861 citation therefore of the American game, rather than the British?

You seem to be assuming that 1861 is extremely early in the history of the
American game.  In fact baseball was organized in the U.S. in 1845, 1861
is somewhat far along in the history of the American game, there are 223
pre-1861 hits for "base ball" in the New York Times alone, almost all of
which are probably referring to the American game.  I assume that your
1861 occurrence refers to the American game.

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
   Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at     

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