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A Brief History of The Badminton Club of the City of New York
(Adapted from the Centennial Yearbook, 1978)
2017 marks the 140th annual games for the Badminton Club of the City of New York, which for better than 60 years has held the position of the oldest badminton club in the world.
The first rules of The Badminton Club of the City of New York were copied from those of the Ahmedabad Badminton Club of India as played in 1874.
The Badminton Club of the City of New York was founded during the winter of 1878 by two young world travelers, Bayard Clarke and his friend E.L. Wilks, and their sisters, Lilly Clarke and Katherine and Alice E. Wilks, in part for the love of the sport and in part "to relieve the dullness of the Lenten season." What was revolutionary at that time was the fact that the young men included women in a sport.
To these original five were added three young gentlemen, John Aspinwall Hadden and his brother Alexander M. Hadden and also Matthew Astor Wilks. These eight invited their friends and relatives to join and obtained the patronage of prominent society matrons. The first meeting was held in the 71st Regiment Armory at the corner of Broadway and 34th Street. An armory was the ideal place because of the amount of available space and the high vaulted ceilings. Active daytime activities were centered around 21st to 34th Streets during that era. The "Ladies Shopping Mile" and the theater district were within those environs. As New York moved uptown, so did the location of the badminton games.
We know about the founders of the Club, but we do not know who the first members were. We know that the leading debutantes of the season were invited to the first session of the games. Flowers were in profusion and tea was served by Sherry's. The young gentlemen founders very early on stated a preference for pretty, unmarried girls, so what had been a revolutionary sporting event also had its social benefits. The Club very soon was covered on the sports pages, in the social columns and in the general feature articles in newspapers and magazines on changing lifestyles and new trends.
Currently, the Club focuses on promoting the game of badminton through coaching and social activities and maintains a robust and diverse membership.