1893 Iron Bowls

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The 1893 Iron Bowls refer to the first two football games played between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers, both held in 1893, in a rivalry that would later become known as the Iron Bowl. Of these, the first, on February 22, was played in Birmingham, at the Base Ball Park on the northeast corner of Clairmont Avenue and 32nd Street South near Lakeview. The second was played on November 30 in Montgomery's Riverside Park.


The team from the University of Alabama in Tuskaloosa (as it was then spelled) considered this game to mark the end of their first season playing football, a game which had become popular in the northeast before spreading south. The team from the Agricultural and Mechanical College in Auburn had already concluded their first season and used the game to begin their 1893 campaign.

In the version played here, touchdowns were scored as 4 points, with 2 points awarded for a successful kick after, and 5 points for a field goal. Players wore no numbers or special protective equipment and played both sides of the ball for the entire game unless a substitute was brought in due to injury.

The grand face-off in Birmingham was hotly anticipated with supporters of both institutions. Special trains from the respective campuses brought hundreds of cheering students and uniformed cadets to the city on the morning of the game. The University team (as it was generally called) used the Caldwell Hotel as their local headquarters, which was bedecked with crimson and white for the occassion. The College team, also known as "The Auburns", set up at the Florence Hotel, which was similarly decorated in dark orange and blue. By noon the streets were filled with lively throngs breaking out in the school's respective yells.

By the advertised starting time of 3:00, the grandstands and boards surrounding the baseball park, newly striped for football, were filled to overflowing and more fans pressed against ropes drawn tight around the rest of the field. The Auburn's supporters ganged together on the east side of the field while University fans were scattered all around the park. Other spectators filled the surrounding hillsides. Many arrived in Lakeview by the Highland Avenue and Belt Railroad, which put several extra cars in service for the event. Others came by foot, by horseback, or in buggies. One estimate of the attendance was 5,000 people and gate receipts were said to total $1,200 to $1,500. Members of the Birmingham Athletic Association and the Birmingham Police Department helped keep the crowds behind the lines, especially after big plays when fans would rush the field to congratulate the players.

The teams

University of Alabama

The University team, clad in white with red stockings and the letters "U. of A." sewn on their chests in red, were coached for their first season by E. B. Beaumont. The team came into the game with a 2-2 record for the 1892 season.

  • Ferguson, left end
  • Abbott, left tackle
  • Little, left guard and captain
  • Pratt, center
  • Cape, right guard
  • Savage, right tackle
  • Grayson, right end
  • Walker, quarter back
  • Smith, left half back
  • Kyser, right half back
  • Bankhead, full back
  • McCant (substituted for Walker)
  • Nesmith, Walker, Johnston and Powers, unused substitutes

Agricultural and Mechanical College

The Auburns were also clad in white, but with blue stockings,. They wore dark blue sweaters over their shirts before the game. D. M. Balliet coached Auburn for the game in Birmingham while G. H. Harvey took the helm for the remainder of the games in November and December. The team was beginning its 1893 campaign, in which they were undefeated with a record of 3-0-2.

  • Riggs, left end
  • Redding, left tackle
  • Brown, left guard
  • Shafer, center
  • McKissick, right guard
  • Buckalew, right tackle
  • Foy, right end
  • Dunham, quarter back
  • Shackelford, left half back
  • Rufus Dorsey, right half back
  • Thomas C. Daniels, full back and captain
  • Shafer, Stevens and Loveless, unused substitutes

The game

"The Flying Wedge", photographed during the 1893 Iron Bowl by John Horgan, Jr.

When 3:00 arrived, both teams came onto the field amidst lively cheers and tossed ribbons. J. W. Taylor and E. L. Simons, clad in tails with derby hats and walking sticks, served as the officials. Both were veterans of the Yale football team. The teams were allowed a practice period before the coin was tossed at 3:30, giving the ball to the Auburns to start the game. The college team chose to defend the north goal.

The University team successfully defended on the first drive, in which the Auburns gained 40 yards before giving up the ball on downs. Alabama punted on the third play of the ensuing possession. After regaining possession, Dorsey scored for the Auburns on a 20 yard rush. Daniels missed the kick and Auburn's lead was 4-0.

On the next drive Alabama got the ball within 5 yards of the Auburn's goal, but Walker fumbled it away. The biggest play of the half was accomplished on the Auburn's next drive when Daniels, a "ringer" who enrolled at the college for just one semester after playing four years at Trinity College (Duke) in Durham, North Carolina, scampered 65 yards around the end of the University defensive formation. After the crowds were cleared, the Auburns completed the drive with Dorsey's carry through the center to make the score 8-0 with 28 minutes elapsed.

Alabama got their first score on the next drive as a series of short gains set up Savage for an end-around on which he scored from 10 yards out. Bankhead made the extra kick, bringing the score to 8-6. The Auburns answered with a scoring drive completed by Shackelford carrying the ball around the left end. Dorsey, inheriting kicking duties from Daniels who had missed two kicks, made the extra points to increase their lead to 14-6.

Smith scored for the University team on a 20 yard run around the right end to close the gap to 14-12 after the kick. The Auburn's started the next drive with a 10-yard gain utilizing the flying wedge. A 5-yard penalty was followed by a fumble, giving the University team good field position, but were unable to capitalize before half time was called.

The University team began the second half with a "turtle back wedge" play that gained 25 yards. Dorsey recovered a fumble for the Auburns, however, and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown. Daniels' kick brought the score to 20-12. Tuskaloosa utilized the "revolving wedge" on the next series to gain 24 yards, but Ferguson's 10 yard loss three plays later turned the ball over on downs. The Auburn's followed up with a fumble after a short gain, setting up a 30 yard touchdown run by Little. Kyser's kick brought the scoring to 20-18.

The College team secured their lead with a returned fumble after a series of short back-and-forth drives. Daniels scored on a 25 yard run and resumed kicking duties successfully to stake the College to a 26-18 lead. He repeated the feat with another 25 yard rush through the center and gave the College its final points of the game and a 32-18 lead.

Alabama's final score was disputed by the College's captain, but the officials stuck with their decision. Kyser missed the extra kick and the Agricultural & Mechanical College team won, with a final score of 32-22 when time was called. This was the only game to be played at Lakeview, and the series did not return to Birmingham until 1902.

After the game

A special loving cup was presented to Daniels and his team by Miss Delma Wilson, attended by her maids Sarah Rogan and Mamie Morrow with these words: "Gallant and victorious captain, in the name of the city of Birmingham I present this cup. Drink from it and remember the victory that you have won this day. May you and your team live to see many more victories." Daniels accepted, saying "We feel proud of the honor and assure you it is a great pleasure to receive this cup from the city of Birmingham and through your hands." The Age-Herald's reporter observed that the evening sky had turned the color of old gold in honor of the victorious team.

The Caldwell Hotel prepared a special dinner for its guests from Tuskaloosa, featuring "Baked Kikoph Trout", "Right Guard Cornbread with Left Tackle Buttermilk", "Left Flank of Beef", "Braised Quarter Back of Tennessee Lamb" and "University Salad", followed up with "One-team-out-in-the-cold Sherbet".

The special trains from Auburn and Tuskaloosa returned late that same night.


The second game in the series was played on November 30, 1893 before an estimated crowd of 3,000 at Riverside Park in Montgomery. Auburn scored seven touchdowns during the game to win by a score of 40-16.


  • Hudson, Alvin W., compiler (1997) The First Iron Bowl: Alabama versus Auburn, February 22, 1893 - reprint of the account given in the February 23, 1893 edition of the Birmingham Age-Herald illustrated with John Horgan's photographs.
Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn)
Sites: Alabama State Fairgrounds, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Highland Park (Montgomery), Lakeview Park, Jordan-Hare Stadium, Legion Field, Riverside Park (Montgomery), and West End Park.
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