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Bermudas Place in Tennis History

In 1873, the modern game of Lawn Tennis as we know it was invented in England by a British Army officer, Major Walter C. Wingfield.  At the Major’s Christmas party that year, a fellow officer was introduced to this new and bizarre game and became impassioned with it- a sort of love at first strike.

This military gentleman was posted to Bermuda in early 1874 and brought with him the then primitive equipment with which to play tennis, no doubt expecting that Bermuda would have little in the way of entertainment.  He set a net up in the grounds of  “Clermont” in Paget where the first game of lawn tennis was played in the Western Hemisphere.

It so happened that a young American Lady, a Mary Ewing Outerbridge, was vacationing in Bermuda that winter. During her stay, she chanced upon the Army officer and others cavorting on the lawn of Clermont and participated in this new sport.  She also became enamored with the game and took back to  the United States with her the measurements of the court and probably a racquet or two.  The passenger list on the S. S. Canima on the 2nd February 1874 shows a Mary E. Outerbridge to have been on board and to have been aged 22.  She was not  a “Bermuda” Outerbridge, traditionally one of the forty thieves families of the Island.

Little did Mary Outerbridge realize that, on making the crossing by sea from Bermuda to New York, she would go down in history as the person who first introduced Tennis to the United States of America.  She set up a make-shift tennis court on the lawns of the Staten Island Cricket Club, lent some racquets to her friends and instructed them in the rules and techniques of this fascinating and in those days hardly lady-like occupation.  Since then, hundreds of millions of Americans have become impassioned with tennis and have idled away thousands of millions of hours in pursuit of this most enchanting summer game.

History Courtesy of Robin Blackburne -  www.blackburneds.com

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