Early American Fencing 17th & 18th Century

Although fencing didn’t truly flourish in America until the 19th century, here are some of the earliest American references to the teaching of fencing.  The appearance of a fencing school in Boston indicates an increased interest in recreation in Puritan life, as per the "Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates" by Gorton Carruth.

1673

The appearance of a fencing school in Boston indicates an increased interest in recreation in Puritan life, as per the "Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates" by Gorton Carruth.

1734

"A Complete System of Fencing or The Art of Defence" by Edward Blackwell

Printed in Williamsburg, Va. In 1734 Printed and Published by William Parks This is the first book on sports to be published in the United States.

1754

"As was but natural, fencing came to America with the Spaniards and Frenchmen who generally antedate the Dutch and English. The period was that of great, but not the greatest, eminence in sword-play. In 1754, John Rievers, apparently a hollander, taught fencing and dancing to the colonists in New York at the corner of Whitehall and Stone streets, doubtless encouraged more or less by the british officers in the garrison here. The period was still favorable to side-arms, and most gentlemen were supposed to know how to handle a small-sword."

This was written by HENRY ECKFORD "Fencing and the New York Fencers" 1887 In "Century Magazine," Volume VII January, 1887 , p. 414-7

1770

(continued from Eckford’s "Fencing and the New York Fencers.") "W. C. Hulett appears in 1770 to have needed a wider range of accomplishments to earn a livelihood, for in addition to the small-sword, he taught dancing, the violin and the flute."

Eugene Higgins

1789

(continued from Eckford’s "Fencing and the NY Fencers.") "In 1789 somebody too delicate to give his name, probably an emigre of good family, opened a fencing school at No. 4 Great Dock Street (now Pearl Street). By the end of the year he seems to have decided to cry mackerel in a louder voice, if he be that same M. Villette who uses the "Daily Advertiser" in September of 1789: [the ad reads] FENCING ACADEMY M. Villette respectfully informs the gentlemen amateurs of Fencing, that he intends opening his Academy on the 5th of October in Cortland Street, the second door from Greenwich Street, where that noble art will be taught every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

1790

Noah Webster wrote, "when it iz not the lot of yung persons to labor, in agriculture or mekanic arts, some laborious amusement should be constantly and daily performed as a substitute, and none iz preferable to fencing. A fencing school iz perhaps az necessary an institution in a college, az a professorship of mathematics" Noah Webster, An Address To Yung Gentlemen, p. 379