Mary Ewing Outerbridge

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Mary Ewing Outerbridge
Born(1852-02-16)February 16, 1852
DiedMay 3, 1886(1886-05-03) (aged 34)
Resting placeSilver Mount Cemetery, New York, U.S.
Known forIntroducing tennis to the U.S.
Parent(s)Alexander Ewing Outerbridge (1816–1900)
Laura Catherine Harvey (1818–1867)
RelativesEugenius Harvey Outerbridge, brother

Mary Ewing Outerbridge (February 16, 1852 – May 3, 1886) was an American woman who imported the lawn game tennis to the United States from Bermuda.[1]


Mary was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Bermudians Alexander Ewing Outerbridge (1816–1900) and Laura Catherine Harvey (1818–1867), who had married in Paget, Bermuda, in 1840, and had moved their growing family to the United States from Pembroke, Bermuda, before her birth. Four of her siblings had been born in Bermuda: Albert Albouy Outerbridge (1841-); Sir Joseph Outerbridge (1843-1933); August Emelius Outerbridge (1846–January 14, 1921); Catherine Tucker Outerbridge (1846-). Her other siblings were Harriett Harvey Outerbridge; Alexander Ewing Outerbridge II; Laura Catharine Outerbridge; Adolph John Harvey Outerbridge (1858–May 29, 1928) and Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge, who was the first president of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.[2]

The modern game of lawn tennis was first commercialized in 1874 in England by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield of the British Army. One of the Major's men brought the rules for the game and the equipment with him when he was posted to the Bermuda Garrison in 1874. Mary played the game at "Clermont", her family's house with a large flat lawn in Paget parish in Bermuda.[3] In 1874 Mary returned from Bermuda aboard the ship "S.S. Canima." The sporting equipment was originally confiscated by customs officials, but then her brother managed to have the supplies released.[4] She introduced lawn tennis to the United States.[5] She set up the first tennis court in the United States on the grounds of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club, which was near where the Staten Island Ferry Terminal is today.[6] The club was founded on or about March 22, 1872. She played the first tennis game in the US against her sister Laura in Staten Island, New York, on an hourglass-shaped court.[6]

In September 1880 the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club held "the tournament for the championship of America". The match was won by O. E. Woodhouse of England who was in New York at the time.[7] Woodhouse defeated I. F. Hellmuth in the championship finals.

Several other clubs held similar tournaments in the same year. In the same year tennis was also introduced in Arizona.[8][9]

In 1880 Mary and her parents were living in the Castleton area of Staten Island, New York City and her father was working as a clerk, as was her brother, Adolph. The family had two servants.[2]

She died in 1886 at age 34 in the New Brighton section of Staten Island and was buried in Silver Mount Cemetery, Staten Island, next to her parents.[8]


Mary Outerbridge was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981.[10] She was inducted into the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

In 2018, the New York Times published a belated obituary for her [11] as part of the Overlooked history project.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pollak, Michael (August 27, 2006). "Rocking the Tennis Cradle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-21. In 1874, a Staten Island resident, Mary Ewing Outerbridge, was visiting relatives in Bermuda. She encountered a recent invention of an Englishman, Maj. Walter C. Wingfield, who had adapted an ancient ball sport. The adapted game was first played at a garden party in Wales in December 1873 and had just arrived in Bermuda, where British Army officers were playing it. In early 1874 Miss Outerbridge brought back from Bermuda a net, balls and rackets, and specifications for the size of the courts. The strange gear was confiscated by customs agents. Her brother A. Emilius Outerbridge, a shipping executive, used his pull to get the gear released. He was also an officer of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club in St George, and that spring, his sister set up her court there. A national tournament was played on Staten Island on September 1, 1880. The overhand serve had not been invented, and the game resembled badminton. The cricket club's remaining grounds were converted to public courts in 1931. ...
  2. ^ a b Outerbridges in the 1880 US Census for Staten Island
  3. ^ "Bermuda's Place in Tennis History". Blackburne.
  4. ^ Padnani, Amisha (2018-03-08). "Mary Ewing Outerbridge, Who Helped Bring Tennis to the United States". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  5. ^ "Bermudas Place in Tennis History > The IC of Bermuda". 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  6. ^ a b "Our History". 1915-06-09. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  7. ^ "Lawn-tennis on Staten Island. Mr. Woodhouse, of London, Wins In The Single Games. Games Today" (PDF). The New York Times. September 4, 1880. Retrieved 2009-08-18. The single games in the lawn-tennis tournament at Camp Washington, Staten Island, were concluded yesterday, and the handsome silver cup presented for competition by the Staten Island ...
  8. ^ a b "Lawn Tennis in America". The New York Times. April 28, 1931. Retrieved 2007-07-21. In an article in American Lawn Tennis for April 20, Malcolm D. Whitman comes to the conclusion that the beginning of the game in the United States must be credited to Mary Ewing Outerbridge of ...
  9. ^ "Jubilee". TIME magazine. September 21, 1931. Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. Retrieved 2007-07-21. In 1874, a lively girl named Mary Ewing Outerbridge paid a visit to Bermuda. There British Army officers taught her a game which was becoming a polite fad in England. When she returned to the U. S., Mary Outerbridge brought with her a net suitable for minnow-fishing, several strange-looking, gut-strung bats and a rule book. She had her net pegged up on the grounds of the Staten Island Cricket & Baseball Club, set about teaching her family how to play tennis. Seven years later, when the game was being played at 33 U. S. clubs, her brother, Eugenius H. Outerbridge, helped form the U. S. Lawn Tennis Association which drafted rules and held the first national tournament at Newport, Rhode Island. The winner was a spry young Bostonian with a fierce eye and an underhand serve, Richard Dudley Sears. He too could lay claim to being one of the very first U. S. lawn tennis players. In 1874 his brother had brought a set and a rule book from England, set up the net on an hourglass shaped court on their uncle's place at Nahant, Massachusetts. ...
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-06-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Amisha Padnani. "Mary Ewing Outerbridge, Who Helped Bring Tennis to the United States - The New York Times". Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  12. ^ Padnani, Amisha (2018-03-08). "How an Obits Project on Overlooked Women Was Born". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  13. ^ Padnani, Amisha (2018-03-08). "Remarkable Women We Overlooked in Our Obituaries". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-24.

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