It’s with much regret to the citizens of Westville, Illinois, that I write this post. After all, they’re going to have to change their sign. Because it’s wrong.

Westville claims the nation’s first lighted high school football game. It came in 1928, on Sept. 21 of that year, in a game against Milford, according to the IHSA (scroll down about 1/3 of the way down the page). Westville even won the game, 26-6.

There’s just one little problem with that claim: It’s inaccurate. Midwest, Wyoming, hosted the first night football game in November 1925.

A full four years before the first professional night game, and three years before Westville, the Oilers hosted Casper High School (now Natrona) on Nov. 19, 1925. Casper won the game 20-0; Midwest won style and novelty points. About 400 people turned out to watch the game, played under floodlights installed by the Midwest Refining Co. at the location of Midwest’s current community softball field. The game was played in cold temperatures (after all, it WAS nighttime in late November) and with a football that had been painted white.

Now, nearly every high school in the state has lights. Only about a dozen schools in Wyoming are without them.

And, of course, the tradition of Friday night lights did not remain solely a Wyoming tradition. It is now Americana — a tradition for tens of thousands of communities across the country. (Never mind that Nov. 19, 1925, was a Thursday…)

Even though Mansfield University has everyone beat, Wyoming CAN claim the first high school football game under the lights.

–patrick

4 Thoughts on “Sorry, Westville… you weren’t first

  1. Russ McDonald on August 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm said:

    Patrick, a definition of football field lights should be in order here. To qualify, the lights should be of high luminosity for clear visability of ball-handling, player movement and a well punted ball, thereby installed at least 50 feet above ground level, with the fixtures mounted on each pole being at least five in number, the poles equally spaced along each side of the field about 20-25 yards apart so as to prevent any dark spots on the field. The ball should not need to be painted white in order to get a glimpse of it in dim light. A few 250 watt flood lights hanging lowly along the side of a field should not qualify. Although one team in our conference back in the 1950’s played a ‘slick’ very tight ‘T’ formation with backs spaced very close behind the line. Their lights were very dim to enhance their delayed ‘hide-the-ball’ offense, and their home-ball was the same color as the dark front and sides of their jerseys.
    –Russ
    Central Illinois

  2. Russ McDonald on August 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm said:

    Patrick, I really have no way of knowing whether Westville’s lights even met my stipulations. I simply stumbled across your blog when googling for the year that my high school installed FB-field lights. Didn’t find it but believe the year was 1948. I suspect many schools around here got their lights not long after the end of World War II. Most/all labor was contributed by skilled (or simply muscled) citizenry, and installation equipment by local companies. Most schools paid for the poles, fixtures, and wire/cables. Or, I’m wondering now if this is my memory of later softball field lights? Installing the very tall poles and attaching fixtures and wiring from cranes for the football field would likely have required professional installation by a power supply contractor. This was the case when we installed lighting for a new field in 1977 when I was on the school board. Regulations and guidelines for lighting and other field designs had to be met by at least that time.

    It’s interesting to see that the Midwest Electric Plant was built in 1924, only a year before their first lighted football game. Small towns around here mostly had their own plants about 15 years earlier that were purchased later by larger power distribution companies.
    –Russ

  3. Kristin Slevin on August 15, 2013 at 10:31 am said:

    Gentlemen,

    I happened to stumble across this post doing other research and it piqued my interest as I am a Westville native.

    Sadly, Westville did not play the first night high school football game, in the U.S. or in Illinois for that matter. The first night high school football game was played in Mansfield, PA in 1892.

    So you’re both wrong.

  4. It all comes down to what you really call a ballgame. Another sporting site claims the Mansfield game was a college and H.S. matchup that was not even completed. As far as I can find the Westville-Milford night affair is the only game that really qualifies as a legitimate night football game with a field lit up by permanent light poles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Post Navigation