The University of South Carolina played its first football game in 1892, in the waning years of the Victorian era.
Certainly, someone tailgated before that game.
If so, that means South Carolinians can boast more than a century of tailgating experience.
No wonder we’re so good at it.
Assuming those folks did tailgate during Victorian times, what did they do – and when did they do it?
Historic Columbia will explore some of that with a Historic Happy Hour/Victorian Tailgating party Friday, June 17 at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.
Participants can try out 19th-century outdoor games like bocce, croquet, hoop and stick, and graces while sipping on a cold drink – which they probably did if they tailgated in the later 1800s.
“When people think of Victorian times, they think of everyone being proper and prim,” said James Quint, director of education for Historic Columbia. “But sometimes, they were consuming alcohol and playing games.”
And that’s what Historic Columbia has planned for its Victorian Tailgate. There will be hor d’oeuvres, beer and wine. The beer and wine will be the modern-day version, but really, it’s basically the same as Victorian brews. The food will be modern, too.
What did Victorian tailgaters eat? Most likely pheasant, duck, quail or perhaps roasted pig, Quint said. Some might have had oysters transported from the coast.
Before USC played that first football game, what sporting events could have spawned tailgating?
“In the United States, especially in the South, it could have been horse racing,” Quint said. “You also had the emergence of baseball after the Civil War.”
So what was going on in Columbia during the Victorian Era – after the Civil War?
▪ As Quint mentioned, baseball. There were 10 baseball teams in Columbia.
▪ Future President Woodrow Wilson (he is sort of hosting this party) was a teenager living in Columbia, known for his athleticism. He would have been familiar with the games at the Victorian Tailgate. Wilson was born in 1856, and his parents built the home in Columbia in 1871. They moved three years later.
▪ The railroad was booming, giving folks the opportunity to travel to other parts of the settled country.
▪ The Columbia Canal was being transformed from a passage for boats looking to avoid rocks in the river, to a power source for the textile industry.
▪ The South Carolina Dispensary controlled all liquor sales in the state.
And certainly, as folks waited for horse races or baseball games to begin, they were eating, drinking and playing games they could participate in while holding a drink. Or a piece of quail.
Lezlie Patterson, Special to Go Columbia
If you go
Historic Happy Hour/Victorian Tailgating Party
WHEN: 5:30-7 p.m. Friday, June 17
WHERE: Woodrow Wilson Family Home, 1705 Hampton St.
COST: $15, Historic Columbia members; $20, nonmembers. Participants must be age 21 or older.