Note: We first shared this story on our first Fourth of July holiday. It’s so fun, we’re keeping up the tradition this year.
A century and a half ago, local media writers were bemoaning the lack of activities scheduled in Mansfield to celebrate Independence Day, with one exception: a “Base Ball” game between the “fats” and the “lanks.”This is from the weekly Mansfield Herald’s edition on July 3, 1867:
“The Fourth of July tomorrow will not be celebrated in any formal manner in Mansfield. We are sorry to say it, for many other places of less pretensions than our city, have made arrangement for a good old fashioned time. Ashland, Bucyrus, Bellfontaine and other towns have announcements out of what they intend to do, and many of our citizens will not doubt visit one of the other of these places…
We learn of several private picnics to take place in the neighborhood of town, on the Fourth, but nothing of a public character. Much enjoyment can be had in this way, probably more than at a public affair. There are many fine locations in the country for the purpose of picnics, and we have several places such as Hemlock Falls, Coulter’s Cave, etc. that are unsurpassed for beauty and grandness of scenery… Those who wish to take a more extended trip, can visit Sandusky and take an excursion on the Lake to Kelley’s Island, Put-in-Bay, and the other places of interest there. There is no lack of amusements, for our citizens, and we hope all will take advantage of the Fourth to celebrate it in some way.
Our citizens will remember that on the morning of the Fourth of July, the Falstaff Brigade will make their appearance. None weighing less than two hundred pounds can belong to this honorable body. We anticipate much fun over the Base Ball match in the Public Square, between the “first nine” of the “fats,” and the “first nine” of the “lanks.””
Just what was the “Falstaff Brigade?” A clue comes from the July 22, 1858 edition of the Perrysburg Journal, which ran the following notice:
“THE FAT MEN ON PARADE — The Falstaff Brigade at Mansfield on the 5th numbered fifty. The lightest man weighed 200, the officers weighed as follows:
NAME RESIDENCE AGE WEIGHT
Capt. J. Eminger Mansfield 48 248
Ist Lt. Dr. Chandler Mansfield 42 290
2nd Lt. R. Carter Springfield 71 237
3rd Lt. Jno. Finney Madison 57 252
O.S. Jno. Crall Madison 37 250
Surgeon Dr. Mitchell Mansfield 50 335”