9 July 1877

The first Wimbledon Tennis Championships begins.

On 9 July, 1877 the first Championships began at the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon.

It is the oldest tennis championship in the world, and is the only ‘grand slam’ event played on grass.

There was only one event in 1877 – the gentlemen’s singles. A field of 22 took part, having paid the one guinea entry fee. It was won by 27-year-old Old Harrovian and ex-Surrey country cricketer, Spencer Gore, who defeated William Marshall 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in front of a crowd of around 200 spectators.

Entrance fee for spectators was a shilling, and the prize for the winner was £12 – roughly £1,300 in today’s money.

Things have changed greatly since then, of course. It’s much more lucrative, for one. This year’s singles winners took home £1,760,000. First round losers were given £27,000.

The number of spectators has gone up somewhat, too. At any one time, there are around 38,500 of them in the grounds, who get through 200,000 glasses of Pimms, 28,000 kilos of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream. They bought 28,600 ‘official’ towels, and 10,000 umbrellas.

There is no information about what sort of profit the first championships made. But in 1879, the first year for which figures are available, there was a ‘surplus’ of £116. In 2013, that figure was £35,107,812 – 90% of that is handed over to the Lawn Tennis Association to be used to develop British tennis.

9 July 1877

The first Wimbledon Tennis Championships starts.

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On July 9, 1877, the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club begins its first lawn tennis tournament at Wimbledon, then an outer-suburb of London. Twenty-one amateurs showed up to compete in the Gentlemen’s Singles tournament, the only event at the first Wimbledon. The winner was to take home a 25-guinea trophy.

Tennis has its origins in a 13th-century French handball game called jeu de paume, or “game of the palm,” from which developed an indoor racket-and-ball game called real, or “royal,” tennis. Real tennis grew into lawn tennis, which was played outside on grass and enjoyed a surge of popularity in the late 19th century.

In 1868, the All England Club was established on four acres of meadowland outside London. The club was originally founded to promote croquet, another lawn sport, but the growing popularity of tennis led it to incorporate tennis lawns into its facilities. In 1877, the All England Club published an announcement in the weekly sporting magazine The Field that read: “The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose [sic] to hold a lawn tennis meeting open to all amateurs, on Monday, July 9, and following days. Entrance fee, one pound, one shilling.”

The All English Club purchased a 25-guinea trophy and drew up formal rules for tennis. It decided on a rectangular court 78 feet long by 27 feet wide; adapted the real tennis method of scoring based on a clock face—i.e., 15, 30, 40, game; established that the first to win six games wins a set; and allowed the server one fault. These decisions, largely the work of club member Dr. Henry Jones, remain part of the modern rules.

20 February 1877

Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake is first shown at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

Swan Lake is ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was composed in 1875–1876. The scenario, initially in four acts, was fashioned from Russian folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger. The ballet was premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet on 4 March 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, billed as The Lake of the Swans. Although it is presented in many different versions, most ballet companies base their stagings both choreographically and musically on the 1895 revival of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, first staged for the Imperial Ballet on 15 January 1895, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. For this revival, Tchaikovsky’s score was revised by the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre’s chief conductor and composer Riccardo Drigo.

The first show took place on February 20, 1877, and was a flop. The critics reviled the chief choreographer, Wentsel Reisinger, and were short on praise for Polina (Pelageya) Karpakova, the first interpreter of the main female part. The failure of the first show was detrimental for the immediate reputation of the ballet itself, and for quite some time nobody dared to stage it again.

It was this particular stage version that came to be admired as the pinnacle of Russian ballet. This production, as none other, was the perfect setting for many famous dancers to showcase their art. The Swan Lake is a unique and perfect creation, and despite the changing musical and dancing fashions, the performance of Odette and Odile parts is still considered a touchstone for the mettle of any serious dancer. The White Swan is truly a symbol of Russian Ballet, of its beauty and magnificence.

24 November 1877

The novel, Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell is published.

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Black Beauty, the fictional ‘autobiography’ of a talking horse, was published in November 24, 1877 and remains a favorite children’s book to this day. In this lesson, you’ll learn about the book’s plot and major events, get to know some of the main characters and test your knowledge with a quiz.The magical idea of talking animals in children’s fiction has a long history, but the novel often credited with popularizing the genre of the talking animal story is Black Beauty by English writer Anna Sewell. Sewell wrote Black Beauty in 1877, and it’s referred to as an animal autobiography because, unlike animal stories that describe a child’s interaction with an animal, the novel is narrated from the animal’s point of view. The literary technique of giving animals human characteristics, like the ability to speak, is called anthropomorphism.