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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 15th, 2018, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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Astor Cup

Came across a small article in the Bohemia newspaper on 23 September 1906 that talks about an English women's team being assembled to visit America the next year and play for something called the Astor Cup.

"Eine Englische Damenmannschaft wird von der bekannten Spielerin Mrs. Sterry gebildet werden, um im nachsten Jahre Amerika zu besuchen und um den Astor Cup (gleich dem Davis Cup) zu ringen. Mrs. Hillyard wird der Kapitan dieser Mannschaft sein"

rough translation

"An English women's team will be created by the well-known player Mrs. Sterry, to visit America the next years and compete for the Astor Cup (equal to the Davis Cup). Mrs. Hillyard will be the captain of this team."

Does anyone have more details or background on this Astor Cup initiative?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 15th, 2018, 02:34 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Astor Cup

Found a snippet on this initiative in an American newspaper, date unknown (see bottom right of the page).
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 16th, 2018, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Astor Cup

Found some more info in the editorial of Lawn, Tennis and Badminton of 1 August 1906.

PLACE AUX DAMES


THAT the announcement which has been lately made of the intention of certain generous donors to offer an International trophy for competition by the respective ladies of this country and the United States should be hailed with the greatest satisfaction by everyone is to us a matter of no surprise, and is moreover a project which has our most cordial and sincere support. For, in our opinion, the gigantic strides which lawn tennis has recently made in the estimation of the public, the general interest created by the holding of almost every tournament throughout the country, and the undoubted improvement in the general standard of play, is in no small measure attributable to the support given to the game by the fair sex of this country. We therefore feel that it is only right and fair that they should be afforded the opportunity of sharing the honour of representing their country on similar lines as is now done by the members of the sterner sex. It is as yet but a matter of speculation as to the exact form the gift will take, but we think it is probable that, like the Davis Cup competition, it will be open to all nations to compete, and will thus be emblematic of the World's Championship. The high standard of play shown by Miss May Sutton, and her sensational overthrow of everyone except the present lady champion, should alone be sufficient guarantee that the task before the ladies of this country is no slight one, but will be one which will tax their powers to the utmost degree. We believe that the average standard in Singles play among American ladies is a great deal higher than is realised by most people. Indeed, according to the opinion of a well-known American player, an International contest between the ladies of the two countries would be likely to engender the closest kind of matches, with the result in doubt until the last stroke. Few will deny that the moment chosen for inaugurating this important additional contest is most opportune; for not only does there exist a plenitude of able talent amongst the ladies at the present time, but the friendly spirit of rivalry has never been kindled to better advantage than at the present day. There is, therefore, every reason to believe that the proposed competition will prove a great and lasting success, and while it should afford the ladies of this country a further opportunity of studying the methods of their transatlantic sisters, it will also be the means of forging an additional link in the chain of the already great brotherhood of universal sport.

LTAB, 1 August 1906, p.303
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 16th, 2018, 07:00 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Astor Cup

In the Lawn, Tennis and Badminton issue of 19 September 1906 none other than A. Wallis Myers sounds a lot more skeptical.

LEAVES FROM MY NOTE-BOOK


I hear that Mrs. Sterry may go to America next summer, if the projected tour of a British ladies' team becomes more than a source of pleasant speculation. With Mrs. Hillyard, Miss Douglass, and possibly Miss Pinckney or Miss Eastlake-Smith, members of the team, Newport Society would be brilliantly served. Already I can see the lurid headlines in the American newspapers, and sometimes, in my mind's eye, I can see Mrs. Jacob Astor handing the trophy to the English captain. I'm told the English ladies are waiting for some high-placed enthusiast in the States to write a formal letter of invitation to those in authority in this country. Because at present it seems that the potential Astor Cup is merely wasting its time in some swagger silversmith's establishment in New York, yearning to try a sea-passage in an Atlantic liner. Seriously, everybody hopes, I am sure, that the ladies' international match will materialise next year, and that it may be the forerunner of many another.

LTAB, 19 September 1906, pp.455456
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 17th, 2018, 11:34 AM
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Re: Astor Cup

Very intriguing find Wolbo!

In essence this is the first attempt to match the Davis Cup for men. May Sutton made this possible. Before her the British women were seen as vastly superior to the Americans.

Her two wins in 1905 and 1906 shattered that. Unfortunately May didn't return to The Championships until 20 years later. She also neglected to enter the US Women's Nationals after her easily winning in 1904. And after May there wasn't a 2nd American female quite in her class.

A couple of times in early sources I've seen May offering a challenge to British players to come wrest the title of world champion from her by coming to America. As late as 1914 she was seen as the best woman in the US despite never again playing the US Nationals.

The logistics of a British team coming to the US, let alone California; to face 1 player were too much to overcome.

Thank goodness Hazel Wightman kept the idea alive and followed through with success. The Wightman Cup finally got off the ground in 1923.


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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 19th, 2018, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Astor Cup

I think you have provided the right context, Rollo. It seems to have been an attempt to organize a Wightman Cup avant la lettre, such a shame it never came about. Wonder why? It's intriguing to think what the U.S. team in the summer of 1907 would have looked like. May Sutton would obviously have been the center of the team and next to her perhaps Helen Homans, Maud Barger-Wallach and Evelyn Sears? Guess it would have been a bit too early for Hazel Hotchkiss as she only came onto the scene in 1909.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 19th, 2018, 09:06 PM
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Re: Astor Cup

[from the New York Times, 16 July 1906, page 8]

Women's International Cup

American to Offer Tennis Prize for World's Competition

The project for an International Challenge Cup for women lawn tennis players was discussed by a number of the returning players from England yesterday. Miss May Sutton, who is acting as ambassador of the plans to the English courts-is awaited with no small show of interest. From the details at hand the American girl has attained some degree of success in interesting the English women players in the plan and has partially secured promises of a team visiting this country next season to challenge for the trophy, which will be offered under conditions similar to those which the Davis International Cup was of[f]ered.

The names of Mrs Maud Barger-Wallach, Mrs John Jacob Astor and Miss Maud Westmore have been associated as those who were willing to donate the trophy should Miss May Sutton be successful in securing the promise of the English women to challenge. Players returning from abroad believe that the American girl has enlisted the support of Mrs G. W. Hillyard, who paired with Miss Sutton in the All-England championship doubles and is an ex-champion of the English courts. Mrs Hillyard has won lawn tennis titles in every other part of the world, but has never visited this country. It is said that Mrs Hillyard is ready to head a team of her countrywomen and come here not only to try for the cup but to compete for the American National championship.

Miss Sutton is reported to be endeavoring to secure promises also from Miss D. K. Douglass, the present holder of the All-England championship, which she won by defeating Miss Sutton recently, and Miss C. M. Wilson. Both of these English women experts were ranked immediately preceding Mrs Hillyard for their play of last season. G. W. Hillyard, the husband of Mrs Hillyard, is also prominent as a lawn tennis player on the courts of England and will accompany his wife to this country should the plan of women's international prove successful.

"WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL CUP." New York Times (1857-1922), Jul 16, 1906, pp. 8. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/...ccountid=10274.


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Last edited by Rollo; Aug 19th, 2018 at 09:23 PM.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 19th, 2018, 09:27 PM
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Re: Astor Cup

Quote:
Posted by Wolbo It seems to have been an attempt to organize a Wightman Cup avant la lettre, such a shame it never came about. Wonder why?
A good question we may never know the answer to.

3 possible reasons:

1. The cost involved and the barrier of gender. A women's cup of this type was a novelty. Even the Davis Cup was relatively new.

2. May had lost to Dorothea Douglass earlier in 1906 at Wimbledon. Perhaps this fed into the sense of English superiority in the skill of their ladies? May had already indicated she was returning to England in 1907.

3. The New York Times article states Mrs Hillyard could lead a team for this cup AND play the American National championship. This fails to consider a big problem: the women's US Nationals were held in June while Wimbledon followed two weeks later. In this era of slow boats crossing the Atlantic it made competing in both events impossible.

It wasn't until 1920 that the US Nationals were moved to August-September. This allowed Molla Mallory to compete at both Wimbledon and the US Nationals in the same year-the first for any female.

The change in dates must have helped-for the Wightman Cup followed shortly after in 1923.


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Last edited by Rollo; Aug 19th, 2018 at 09:43 PM.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old Aug 22nd, 2018, 04:47 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Astor Cup

WOMAN TENNIS EXPERT HOME.

MISS SUTTON TALKS OF HER VICTORIES AND DEFEATS

Say Miss Douglass Is Her Superior Now - Hopes to Return Next Year to Try for the Titles She Lost - Talk of an International Tournament for Women.

Miss May Sutton, former world's champion woman tennis player, came back home yesterday on the steamship Cedrio from Liverpool, after a campaigning trip aboard.

[...]

She said that she hoped to go back again next year to England to play for the titles. Miss Sutton also said that she hoped to be among the members for a sort of international trophy similar to the Davis Cup.

[...]

"I have hopes of going back next year for the women's internaional tournament. The first thing I knew about it was what I saw in the British newspapers. The idea is that Mrs. John Jacob Astor or Mrs. Barger-Wallach will give a prize. The first tournament probably will be held in England. There are lots of English women players of the first class, among them Miss Douglass, Mrs. Hillyard, Mrs. Sterry, Miss Morton, Miss Aitchison and Miss Eastlake Smith. Miss Douglass is engaged to be married, but I think that she would take part in the tournament next year anyhow. On this side we have some good players from whom to select."

[...]

The Sun (New York, New York), 19 Aug 1906, p. 7
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