Robert College early sporting activities

Robert College was founded in Constantinople in 1863 by the Americans Cyrus Hamlin and Christopher R. Robert, two men who believed in the universal value of education. It was the first American school to be established in the Ottoman lands, and outside the USA. Surviving revolutions, wars, earthquakes, fires, and epidemics, the College never closed down a single day throughout its 150-year history. Robert College has educated seven prime ministers (four of them Bulgarian) and its alumni have formed an important part of the elite class of the late Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. Within its walls restrictions of assembly and sports under the late Sultans of the Empire didn’t apply and team sports were one of its expression. Some of these sports introduced, with USA origin, such as basketball are still hugely popular in Turkey.

In 1896 Robert College Sports Club was founded. Along with a few Ottoman-Greek associations in the Aegean, it was the first sports club on Ottoman soil. The school’s sports club not only organized sports activities but also played a vital role in spreading sports across the city and the country. In 1897, Field Day (sports festival) tradition was initiated at the school as a reflection of the Olympic culture spreading rapidly across Europe and America. Following the opening of Turkey’s first sports hall, Dodge Gymnasium, in 1904, Robert College solidified its place as the center for sports. Named after donor William Dodge, the hall was also the first school gymnasium in Europe.

Robert College basketball team 1900.
Field day, 1904. Visitors arriving for the sports. Miss Mildred Edwards (later Mrs Cuthbert Binns) standing under the tree. (Cuthbert Binns was later a Gallipoli veteran and fluent in German and Turkish, with the rank of Major ran intelligence and counterpropaganda operations against the Turks for EMSIB (Eastern Mediterranean Special Intelligence Bureau) and MI-1c (British military intelligence, the future MI5) from Bern, Switzerland, an easier alternative to ilfiltrating Entente agents into Ottoman territory during WWI.)
Traditional Field Day at Robert College, 1915.
Robert College basketball team 1917.
Robert College basketball team c. 1920.
Robert College baseball team 1921.
Field day, 1924 at Robert College. Admiral Bristol, U.S. High Commissioner, presenting Sportsmanship Cup to Junior Class. Queen of Day (Turkish) and Maids of Honour, Armenian at the right and Bulgarian at the left, from Constantinople Women’s College.
Robert College basketball team 1930.
Students at the Dodge Gymnasium, the first sports hall in Turkey, 1930s.
March 23, 1938, 75th anniversary of Robert College Founders’ Day in the Gymnasium. Dr Gates, Pres. Emeritus awarding prize after an indoor meet. Mr MacGregor, Athletic Director standing behind him.
Basketball teams of the visiting U.S.S. Missouri & Robert College, April 1946.

Images courtesy of Boğaziçi University archives and documentation centre / Columbia University - further info.