Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jacob "Jack" Levy

Jack Levy was an early baseball manager and probably player in Victoria, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. He came from a family that were Jewish pioneers in New Zealand, Australia, San Francisco, Victoria and Seattle. Below is a modified version of a chapter written by Protoball Digger Mark Brunke that appeared in Distant Replay! Washington's Jewish Sports Heroes, published in 2014 by the Washington State Jewish Historical Society.

Jack Levy has the distinction of being the earliest noted Jewish athlete in Washington that the Washington State Jewish Historical Society has discovered. Levy was an important early organizer and promoter of sports in Seattle. In addition to being president of Seattle's first organized Base Ball Club to play challenge matches, Levy would organize and promote the Seattle Rifle Team in international matches. The team Levy organized for a series of matches with the baseballers of Victoria developed over the following decade into an active semi-professional team. That team, the Seattle Reds, was the nucleus of baseball activity in Puget Sound prior to the advent of professional ball in 1890. Levy's efforts to promote dozens of games throughout the Northwest played a significant role in establishing organized baseball in Seattle.

Benjamin and Esther Levy were among the first Jews to emigrate from London to New Zealand in 1841. By 1848, they had settled in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and had given birth to their son, Jacob. By the early 1870s Jack was living in Seattle doing business at teh Grotto Cigar Stand on Mill Street. [This corrects for the previous version of this information, which was published with an error attributing Jack to Seattle Soda Works, which was run by two of his brothers : In his 20s, Jacob, now known as Jack, and his brother Henry Emanuel were living in the Northwest and had established Levy Brothers' Seattle Soda Works, manufacturing ginger beer, sarsaparilla, and other beverages. Jack Levy also ran the Grotto Cigar Stand on Mill Street and was the correspondent for The British Colonist newspaper in Victoria.]

In 1872, the game of "base ball" is mentioned for the first time in Seattle periodical. The establishment of the Dolly Varden Base Ball Club was announced in the July 11 edition of the Puget Sound Dispatch. Four years later, the newspaper described a challenge issued by a team from Newcastle, seeking to play any other team in the county. Levy is listed on the roster of the Seattle Base Ball Club, which accepted the challenge and beat the Newcastle Miners 51-0.
On May 18, 1877, The British Colonist published Victoria's challenge to the Seattle Base Ball Club to play a game for Queen Victoria's birthday on May 24. The Seattle nine accepted and beat the Victoria Club by a score of 15-7. Joshua P. Davis umpired the game, and like Jack's brother's Aunt Elizabeth, he was a well known leader of Victoria's Jewish community. Davis was also a founding director of the Olympic Base Ball Club of Victoria when it was formed in 1866. Along with the Pioneer Base Ball Club of Portland, these were the first two clubs in the Pacific Northwest to be formed under what were called New York Rules and more properly the rules of the National Association of Base Ball Players.

On June 1, 1877, the Seattle Base Ball Club voted to change its name to the Alki Base Ball Club and elected Jack Levy as its president. At this time, the club consisted of nine players, a president, and a secretary, William Jamieson. Jamieson was a jeweler who, like Levy, had moved to Seattle from Victoria. Jamieson had managed and played baseball in Victoria, and was the organizer of the Dolly Varden club in 1872, though there is no record of them ever playing club or match games.
The members of the Alkis also voted to invite the Victoria Club to a game in Seattle on July 4th, which would also include a rifle match. Seattle beat Victoria by a score of 21-9, but Victoria redeemed itself with a victory in the rifle match. With Levy managing the ball club, the Alkis turned in their best season that year, going undefeated in front of crowds that reached several hundred. Their home games were played in Georgetown, on the field of the Seattle Jockey Club's racecourse.
By 1879, Levy and nearly all his other original Alkis had left the game in Seattle, moving on to businesses in Seattle and Victoria, and one player, Curry Chase, playing at Cornell before becoming a reporter and eventually playing in Wisconsin. The Alkis team lasted only three years, but its players from its final year became the nucleus of a team that played as the Seattle Base Ball Club, continuing the May 24/July 4 home and away rivalry with Victoria through the 1880s. That team became known as the Reds by the mid-1880s, and the Seattle Browns by the late 1880s. Through the last part of the 1880s they were a semi-professional club, but had recruited at least 3 players from California and the Midwest who in addition to baseball worked in local banks and other businesses, some of which were operated by alumni of the Alkis. Finally in 1890, Seattle and clubs from Portland, Tacoma, and Spokane organized the first fully professional league in the Northwest. Victoria had initially been invited to this aggregation, but declined (though Victoria would partake in a league within a few years).

In 1897, Levy's business interests took him north to the Yukon with the Klondike gold rush. He prospected in Dawson and operated businesses there for the next 12 years. His brother and other family members operated a restaurant in Victoria. Levy returned there following injuries in a boating accident, dying a few years later on April 29, 1913.

6 comments:

  1. I was fortunate to run across this blog post while researching my family history. Jacob Levy was my great great grand uncle. His brother, Joseph, was my great great grandfather. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Hi Shari
      Around slide 23 of this, I go into the Seattle Alkis http://protoball.org/The_Spread_of_Base_Ball_in_the_Pacific_Northwest. I had found a picture of the Seattle Alkis where you can see Jacob Levy at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. It had previously been mis-identified as being from the 1880s. If its helpful to your family history, I also found a lot of records for both Jack and Henry Levy in the Registers for the City of Seattle, beginning in 1870 with their soda works business. You can also see their addresses for when they lived in Seattle instead of Victoria up to about 1909. I have Henry Levy's obituary from the Victoria papers as well, which is where I was able to make the connections.

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  2. WOW! Like Shari, I am related to Jacob "Jack" Levy as well--his sister, Phoebe, was my great great grandmother. I have a lot of information on the family on Victoria, but not so much on Jack, just that he did invite the Victoria crew to come out and play to celebrate the Queen like proper Britishers at some point (clip from Victoria paper). This is so cool!!! Jack was born in Australia in about 1847, brought to NZ, left for Gold Rush in 1849, was back in England with his family by 1852, was headed for Gold Rush in 1853 when his father died at sea. He was in SF till 1854, then brought back to London till his brother Henry Emanuel Levy could "import" him circa 1860's. He was named after his grandfather, Jacob Levy, a very poor lapidary (diamond cutter) in London ("he sold spectacles and cheap Jewelry on LOndon Bridge" according to another descendant). Jacob was known as John Levy, and for a while, "Jack" also went by "John Levy" in some records. He never married but that's about all I knew....anyway, this just opened up a great wealth of information! Feel free to email me at ceeimoff at gmail if it's easier.

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  3. one note: the soda works of the Levy "brothers" was Joe Levy and Henry Emanuel Levy. Jack was not one of the main businessmen in that family.

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  4. Thank you! I will update this with that information!

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