What: A century ago, Hobey Baker 1914 burst onto the American sports scene, the “blond Adonis of the gridiron.” This cigarette case was given to him by Percy Pyne 1903, his wealthy friend and admirer.
After Baker graduated, the dapper bachelor Pyne – nephew of Princeton benefactor Moses Taylor Pyne 1877 – invited the hero to move in with him on Madison Avenue and enjoy high society. They attended some of Pyne’s 35 social clubs and went car racing and duck shooting.
But the workweek was misery for the former football and hockey idol. Chain-smoking helped Baker endure his job at a New York bank, where he filed loans. He told a friend: “I realize that my life is finished.”
Hoping war’s excitement soon would come, Baker began taking early-morning flying lessons before catching the train to Wall Street. He organized a fleet of 12 airplanes to fly down to Palmer Stadium for the 1916 Yale game, where he buzzed the stands. In 1917 he went off to Europe as a pilot.
Pyne mailed 1,300 cigarettes and enough Brooks Brothers underwear “to start a clothing store” to his friend in wartime France. But soon he was to mourn his Adonis, killed in an airplane crash shortly after the war’s end.
Where: Collection AC53, Princeton University Archives