Original Document
Original Document
The Phelan verses Benjamin billiard match, Philadelphia, PA, 1857

"Billiards as Winter Amusement"

As the season for outdoor sports and pastimes may be considered, to a certain extent, at an end, and as we have before observed that amusements of some kind or other, moderately indulged in, are necessary, inasmuch as they conduce to the public weal, it becomes our duty as a promotor of sports in America, to call the attention of the people to those in-door pastimes which, in our opinion, are best suited to their wants, or in other words, those which are best adapted for the time of the year, or are most seasonable. Our first selection, then, for winter amusements, is the beautiful game of Billiards. Our reason for such a choice is, that in its practice the physical as well as mental faculties are simultaneously brought into operation, that the intellectual powers are not exhausted in undue proportion to those of the body, but that both being occupied at once, both are proportionately strengthened; hence its adaptation as a favorite winter amusement, and hence our recommendation of it as such.

Already appreciation of mathematical precision and geometric truth is its chief attribute, teaching as it does, a correct judgement of distance, and calculation of forces, as well as the most delicate execution, by the body, of diagrams formed and matured in the mind. In a sanitary point of view it is also well adapted-an expansion of the chest, and an easy and graceful movement of the limbs being promoted by practice. "Exercise to be efficacious for good even in the healthy," says Mr. Phelan, in his excellent work on billiards, "must be excited, sustained, and directed by that nervous stimulant or odic force, as it is called, which gives the muscles the chief part of their strength, and contributed to the sustenance of the parts in a state of activity. In short, to obtain the full advantage of the nervous stimulus in exercise, we must be interested in what we are doing. Billiards supplied this excitement, and therefore it is that exercise taken at the game that is so particularly healthy."

Its adaptability as an exercise for both sexes, is also a great point in its favor, and examples are not wanting in which ladies, embracing many in the highest walks of life, have taken delight in the favorite pastime.

With all the intrinsic equalities, it is not to be wondered at that the game is finding so much favor in the public mind at the present day. That such is the case, can easily be proved by visiting some of our billiard palaces, so beautifully furnished and fitted up, and witnessing' the interest taken in this favorite recreation by the great number of persons in search of some healthy exercise, after a hard day's work at the desk or in the library ....

While upon this subject, it may not be considered out of place, perhaps, to again call the attention of our readers to the great match to take place at Philadelphia on the 30th of the present month, between Messrs. Phelan and Benjamin, for $2000. The Billiard world is looking forward with intense interest to the time when it shall have been decided as a great deal of money has been risked on the issue. The odds which Mr. Phelan gives his opponent, three points out of sixteen at the French three-ball Carom Game, and which is equal to about twenty-five points in a hundred at the American four-ball game, keeps the betting at about even. Both gentlemen are equally confident of winning, and the privileged few who will enjoy a rich treat, as the game to be played is in itself the most scientific, and the capabilities of the contestants being also of the most scientific character, the beauty of the game will be illustrated in all its perfection on the occasion.

The balls to be used will be two and five-sixteenth inches in diameter, much smaller than those ,generally used, which will also render the carom game much more difficult. The table selected is one of Mr. Phelan's Model Combination, which will of course be put in the most perfect order on the day of play. As the match is to be conducted in as private a manner as the circumstances will admit, the precise hour and rooms in which it is to come off will not be made public, we presume, until a later date. The readers of the Clipper will be sure, however, to be kept posted in all that transpires and the result and particulars of the match will be published by us as soon after as possible. For the edification of those who have not seen, or may have forgotten, the terms of the match as made, and published by us as this time, (about eight months since,) we again present them:

We, the undersigned, Michael Phelan and Ralph Benjamin, agree to playa match of Billiards for $1000 a side, $200 forfeit, play or pay.

Said match to be played in Philadelphia, between the date of this agreement and the 1st of January, 1858, the day to be designated by said Benjamin, who shall give said Phelan at least 30 days personal notice thereof at his place of business.

Said match to be played on one of Michael Phelan's pocket tables with marble or slate bed and combination cushions, and with round balls of two and five-sixteenth inches in diameter; the table to be in good order at the time of playing the match. Said table to be selected by said Benjamin.

Said match to be played in a private room, each party to be at liberty to invite an equal number only of spectators, such number to be previously agreed upon.

Said match to consist of the best out of seventeen of one of the two following games, viz: said Phelan to discount said Benjamin either around the table, or ,at the four ball carom game; or to give said Benjamin three points out of sixteen at the French three-ball carom game, each carom counting one point; nothing but fair shots to count at either of the above games.

The choice of the game to be made, by said Phelan at the time of depositing the forfeit.

Said match to be governed by the strict rules which regulate the playing of billiard matches in New York.

Each party will name an umpire on the day of the playing match, and the umpires shall appoint a referee from whose decision there shall be no appeal.

The full amount of $1000 a side to be deposited in the hands of a stakeholder to be agreed upon by the principals, on the day of and previous to the playing of the match.

In case of the death of either of the above parties, previous playing said match, such match to be considered off.

Michael Phelan
Ralph Benjamin

witness-H.W. Collender
Mr. C. Sterling
New York, May 25, 1857

Credit: The New York Clipper, December 19, 1857.
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