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History of The Badminton Club of the City of New York

(Adapted from the Centennial Yearbook, 1978)

Founded in 1878, The Badminton Club of the City of New York is proud to be known as the oldest badminton club in the world.

The Badminton Club of the City of New York was founded during the winter of 1878 by two young world travelers, Bayard Clarke and his friend E.L. Wilks, and their sisters, Lilly Clarke and Katherine and Alice E. Wilks, in part for the love of the sport and in part “to relieve the dullness of the Lenten season.” What was revolutionary at that time was the fact that the young men included women in a sport.  

To these original five were added three young gentlemen, John Aspinwall Hadden and his brother Alexander M. Hadden and also Matthew Astor Wilks. These eight invited their friends and relatives to join and obtained the patronage of prominent society matrons. The first rules of The Badminton Club of the City of New York were copied from those of the Ahmedabad Badminton Club of India as played in 1874.

The first meeting was held in the 71st Regiment Armory at the corner of Broadway and 34th Street. An armory was the ideal place because of the amount of available space and the high vaulted ceilings. Active daytime activities were centered around 21st to 34th Streets during this Gilded Age era so it was the ideal home for a thriving club. 

The first members of the club consisted of the leading debutantes of the season as the young gentlemen founders had a preference for pretty, unmarried girls. This revolutionary sporting event also had, and still has its social benefits. Flowers were in profusion and tea was served by Sherry’s. The Club very soon was covered on the sports pages, in the social columns, and in the general feature articles in newspapers and magazines on changing lifestyles and new trends.

Currently, the BCCNY hosts weekly play on Saturdays from October through May at the Julia Reichman gym on 68th Street and Second Avenue from 10:30 am until 2:30 pm. The Club focuses on promoting the game of badminton through coaching and social activities and maintains a robust and diverse membership. We are still a co-ed club with an international membership of all ages and abilities.