Creedmoor Chronology

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Written by: David Minshall

Creedmoor and the International Rifle Matches

1871 The National Rifle Association (NRA) was granted a charter by the State of New York on 17 November 1871. The first president was Gen. Ambrose Burnside.
1872 Under the new president William Church and Secretary George Wingate, funds were raised by the NRA for the purchase of a rifle range. A 70 acre site was founded at Creed’s Farm, Long Island. The range was named Creedmoor.
1873 Creedmoor was opened in spring 1873, the first official shots being fired on 25 April. Shooting was primarily at distances of 200 to 500 yards.

George Wingate, with others, organised the ‘Amateur Rifle Club’ of New York City. Wingate was its first President.

Ireland beat England and Scotland in the Elcho Shield match at Wimbledon in Great Britain. This was the first win for Ireland, who in November issued a challenge to the riflemen of America to decide the championship of the world. The invitation first appeared in the columns of the New York Herald on 22 November and was made by Major Arthur Leech, representing the Irish Rifle Association.

The Irish invitation was accepted by the Amateur Rifle Club on behalf of American riflemen.

1874 In February 1874 Arthur Leech wrote to George Wingate, with the programme of the proposed international rifle match between Ireland and America.

A meeting of the Executive Committee of the Amateur Rifle Club was held in March 1874 to consider the programme of the proposed match. The Committee accepted the programme with the single exception that the number of competitors upon each side should not be less than six. It was intended to organise an American team of picked riflemen, and the Secretary of the Club, F.P. Fairbanks, issued a circular to all native-born Americans.

The Irish/American match took place on 26 September. It was shot at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. The Irish had also proposed 1100 yards, but there was insufficient space at Creedmoor. The Americans used a mixture of Remington and Sharps breech loading rifles, while the Irish used Rigby muzzle loading rifles. The American team won by 934 to 931 points.

1875 A return match was held between Ireland and America on Irish soil to the same conditions as 1874. The match took place on 29 June at Dollymount, near Dublin. The Americans again won, scoring 967 against Irelands 929.
1876 The ‘riflemen of the world’ were invited by the NRA of America to compete at Creedmoor during the centennial celebrations. Teams from Australia, Canada, Ireland and Scotland accepted the invitation to compete for the Centennial Trophy. England did not accept the invitation, believing that a single United Kingdom team should compete; a view that the NRA of Great Britain also maintained. Each team member fired 15 shots at 800, 900 and 1000 yards on two consecutive days, 13 and 14 September. America, scoring 3126, emerged the winners. The remaining scores were Ireland 3104, Scotland 3062, Australia 3062, and Canada 2923.

An amendment to the NRA’s charter was obtained, whereby its official title was altered to the “National Rifle Association of America.”

1877 In May the NRA of Great Britain received an invitation to compete for the Centennial Trophy the following September. Sir Henry Halford captained the British Team, with Lt.-Col. Peel as Adjutant. The match took place on 13 and 14 September and was won by the Americans by 92 points.
1878 The Centennial Trophy had by now become known as the Palma Trophy, from the plaque bearing the word PALMA, beneath an eagle clutching a wreath of palm leaves. No invitations were accepted for another international long range match, and the United States fired the Palma Match without competition.
1879 The NRA of Great Britain declined another US invitation on the grounds that teams from Ireland and Scotland were admitted. The Palma Match remained unfired.
1880 Changes to the rules of the international long-range rifle match for the Palma Trophy eliminated separate invitations to Ireland and Scotland.

An American team visited Ireland to compete in a friendly match at long ranges. The match took place on 29 June. Five of the Irish team used new Rigby breechloaders and the sixth man a Metford. Similarly, five of the American team used Sharps-Borchardt rifles and the sixth a Ballard. The Americans won the match with a total score of 1292 to 1280.

On 29 July a self appointed American team, under Frank Hyde, fired a long range match at Wimbledon against a British team captained by Sir Henry Halford. The match, fired at 800, 900 and 1000 yards, was a disaster for the Americans. They lost by 79 points, scoring 1568 against the British score of 1647.

The NRA of America suffered severe blows to its activities. The Army decided not to send further teams to matches sponsored by the NRA. Additionally, the newly elected governor of New York, Alonzo B. Cornell, made stringent cuts in National Guard funding particularly focusing on rifle practice.

1881 An invitation to compete for the Palma Trophy was not accepted by the NRA of Great Britain. The Palma Match now faded away until it was revived in 1901. However, a match with military rifles between the Volunteers of Great Britain and the National Guard of America was agreed to for 1882.
1882 On 14 and 15 September teams of twelve representing the British Volunteers and the American National Guard met at Creedmoor. The match was held over two consecutive days, at 200, 500 and 600 yards on the first day, and at 800, 900 and 1000 yards on the second. The rifles used were of military pattern, although not necessarily one authorised for service. Each man fired seven shots at each distance, and no cleaning between shots was permitted. The British team won scoring 1975, against the American team score of 1805 out of a possible 2530.
1883 The American National Guard team had a return match against the British Volunteers at Wimbledon, on 20 and 21 July. The British team was again victorious scoring 1951, against the American team score of 1906.
1885 Great Britain was invited to send a team of British Volunteers to shoot at Creedmoor against the US National Guard. With Britain on a war footing due to the Sudanese rebellion the NRA felt that they were unable to accept the invitation.

With the lack of an international match to revive public interest, the Long Island Railroad facing bankruptcy and sponsors withdrawing support, the NRA was fighting for survival

1890 Creedmoor was deeded back to the state of New York although the NRA match program was permitted to continue at the ranges.
1892 The new Inspector General of Rifle Practice, Capt. B.M. Whitlock, gave free use of Creedmoor to state troops. This and other changes removed sources of income from the NRA.

The NRA placed its records in storage and moved its matches to the new ranges at Sea Girt, New Jersey. In effect, the NRA became dormant until 1900 and the New Jersey State Rifle Association fulfilled its role.

1907 Creedmoor closed as a rifle range in September 1907, 34 years since its opening. Its abandonment was due to the encroachment of suburban residences and the need of the ground for building purposes.

Research Press Digest 2024

Creedmoor and the Palma Trophy Match 150th Anniversary – Research Press Digest 2024 marks the 150th anniversary (1874 – 2024) of the momentous first rifle match between Ireland and the United States of America, and follows the story over the succeeding 40 years. This is an historical record of the formative years of international long range target rifle shooting. It tells the story of Creedmoor and the international matches of the 19th century, and the revival of the Palma Match in the early 20th century.