American Football Database
Knowlton "Snake" Ames

Portrait of Ames from Walter Camp's 1894 book, American Football
Date of birth: (1868-05-23)May 23, 1868
Place of birth: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Date of death: December 23, 1931(1931-12-23) (aged 63)
Place of death: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Career information
Position(s): Fullback/Head coach
College: Princeton
 As coach:
1891–1892 Purdue
 As player:
Princeton Tigers
Chicago Athletic Association
Career highlights and awards
College Football Hall of Fame, 1969

Knowlton Lyman "Snake" Ames (May 27, 1868 – December 23, 1931) was an American football player for Princeton University from 1886 to 1889, and the Chicago Athletic Association, in 1892. In 1891 and 1892, he was the head football coach at Purdue University.


College career

At Princeton, Ames scored 730 points for the Tigers from 1886 to 1889, including 62 touchdowns. The achievement of scoring 730 points is an unofficial college football career record, although only records set since the NCAA began keeping records in 1937 are considered official. He was named to the first-ever All-America team in 1889. After graduation, Ames became the head coach for Purdue University, where he led the Boilermakers to a 12–0 record over two years.[1]

Chicago Athletic Association

Ames returned to playing football with the Chicago Athletic Association in 1892. During an October 22 game in Cleveland, Ames and fellow player Pudge Heffelfinger were observed by the manager of the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. A week later the Pittsburgh Press printed a rumor that the Pittsburgh Athletic Club was offering Heffelfinger and Ames $250 to play for the team on Saturday, November 12, against their rivials, the Allegheny Athletic Association. Meanwhile another version of the story had Ames being offered only $100. However the rumor either turned out to be false or Heffelfinger and Ames turned down Pittsburgh's offer.

During an 1892 Chicago game against the New York Cresants, the Cresants refused to take field unless Chicago's Sport Donnelly was barred from the Chicago lineup because of some alleged rough tactics he used while playing for the Manhattan Athletic Club, in 1891. Chicago benched Donnelly, and his absence resulted in a tied game. Donnelly then became enraged and refused to rejoin the team in Chicago. Heffelfinger and Ames joined Donnelly in the walk-out. Afterwards Donnelly and Heffelfinger signed an agreement with the Allegheny Athletic Association, becoming the first known professional football players. Meanwhile, Ames had decided to forgo the game rather than risk his amateur status. He returned to coaching at Princeton.[2]

Post-football career

After retiring from football, Ames had a career in finance and publishing. He founded the Chicago Journal of Commerce and served as its publisher until shortly before his death.[3] Ames also served as chairman of the board of the Booth Fisheries Company and had other business interests as well.[3]

In 1931, Ames committed suicide, shooting himself with a .38 caliber revolver as he sat is his car. Ames was age 63 at the time of his death and had recently suffered business losses.[3]

Personal life

Ames's father, Miner Thomas Ames, was a Chicago coal magnate. Ames's son, Knowlton Lyman Ames, Jr., also played for Princeton.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Purdue Boilermakers (Indiana Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1891–1892)
1891 Purdue 4–0 4–0 1st
1892 Purdue 8–0 4–0 1st
Purdue: 12–0 8–0
Total: 12–0


  1. *"In the Beginning...". Purdue Football 2008 (University of Purdue): 25. 2008.
  2. Bob Carroll, Beau Riffenburgh (1989). "Birth of Pro Football". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) (Annual): 1–3.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "'Snake' Ames, Finance, Grid Star, Suicides". Wisconsin State Journal. 1931-12-24.

External links