James Dwight

James Dwight (July 14, 1852, France – July 13, 1917[2]) was an American tennis player who was known as the "Founding Father of American Tennis".[3]

James Dwight
Dr james dwight.jpg
Dwight (before 1903)
Country (sports) United States
BornJuly 14, 1852
Paris, France
DiedJuly 13, 1917(1917-07-13) (aged 64)
Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, U.S.
Turned pro1876 (amateur tour)
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Int. Tennis HoF1955 (member page)
Career record87–30 (74.3%) [1]
Career titles12 [1]
Grand Slam singles results
WimbledonSF (1885)
US OpenF (1883)
Grand Slam doubles results
WimbledonSF (1884, 1885)
US OpenW (1882, 1883, 1884, 1886, 1887)


Dwight won the first recorded tournament in the U.S. (and probably in the world, before the first Wimbledon Championships) played in August 1876 on the property of his uncle, William Appleton, at Nahant, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard in 1874, he traveled in Europe, saw the new sport of lawn tennis being played, and brought the necessary equipment home. Then he persuaded his uncle to mark out a court on his smooth front lawn so he could play a game with his cousin Fred Sears.

That first attempt was disappointing. Dwight later wrote "we voted the whole thing a fraud and put it away." About a month later, they tried again as a way of passing time on a rainy day. This time, tennis seemed much more interesting, even though they were wearing rubber boots and raincoats. The 1876 tournament was a neighborhood affair: "it was played on handicap on a round robin basis. There were two players on scratch, James Dwight and Fred D Sears Jr., each of whom played against 11 other players until a final between them. Rackets scoring was used...Dwight beat Sears 12–15 15–7 15–13.[4] By then, Dwight and Sears had taught the game to a number of people, including Richard Dudley "Dick" Sears, another cousin, who went on to win the first seven national singles championships.

Dwight was one of the founders of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association in 1881, and he served as its president for 21 years. He never won the singles championship, but he reached the tournament final in 1883 losing to Richard Sears, with whom he did team to take five national doubles titles, from 1882 through 1884 and from 1886 through 1887. In a rare transatlantic trip in those days, James Dwight entered the 1884 and 1885 Wimbledon tournaments, reaching the semifinals in 1885 (losing to Herbert Lawford).[5]

His other career tournaments singles wins include the Longwood Bowl in Boston (1884), the Brighton Lawn Tennis Club Tournament (1885), Brincliffe Lawn Tennis Club Open Tournament (1885) held at Sheffield in England, the Warwickshire Championships (1885, 1887), the Northern Championships (1885), the Brookfield Isle of Wight Open (1884-1885), and the West of England Championships (1886).

He was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1955.[6]

Grand Slam finalsEdit

Singles (1 runner-up)Edit

Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Loss 1883 U.S. National Championships Grass   Richard Sears 2–6, 0–6, 7–9

Doubles (5 titles)Edit

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Win 1882 U.S. Championships Grass   Richard Sears   Crawford Nightingale
  G M Smith
6–2, 6–4, 6–4
Win 1883 U.S. Championships Grass   Richard Sears   Alexander Van Rensselaer
  Arthur Newbold
6–0, 6–2, 6–2
Win 1884 U.S. Championships Grass   Richard Sears   Alexander Van Rensselaer
  W.V.R. Berry
6–4, 6–1, 8–10, 6–4
Win 1886 U.S. Championships Grass   Richard Sears   Howard Taylor
  Godfrey Brinley
6–3, 6–0, 6–2
Win 1887 U.S. Championships Grass   Richard Sears   Howard Taylor
  Henry Slocum
6–4, 3–6, 2–6, 6–3, 6–3

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Player – James Dwight". www.tennisarchives.com. Idzznew BV. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  2. ^ Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Volume 20, 1917 (retrieved 13 April 2015).
  3. ^ Warren F. Kimball (2017). The United States Tennis Association : Raising the Game. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0803296930. By 1886 Dwight was already considered the 'father of American lawn tennis.'
  4. ^ The Guinness book of Tennis Facts & Feats, 1983 edition, page 11, by Lance Tingay
  5. ^ Collins, Bud (2016). The Bud Collins History of Tennis (3rd ed.). New York: New Chapter Press. p. 441. ISBN 978-1-937559-38-0.
  6. ^ Grasso, John (2011-09-16). Historical Dictionary of Tennis. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810872370.

External linksEdit