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Ralph Keyes collection on Robert "Tiny" Maxwell

Identifier: SFHL-RG6-R3-012

Scope and Contents

In 1984, Ralph Keyes wrote an article for Sports Illustrated magazine on the topic of Robert W. "Tiny" Maxwell. This collection consists primarily of Ralph Keyes' research for that article, in the form of photocopied newspaper clippings, organized roughly by topic. There is also a folder of notes from interviews Keyes conducted with Maxwell's friends and associates, circa 1984, and a folder of research-related correspondence, as well as article drafts and other materials. The highlight of the collection is a folder of original photographs of Tiny Maxwell, from his schoolboy days through adulthood. Maxwell is depicted in football gear, in costume for theatrical performances, and at leisure, as well as in portraits. Additionally, the collection includes a set of photographs from Tiny Maxwell's father, John Wallace Maxwell, travelling in Florida and Mexico. These photographs show Indigenous Americans, caballeros, and scenery, circa 1915.

Ralph Keyes is an author, speaker and teacher. His 16 books deal with topics ranging from time pressure to human height. Keyes’s bestseller Is There Life After High School? was made into a Broadway musical. Keyes has also written hundreds of articles and essays.


  • Creation: circa 1890-2015
  • Creation: Majority of material found within circa 1984


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for researcher access, with the exception of the John Watterson folder. Communication between donor and John Watterson not to be made available to the public during the lifetime of both parties.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns. See

Biographical / Historical

Robert "Tiny" Maxwell (1884-1922) was an influential college and professional football player who attended Swarthmore College from 1904-1906.

Born in Chicago in 1884, Tiny Maxwell became a star athlete at the University of Chicago, where he played football, boxed, and set school records for the hammer and shot-put. In 1904 he transferred to Swarthmore, where President Joseph Swain directed the college treasurer to send his tuition bills to a member of the Board of Managers. At Swarthmore, Maxwell was a member of the Mandolin Club and acted in student plays. Maxwell attended for two years and studied biology but did not graduate.

In 1905, Maxwell took a particularly brutal beating during a Swarthmore vs. University of Pennsylvania football game. Legend has it that a photograph of his bruised and bloody visage inspired Theodore Roosevelt to make the ultimatum that college football must implement new safety rules or he would abolish it. It is true that soon after the Swarthmore-Penn football game, Theodore Roosevelt gathered college representatives to the White House for conversations that culminated in the formation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. However, recent scholars have argued that the story about Maxwell's photograph prompting this action is apocryphal.

After Maxwell left Swarthmore, he went to play for the Massillon Tigers, an early professional football team that was based in Massillon, Ohio. In 1909 he returned to the Philadelphia area and served as assistant coach at Swarthmore and then at the University of Pennsylvania. At the same time Maxwell enrolled at Jefferson Medical College, where again, he played football for two years and did not graduate.

In 1914, after a journalistic apprenticeship in Chicago as a reporter for the Record-Herald, he began writing a sports column for Philadelphia's Public Ledger. Two years later, Maxwell became sports editor of the Evening Public Ledger, a position he held until he died in a car accident in 1922.

Since 1937, the Maxwell Memorial Football Club of Philadelphia annually has given an award in his name to the outstanding college football player in the nation. He was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in the pioneer category in 1974.


.63 linear ft. (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



Robert "Tiny" Maxwell (1884-1922) was an influential college and professional football player who attended Swarthmore College from 1904-1906. In 1984, Ralph Keyes wrote an article about Maxwell for Sports Illustrated. This collection consists primarily of photocopied newspaper clippings and other research materials assembled by Ralph Keyes for his article. Of special note are a small collection of original photographs of Tiny Maxwell, from his boyhood, through his football years, and adulthood.

Custodial History

John "Jack" Wallace Maxwell photographs received by Ralph Keyes from Irv Edelson, University of Tampa (Fl.) Robert "Tiny" Maxwell photographs collected by Gene Kelly (sports broadcaster) when preparing his 1972 biographical booklet about Tiny. When Ralph Keyes interviewed Kelly's widow, she gave him the photographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ralph Keyes, 2017.

Celia Caust-Ellenbogen
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA