New Hampton School football players and students celebrate their Powder Keg victory.

Powder Keg: A Look at our Historic Rivalry

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Powder Keg Tradition

Ever wondered about the history of the Powder Keg Games? Tilton and New Hampton have been competing in sports for many years, and the first “Powder Keg” began as a football game in 1895. The New Hampton School and Tilton School rivalry is the third oldest prep school rivalry in New England. Exeter and Andover began in 1878, while Groton and St. Mark’s began in 1886. Below, a picture of the football team preparing to go to Tilton shows a carriage on Main Street in 1900 with the town library in the background. At the time, it was a half day trip to travel the 12 miles to Tilton School down Devil’s Den Road – a road that today is known as Route 132.

Football Team embarks for Tilton School
The New Hampton School Football Team of 1900 traveled by carriage to Tilton School.

From an article in The Boston Globe dated October 25, 1969:

  • “They like to call it the Harvard-Yale of the New Hampshire preppies”
  • “The tradition has survived 2 wars, 3 periods of severed relations, a flu epidemic and numerous sleet, snow and hail storms since its inception in 1895.”

A Historic Trophy

According to Former Headmaster, and long-time faculty member, Lou Gnerre, the Civil War era Powder Keg was dedicated in memory of Pop Bottomly – a former New Hampton School employee who was a night fire watcher. Pop was an extremely well-liked person. After he passed in the 1950’s, this Powder Keg was created in his honor. Traditionally, the keg has been brought to the games each year, and, at the end of the day, the victorious school receives the Powder Keg as well as bragging rights for the following year. A small inscribed plaque is added to the exterior to mark the year’s victor.

gnerre powder keg trophy
Former Headmaster and faculty member Lou Gnerre holds the Powder Keg trophy.

The Rivalry Continues

During the 1950’s, the school rivalry was so heated that a cooling off period was declared. The games were suspended for three years. As noted in the Boston Globe article in 1969, the Powder Keg has endured several periods of severed relations. The most recent break between the two schools ended in 2007, when student leaders from both schools worked with their Heads of School to organize its reinstatement. Each school takes turns hosting on their game fields; this year, in 2018, New Hampton School has the honor. 

For today’s students, the Powder Keg games include a full-schedule of fall athletic competitions including field hockey, soccer, cross country, mountain biking, and football, making it a perfect opportunity for parents, alumni and friends to gather for a day of camaraderie. New Hampton School has been fortunate to be the current caretakers of the Powder Keg for six years in a row. In addition to the games, the weekend, now known as Homecoming, has grown to encompass several events including the Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Alumni Hockey Games in Jacobson Arena, the fall theater production, an Alumni and Parent Reception at Alumni Hall, and much more.

Join us on campus this November to support our teams as they seek to keep the keg! And visit the Homecoming page to register for all events.

moore powder keg

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  1. Image for dean straw
    dean straw

    my name is Dean Straw and I had the pleasure to be on the winning Powder Keg games of 1976 and 1977 under the guidance of Mr Chet Gladchuk, playing for him was great but if we lost, like the loss to Plymouth State College JV, meant Monday's practice was going to hell. From the beginning of the school year when Mr Gladchuk would throw a dummy dressed like a Tilton football player into our annual bonfire as all the students screamed with delight. Coach Gladchuk is now the director of athletics at the Naval Academy in Annapolis MD, were his football teams have beaten Army 14 out of 16 years or so I believe. New Hampton school helped make me the man I am today. Husky lacrosse keep up the good work.

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