Search the Fischer Lawn Tennis Collection books in the library’s catalog.
View the Introduction to the William M. Fischer Lawn Tennis Collection on YouTube.
William M. Fischer, an accountant by profession, was an avid tennis enthusiast. Starting in 1897 he built a varied collection of over 2,000 items including books, scrap books, periodicals, yearbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs, souvenir programs and memorabilia. He also kept accounts in large bookkeeping ledgers on players’ personal data and game performance. Two of the earliest monographs on the game of tennis in the collection are C.F. Peile’s Lawn Tennis as a Game of Skill, 1884, and Lawn Tennis by James Dwight, 1886. The collection’s emphasis is on material through the early part of the century up to 1955. Several of the early books are signed by one or more tennis players.
The collection has had a few temporary stops since Mr. Fischer’s death. In 1947 through a trust indenture the title to the library went from Mr. Fischer to a board of trustees. In 1964 the trustees gave the collection to New York University (Bronx campus) to be made available for serious students of the game. Ten years later it was moved to The New York Public Library. In April 1978 the William M. Fischer Lawn Tennis Collection was officially opened in the St. John’s University Library, its permanent home.
Since its opening, the collection has generated much research interest. The photographs have been used to illustrate encyclopedias and tennis history books; fiction writers have also visited the collection in search of historical settings and interesting characters from the pages of periodicals. The many primary source documents include letters, score cards, minutes of meetings and an unpublished novel, as well as fifty years of newspaper clippings carefully pasted into notebooks. There is also memorabilia, a silver cup, several medals and a few of Mr. Fischer’s personal effects.