John Henry Minds circa 1895 with signature below

John Henry Minds was born on April 9, 1871 in Schulkill County, PA to James and Julia (Doorley) Minds; the oldest of 12 children.  The Minds family moved to Ramey, PA in 1875, where John Henry attended Williamsport High School.  He subsequently enrolled in the Class of 1893 Scientific Department at Dickinson Seminary School (current day Lycoming College), with an emphasis in law.  Dickinson Seminary was founded in 1848 to provide “important work of higher Christian education”.  The school was co-ed with mandatory daily chapel services.  John Henry was a budding lawyer from a young age; frequently seen around campus with a law book under his arm. He was elected class Treasurer in 1891 and an active member of the Gamma Epsilon Society (literary club).  He played first base for the school baseball team.  Dickinson didn’t have a school football team until 1895, therefore John Henry played half-back for the local YMCA squad and was noted for his splendid work in several local newspaper reports.

Dickinson Seminary School circa 1893, JH Minds is standing second on right  

In the fall of 1893 John Henry entered the junior class of the Wharton School of Finance and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania.  He was a 4 year starter for the Varsity football team under legendary Hall of Fame coach George Woodruff; playing tackle in 1894, halfback in 1895 and fullback from 1896-97.  During those four years the UPenn football team was virtually unstoppable, with an overall record of 55-1; losing only to Lafayette (6-4) in 1896.  John Henry was captain of the 1897 team and selected that year by Walter Camp as a first-team All-American for his stellar kicking game and powerful runs.  Many historians credit John Minds for converting the first kick from placement, a feat he often repeated throughout his playing days at UPenn.

1897 University of Pennsylvania Championship team

The highlight of the championship 1897 season was the contest against Harvard at Franklin Field on November 27th.  The elevens were evenly matched, and as Harvard had previously played a tie game with Yale and defeated Princeton, victory was by no means assured for the Quakers.  However with John Minds’s booming punts and powerful runs behind the “guards back” formation UPenn dominated the contest with a final score of 15-6.  UPenn averaged 30 points/game throughout the 15 game season and only gave up an average of 1 point/game. John Minds also rowed crew during the 1895 season, finishing third in the Spring Regatta. 

He graduated from UPenn in 1895 with a Bachelor of Science degree and then subsequently entered the UPenn Law Department, earning his legal degree in 1898.  He coached the Minnesota football team the following fall toward an underwhelming 4-5 record.  After the 1898 season he returned to Philadelphia to begin his legal career, focusing mainly on child custody cases and corporation law.  He worked for the legal department of United Gas Improvement Company for over 50 years before retiring at the age of 80.  Throughout the years after his graduation from UPenn, John Minds was closely associated with his alma mater’s athletic association, as a member of the board of directors and unofficial football coaching assistant.  He would also referee collegiate football contests along the east coast when his work schedule permitted.

Chester Arthur Minds, circa 1913

On February 27, 1917 tragedy struck the Minds’ family.  While traveling the Mercantile Express train near Mount Union Station, PA the last steel Pullman car was struck by another train, killing all the occupants inside.  This last car was occupied exclusively by members of the Minds family.  Perishing in the accident was John Henry’s younger brother Chester (star UPenn football player from 1911-13), his sister Maude Minds, Chester’s wife Doris Minds and her 3 week old son Chester Jr.  After the accident John Henry walked away from UPenn athletics in any capacity.

However University of Pennsylvania did not forget about their star athlete.  Truxtun Hare, one of John Minds’ All-American teammates and inaugural member of the College Football Hall of Fame, championed to the National Football Foundation for years to formerly recognize his star captain.  At the age of 91, John Henry was finally inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on December 4, 1962 at a ceremony in New York City; nearly 65 years after his final down.   He passed away on December 31, 1963; leaving behind his wife of 41 years the former Delia Schoonover.


  1. The Daily Pennsylvanian Digital Archives (courtesy University of Pennsylvania Archives)
  2. Doris Mind’s personal scrapbook, 1913-14
  3. Special thanks to John Henry Minds’ great-niece Ms. Julia Anne Gaskill

John Henry Minds circa 1950

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