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Penn Relays at Franklin Field, in 14 historic photos

As the historic track meet return this week, look back at its exciting beginnings

A black and white photo of the runners during a race at the Penn Relays
The Penn Relays is the longest running carnival relay track meet in the world.
Photos courtesy University of Pennsylvania's Archives Digital Image Collection

Like every year since 1895, at the end of April thousands of runners, jumpers, and throwers of all ages flock to Philly to compete in the Penn Relays, the longest-running relay track meet in the country.

The historic track meet has been held at Franklin Field at Penn ever since April 21, 1895, when the Penn Relays was founded and also doubled as the dedication of the stadium. At that time, Franklin Field was built for $100,000 and was really only a wooden, single-tiered bleacher on the south side of the field with one sprint straightaway.

It wasn't until 1922 when the actual structure that still stands today was erected, becoming the first permanent college stadium in the country—and the first horseshoe-shaped one at that. The 70,000-seat stadium was designed by architects Day & Klauder in multiple phases and is now the oldest two-tiered stadium in the country.

In honor of this year's Penn Relays, what better way to celebrate, then by taking a look back at the stadium's and event's exciting past? Behold, more than a dozen photos of Franklin Stadium and Penn Relays during its early years, when runners ran on dirt and pole vaulters landed on sand.

This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.

Franklin Field

235 S 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (215) 898-6151