History Timeline 1920's

Photo above: Prohibition Era Brewery. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Photo montage, images courtesy Library of Congress.

American Football

U.S. Timeline - The 1920s

Prosperity and Its Demise

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  • Timeline

  • 1920 Detail

    September 17, 1920 - The American Professional Football League is formed in 1920 with Jim Thorpe as its president and eleven teams. It would change its name to the National Football League in 1922.


    Prior to 1920, there were several football leagues that aspired to be professional football, predominantly the Ohio League and the New York Pro League. On August 20, 1920, representatives from four teams in the Ohio League (Canton, Cleveland, Dayton, and Akron) met. They decided for form the American Professional Football League and agreed to several rules; that they would not sign college players or players contracted to other teams and that there would be a salary cap. Another meeting was called for on September 17 in Canton, with an invitations to other clubs to join. Eleven team represenatives showed up, elected Jim Thorpe as President, and agreed to form the league, although there would be no fixed schedule, minimum or maximum amount of games, and the winner would be determined in a vote at the end of the year. The franchise fee to join was $100. It is said, by George Halas, that no teams actually paid the fee.

    Original Teams at Second Meeting

    Canton Bulldogs
    Cleveland Tigers
    Dayton Triangles
    Akron Pros
    Rock Island Independents
    Muncie Flyers
    Decatur Staleys
    Racine Cardinals
    Macillon Tigers
    Chicago Tigers
    Hammond Pros

    1920 Season Members/Record

    Akron Pros 8-0-3
    Decatur Staleys 10-1-2
    Buffalo All-Americans 9-1-1
    Chicago Cardinals 6-2-2
    Rock Island Independents 6-2-2
    Dayton Triangles 5-2-2
    Rochester Jeffersons 6-3-2
    Canton Bulldogs 7-4-2
    Detroit Heralds 2-3-3
    Cleveland Tigers 2-4-2
    Chicago Tigers 2-5-1
    Hammond Pros 2-5-0
    Columbus Panhandles 2-6-2
    Muncie Flyers 0-1-0

    On April 30, 1921, the Akron Pros were voted league champions and awarded the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Cup.

    So what would become of the original league members and who would make it to the first professional season of the changed name National Football League in 1922.

    Akron Pros - The Pros would make it to the 1922 season and play until 1926, folding one year later due to financial problems.

    Decatur Staleys - The Staleys would be sold to George Halas for $100 in 1921 and moved to Chicago, playing under the Staleys name for one season before being renamed the Chicago Bears. Yes, the franchise now known as the Chicago Bears of the National Football League.

    Buffalo All-Americans - The Buffalo team would continue in the league and subsequent NFL through the 1929 season, missing 1928 due to financial concerns. They were known by various names; the All-Americans (1920-1923), Buffalo Bisons (1924-1925, 1927, 1929), Buffalo Rangers (1926). The franchise was disbanded in 1930 and is not related to the current Buffalo Bills.

    Chicago (Racine) Cardinals - The Cardinals from Chicago joined the league during its initial season. It was known as Racine during the first two seasons, because of a mistake at the first meeting when the secretary thought they were from Wisconsin, not Chicago's Racine Avenue. The Chicago Cardinals played in that city until moving to St. Louis in 1960 and later to Arizona in 1988. They have been owned by the Bidwell family since 1933 and are a charter member of the National Football League since the 1920 season.

    Rock Island Independents - The Independents would play in the National Football League from 1920-1925, move to the American Football League in 1926, and disband in 1927.

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    Dayton Triangles - The Dayton franchise played from 1920-1929 in the NFL, but due to a lack of home attendance, were primarily a road team for many of those years. In 1930, they were sold to a Brooklyn firm and then known as the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers would merge with the Boston Yanks in 1945 and while half of that team would leave the league, the Yanks part would remain. In a series of buybacks and divisions, the NFL finally sold its remnants to the Baltimore Colts in 1953, now the Indianapolis Colts. For some, this means the Colts are the remains of the Triangles from Dayton. For others, the splits and divisions in that time period are too much to consider them an original NFL franchise.

    Rochester Jeffersons - The Jeffersons played in the NFL from 1920-1925, were suspended for two seasons due to financial reasons, and folded thereafter.

    Canton Bulldogs - The team played in the NFL from 1920-1923 and 1925-1926. They were disbanded by the league when the National Football League decided to purge itself of twelve weaker franchises, including four original 1920 members.

    Detroit Heralds - They played as the Heralds in their first season of 1920 and the Tigers in 1921. During the 1921 season, they were disbanded and players assigned to the Buffalo All-Americans.

    Cleveland Tigers - Would play as the Tigers in 1920 and the Indians in 1921 before disbanding.

    Chicago Tigers - The Chicago Tigers played only one season in the league, with home games at Wrigley (Cubs) Field, and were the first NFL franchise to fold.

    Hammond Pros - Played from 1920-1926 in the NFL and were one of the twelve teams removed from the league after the 1926 season.

    Columbus Panhandles - Known as the Panhandles from 1920-1922 and the Columbus Tigers from 1923-1926. Were among the twelve teams removed from the NFL after their final season.

    Muncie Flyers - They would compete in the NFL for two seasons, 1920-1921, but play only three games against league opponents, who preferred to play stronger teams. They lost all three games.

    Source: Wikipedia Team pages. Photo montage above: Library of Congress. Photo below: Akron Pros Championship Team of 1920, Source: Wikipedia Commons.

    Akron Pros 1920

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