The 1920 APFA: The Real Story of the Birth of the NFL

January 8, 1920 (12:6)
The Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio)

Joe Carr Plans Pro Grid League; Tigers on List

Massillon will draw a berth in a new professional football league which Joe Carr, for years manager of the Columbus Panhandles, is now trying to swing, according to reports emanating from Martins Ferry where Carr is now in conference with J.F. Mullaney, football promoter in the southern Ohio City, in an effort to draw up plans for the proposed league.
According to the report cities to be included in the league would be Columbus, Cleveland, Canton, Akron, Dayton, Toledo, Massillon, Cincinnati and Fort Wayne, Ind. It is proposed to put the Panhandles and Pitcairn, Pa., Quakers in the circuit as road teams.

January 8, 1920 (19:3-4)
Portsmouth Daily Times (Portsmouth, Ohio)

Plans for a professional football league in Ohio are progressing rapidly, according to advices from Martin’s [sic] Ferry, where Joe Carr, manager of the Columbus Pan Handle team was a visitor early this week. The league, if formed, will include Martin’s Ferry, Columbus, Cleveland, Canton, Akron, Dayton, Toledo, Massillon, Cincinnati and Fort Wayne.

August 13, 1920 (24:1-2)
Canton Evening Repository (Canton, Ohio)

Bulldogs After Tackle Of Two All-Americans; Moguls Meet Here Aug. 20

Professional football moguls will assemble here on Friday, August 20, for a general conference in regard to the coming season. Massillon, Akron, Canton and Cleveland are certain to send representatives but whether Youngstown will return to the game this year is still unknown. A schedule for the “big four” and pans to prevent the jumping of players from one team to another are among the matters which will be considered.

Meeting of team owners/managers is secondary to the Repository sports staff. Not mentioned until the fourth and final paragraph.

August 21, 1920 (10:2)
Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Football Managers Make Plans
Representatives of Akron and Canton Professional Teams Hold Meeting

The battle for the professional football championship of the world is to be waged on a more extensive scale than in past years. This was brought to light last night when representatives from Canton, Akron, Cleveland and Dayton met at Canto to arrange a schedule and a form a working agreement.
Akron was represented at the meeting by Frank Neid and Art Ranney. Ralph Hays and Jim Thorpe were on hand to look after the interests of the Canton Bulldogs; Stan Cofall, the old Notre Dame star, and Jimmy O’Donnell were the Clevelanders present, while Ray Storch made the trip from Dayton to see what games could be arranged for his all collegiate aggregation.
Massillon was not represented at the meeting, but a meeting is being held in that city today when backers will attempt to put across a team. Open dates were left on the schedule should Massillon finally decide to come in.
An agreement was reached last night which will do much to wipe out opposition which has developed against the “pro” game in the past. No college player who is now in school is to be molested or accepted on either the Canton, Akron, Cleveland or Dayton teams. Players who have been signed and attempt to jump the club with which they are affiliated in the hopes of holding up rival backers for higher pay are to be outlawed.

August 21, 1920 (3:1-2)
Canton Evening Repository (Canton, Ohio)

‘Pro’ Football Moguls Form National Body; Bulldogs To Open Oct. 3 with Pitcairn

The American Professional Football Conference, an organization national in scope, was formed here last night at a gathering of men connected with the promotion of the national gridiron game, held in the offices of Ralph E. Hay, business manager of the Canton Bulldogs, professional champions. Hay was chosen secretary of the new body.
The purposes of the A.P.F.C. will be to raise the standard of professional football in every way possible, to eliminate bidding for players between rival clubs and to secure cooperation in the formation of schedules, at least for the bigger teams. Members of the organization reached an agreement to refrain from offering inducements to players to jump from one team to another, which has been one of the glaring drawbacks to the game in past seasons. Contracts must be respected by players as far as possible, as well as by club managers. The move to abolish competitive bidding for star players is a matter of self protection for the magnates, as they have been facing a steady upward trend in the prices demanded by players of ability, especially those who have acquired big college reputations.
The Cleveland Indians, Canton Bulldogs, Dayton Triangles, Akron Indians, Buffalo, Hammond, Ind., and Rochester, N.Y., are the charter members of the organization, with Massillon still an uncertainty. The west end city sent neither personal representative nor letter. Rochester and Buffalo were the only cities admitted which were not personally represented last night. They were applicants by letter.
Following the perfection of the organization, tentative schedules were drawn up by which Jim Thorpe will lead his Canton Bulldogs on the field for the opening game on October 3, with the Pitcairn Quakers as opponents. A dozen games have been listed for the Bulldogs but the program is likely to undergo changes because of the uncertainty in connection with several teams.

August 22, 1920 (3:2)
Dayton Journal (Dayton, Ohio)

Triangles Listed In Grid League
Will Open Season Here With Panhandles on October 3

There was a meeting of the leading professional football clubs of the state, held last week at Canton, at which plans for the coming season were discussed. Carl Storck represented the Dayton Triangles; Jim Throrpe, Canton Indians; Stanley Cofall, Akron, and Fred Ranney, Cleveland.
A football league with the four cities named in the above was organized, and a temporary schedule was drawn up. Massillon, long a rival of Canton, will not have an eleven this fall, or at least that was the impression gained at the meeting. The leading stars, who played with Massillon last season will be seen with the Cleveland team this year.
The league voted unanimously not to seek the services of any undergraduate college player. Last season there were quite a number of intercollegiate stars who padded their bankrolls by slipping away on Sunday and performing with a pro team, using every name under the sun but their own to hide their identity. Some startling disclosures came later that brought the wrath of the intercollegiate heads down on the game. The league also voted that ther should be no tampering of players by one club with those of another.

August 24, 1920 (9:1-2)
Canton Evening Repository (Canton, Ohio)

Massillon To Be Tigerless This Year But ‘Pro.’ Field Looks Stronger Than Ever

Massillon, ranked with Canton for years past as a hot-bed of professional football, will be a Tiger-less town this fall. Ever since the Tigers of 1919 proved to be a failure from a financial standpoint as well in the annual two-game series with Jim Thorpe’s Canton Bulldogs, there has been doubt as to whether Massillon would come back to the professional gridiron this tear, but now this doubt has been turned into a certainty. No individual or organization has been found in the west end town willing to take the financial risk involved in assembling another squad of former college stars such as the Massillon fans demand.

August 26, 1920 (11:1-2)
Canton Evening Repository (Canton, Ohio)

Yet A Chance That Tigers Will Be In Field; Thorpe To Talk Business Tonight

Although announcement was made from Massillon two days ago that the famous Tigers would not be in the professional field this year, there is still a chance that the west end city will represented by an orange and black crew as in former seasons, according to Ralph Hay, manager of the Canton Bulldogs.
Hay has been communication for the last few days with several Massillon men who are prospective backers of the 1920 Tigers but are still undecided. A final effort to bring them into the game will made tonight by Hay and Jim Thorpe, the famous Indian who will again lead the Bulldogs in defense of their national championship.

September 15, 1920 (14:1-2)
Canton Evening Repository (Canton, Ohio)

Black Declines Tiger Job; Pro Football Magnates To Gather Here Friday Night

Cupid Black, famous All-American guard and Yale captain a few years back, will not lead the Massillon Tigers on professional football field this fall. An attractive offer to take command of the orange and black has failed top draw Cupid out of his football retirement, according to a telegram from his father, with whom he is now engaged in business in Chicago.
With Black definitely declining, the prospects for a professional team over at Massillon this year are very dark indeed. In fact, it is almost certain now that there will be no Tigers on the field to make another attempt to lift the championship from Jim Thorpe’s Canton Bulldogs. This task will be left to Akron, Cleveland, Hammond and the many other strong professional teams which are already listed among the challengers.
The professional situation will be thoroughly discussed here Friday night during a meeting of the National Professional Football Conference, which organization was given birth only a few weeks ago at a gathering of several magnates here. The Friday meeting was called by Secretary Ralph Hay, who is also manager of the Bulldogs. Players, salaries and several other matters of importance are to be considered.
Representatives from Rock Island, Hammond, Cleveland, Dayton and of course Canton will be here, while requests have been mailed to the Muncie Flyers, the Chicago Cardinals, Decatur Staleys and St. Paul to send representatives if possible. There are numerous strong teams around Chicago this season and as many as possible are desired in the conference to avoid confusion in signing of players.

September 16, 1920 (5: 4-5)
The Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois)

May Form Grid League At Canton, O. Friday
Staley Co. Is Included in Proposed Circuit – Halas and O’Brien to Attend Session

By Howard V. Millard

Coaches and managers from the leading professional teams in the country, will gather at Canton, Ohio, Friday evening in a meeting that may furnish the United States with the first professional league in the history of the game.
Jim Thorpe, the famous Carlisle Indian and manager Hays of the Canton “Bull Dogs” have invited a number of the foremost professional boosters in the country to attend the session and an American Conference is expected to be formed.
George Halas who will have charge of the Staley eleven this season and Morgan O’Brien secretary, will leave Thursday evening for Canton, and there is a possibility that George Chamberlain who been in the East for the past two weeks will also be in attendance.
One of the purposes of the meeting is to arrange schedules for the playing season and it is expected that such teams as Canton, Akron, Massillon, Hammond, Staleys, Rock Island, Dayton Triangles, Nordyke Marmons, Detroit Heralds, Minneapolis Marines and others will be present at the conference.

September 18, 1920 (3:1-2)
Canton Evening Repository (Canton, Ohio)

Thorpe Named President Of Professional Grid Circuit; Won’t Go After Collegians

Indian Jim Thorpe, leader of the Canton Bulldogs and considered the greatest pigskin chaser of all time, was last night chosen to head the American Professional Football Association, the only professional organization in existence. Representatives of 11 cities assembled here and unanimously voted Thorpe to the presidency, with Stanley Cofall as vice-president, and Art Ranney of Akron for secretary and treasurer.
At the meeting were W.H. Flanigan from the Rock Island (Ill.) Independents; L.V. Lyons of Rochester, N.Y.; E. Ball of Muncie, Ind.; George Halas of the Decatur, Ill., Staley A.C.; Charles O’Brien of the Chicago Cardinals; Cofall and Jimmy O’Donnell of the Cleveland Indians; Carl Strock of the Dayton Triangles; A.A. Young of Hammond, Ind.; Frank Neid and Art Ranney of the Akron Indians and Mac Maginnis of Akron but representing the Massillon Tigers. This array takes in practically all of the strong professional teams in the country.
A decision was reached to refrain from luring players out of college for the professional game, thus removing them from amateur standing. This snatching of college stars has always been the big objection to the professional game and has prejudiced many fans against it, especially those in college cities.
Membership in the A.P.F.A. was placed at $100 a year and binds all clubs holding franchises to abide by the rules, which are to be drawn up under the supervision of Thorpe and submitted to members for approval.
Maginnis, representing Massillon, plans to assemble a team to play road games under the name Tigers but the proposition does not look good, as the season opens soon and but little time is left in which to gather talent sufficiently strong to uphold the reputation which the Tigers acquire in past years.

September 18, 1920 (13:5-6)
Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Professional Football Teams Form Organization to Elevate The Game

The American Professional Football association was organized last night at a meeting in Canton. Eleven cities were represented: Canton, Rochester, N.Y., Rock Island, Ill., Muncie, Ind., Decatur, Ill., Racine, Wis., Cleveland, Akron, Massillon, Dayton, and Hammond, Ind.
The purpose of the new organization is to place professional football on a higher plane, prevent players from holding up managers for outlandish services. The professionals have agreed to prevent players in colleges leaving their schools to join the big teams. A heavy forfeit will be placed on any manager playing any college men who are still attending school.
Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs was elected president of the association; Stanley Cofall of Cleveland, vice president, and Art Raney of Akron, secretary and treasurer.

October 19, 1920 (10:1)
Dayton Journal (Dayton, Ohio)

Canton Must Win Sunday’s Contest
Bulldogs Cannot Afford To Lose to Triangle Eleven

When the Canton Bull Dogs and Triangles hook up next Sunday at Triangle Park there will be more at stake than the mere football game, which in itself is enough. But both the Triangles and Canton are in the American Professional Football association and as both have 1000 per cent something must fall when they meet.
There are three teams tied for the honors of the association or conference. The Triangles lead having played one association team and have been returned victorious. The following is the standings of the association to date:
Clubs Won Lost Tied Pct.
Triangles 1 0 1 1.000
Canton 1 0 0 1.000
Decatur 1 0 0 1.000
Rock Island 1 1 0 .500
Muncie 0 1 0 .000
Cleveland 0 1 1 .000
Hammond 0 2 0 .000
Akron 0 0 0 .000

You will notice that Dayton’s game against the Columbus Panhandles is not included, but only it’s win over Hammond and tie with Cleveland. Also, the Chicago Cardinals have only played the Chicago Tigers, which indicates the Tigers are not members.

November 21, 1920 (8:1)
Dayton Journal (Dayton, Ohio)

Triangles Will Play In Akron
Local Eleven to Take Part in Important Battle This Afternoon

The Triangles left Saturday morning for Akron, where they are scheduled to play Tobin’s Akron Indians this afternoon. This game, which is for the world’s professional championship, is attracting attention from all parts of the state. A.,F. Ranney, manager of the Akron club, has informed the Dayton management that fans are coming from all parts of the state to see the game.
Neither the Triangles nor Cleveland has lost a game this year. The Triangles have won two games from teams of the American Professional Football association and have tied two.
Akron has won two games from A.P.F.A. teams and has tied one. So it can be seen that the teams are on par and this game will prove for the time being supremacy of either the Dayton or Akron team. However, the Triangles play the Akron eleven in Dayton next Sunday.

November 25, 1920
Dayton Journal (Dayton, Ohio)

A defeat by Detroit, would of course, not hurt their standing in the A.P.F.A., should they beat Akron next week but it would hurt the general standing quite bit.

November 28, 1920 (4:2-3)
Dayton Journal (Dayton, Ohio)

This is the most important professional game that has ever been played in Dayton, This is the first that any professional team of championship caliber ever has considered a Dayton team in the running. On this game hinges the championship of A.P.F.A.

December 29, 1920 (8:6)
The Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio)

Columbus Man Advocates Pro Football Body

Joe Carr, Columbus sport writer who has controlled the destinies of the Panhandle football team of the Ohio capital for many years, has not given up his idea of organizing a league of professional football teams as a means of prolonging the life of the sport.
Carr for years has been an advocate of the professional football league and now comes to the front with the statement that if such an organization was formed it would tend to promote the interests of the sport and eliminate some of the disagreeable features which now exist.
The Columbus scribe says that if such a league was put through players would not be allowed to jump from one club to another and thus prevent teams shattered just before important games.

This raises a serious question about the Panhandles’ membership in the APFA in 1920 – why is Carr trying to form a league if his Panhandles are already in a league? There can only be two possibilities:

1) Columbus is in the league but Carr is dissatisfied with the way the APFA is being run; or
2) Columbus is not in the league as is currently accepted among the game’s historians.

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