The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
Ralph Hay was a successful automobile dealer, but his showroom’s place in history far exceeds that of the Hupmobiles he sold. Pro football had existed since 1892 but lacked any real order during its first three decades. A pair of meetings in August and September 1920, in Hay’s showroom in Canton, Ohio, changed that: The American Professional Football Association, renamed the NFL two years later, was organized.
As the story goes, the founding fathers—including Hay, owner of the Canton Bulldogs, and George Halas, representing the Decatur Staleys—sat on the cars’ running boards and drank buckets of beer while devising the league that would become the crown jewel of American sports. Jim Thorpe was elected president, a $100 membership fee was set, and play began within a few weeks. Fourteen teams played that first season, only two of which still exist today: the Staleys, now the Chicago Bears, and the Chicago Cardinals, now in Arizona.
Hay’s Hupmobile showroom has long since been torn down, but at the site in downtown Canton (now the Frank T. Bow Federal Building) you can find a plaque identifying the hallowed ground as the birthplace of the NFL.
— Jenny Vrentas