This season the Green Bay Packers are celebrating 100 years of football and their media guide advises “the Packers are arguably the most storied franchise in the National Football League.” The romance with the team is understandable as the team is owned by the people and the Packers won the first two Super Bowls and even have the winner’s trophy named after their beloved coach, Vince Lombardi.
The Packers have been a publicly owned, non-profit corporation since 1923. They were first organised as the Green Bay Football Corp., and then reorganised in 1935 as the Green Bay Packers, Inc. A total of 5,009,562 shares are owned by 361,169 stockholders – none of whom receives any dividend on their investment.
It was August 11, 1919, when “Curley” Lambeau’s employer, the Indian Packing Corporation (IPC), donated $500 for equipment for Green Bay’s football team and offered the use of the company’s field for practices.
Three days later, the inaugural meeting of the IPC football team took place although the indications are a lot of preparation for their forthcoming season had already been done.
Earl Louis Lambeau, the former East High and Notre Dame football star, was elected captain of the city footballers while G.W Calhoun was confirmed as the manager.
A report in the local newspaper noted, “Close to 25 pigskin chasers attended the conference and there was a good deal of enthusiasm displayed among the candidates. It was the unanimous opinion that if Green Bay doesn’t get away with state honours this year, she never will. It was agreed to hold practices three times a week and provided suitable opponents can be secured, the Packers will open the season on September 14 at Hagemeister Park.”
In the early days of pro football there was no defined league format, the NFL didn’t come together until 1920. Games were arranged with whoever could stump up the finance and field another team.
The Packers season began with a 53-0 “walloping” of the North End Athletic Club from Menominee and shutouts became the standard for the remaining games. A 63-0 defeat of the Marinette Northerners followed with the “aerial” route responsible for most of Green Bay’s scores.
At the end of September, the visiting New London team succumbed to “the onslaughts of the packing plant crew although they had plenty of fight,” and the Packers won 54-0.
The crack Company C. football eleven of Sheboygan visited the following Sunday, only to meet the same fate with an 87-0 rout. The visitors “made a nice appearance in their new uniforms, but that was all. The soldiers could not check Green Bay’s varied attack and aside from a couple of spasmodic rushes, the offensive work was smashed to smithereens.”
The next game saw the previous year’s Wisconsin champions the Racine City Iroquois visit. Against stiff opposition, the Packers had to resort to the aerial route when grinding it out on the ground was the standard football game plan of the era. Almost all their touchdowns were the result of forward passes. The first points given up by Green Bay came in the third quarter when the visitors gambled on a fourth down, but the Packers still won 76-6.
The following Sunday saw the Packers travel to Ishpeming, Michigan to compete with the Ruepping Leather Company team of Fond du Lac. The Packers had to overcome their opponents and the local head linesman who was enthusiastic in calling offside and holding penalties against Green Bay, particularly when Captain Lambeau’s team was inside their opponents 35. The Packers played before their largest crowd to date as more than 3,000 fans saw Green Bay triumph 33-0.
Their next game was back in Green Bay against the Oshkosh Professionals, who met the usual aerial assault as the Packers put up 27 points before halftime and then exploded with 58 points in the second half for the 85-0 win.
As the Packers season entered November, they maintained their winning ways, shutting out the Maple Leaf Athletic Club 53-0 before they faced the Chilar Athletic Club of Chicago. The Chicago team were one of the best teams playing professional football at that time, but “The Windy City Pigskin Chasers were Unable to Check Green Bay’s Offensive.”
The Packers gained their ninth win of the season, posting a 46-0 score with their line playing the best game of the season while the Chicago backfielders were generally smothered before they got a chance to get started.
Next up were the Stambaugh Miners, champions of Michigan. Unbeaten at home for six years, Stambaugh would provide solid opposition with honest officiating. Stout defense from both sides saw the first half scoreless, but the Packers succeeded with a touchdown on their first possession of the second half. They added a field goal in the third quarter before a super catch from Reg Dwyer completed the scoring for a 17-0 Green Bay triumph.
The final game saw the Packers travel to the Beloit Professionals. The Green Bay newspaper report accused the local referee of robbing the Packers of a victory that would have provided the team with a perfect season.
Three Packers scores were penalised and called back while Beloit were given a helping hand with an offside penalty and a timekeeping extension to continue the drive that saw the only score of the game by the home team.
Even the fans joined in to ensure a win for the locals by sweeping onto the field leaving almost no room for the Packers forward pass offense to develop effectively and twice spectators interfered with runners to prevent Green Bay from scoring.
Green Bay should have finished the season unbeaten, but it wasn’t to be. It didn’t affect the impressive Packers introduction to the professional game that was to blossom with the team from Green Bay being a central part of that success.
The above 1919 team photo plus the header courtesy of the Green Bay Packers media guide.
@SteelUK’s note: I’ve tried to relive the journalistic days of early last century by using a great deal of the newspaper terminology from that time. I hope it adds some flavour to the article for your enjoyment.