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Canton, Ohio has long been and still is a hotbed of passionate football enthusiasts. As the league celebrates its 100th season, Canton celebrates its role in football history.
Canton Celebrates the NFL Centennial
September 17, 1920
The owners of eleven football franchises attended a meeting in Canton, Ohio on September 17, 1920 to formalize a league, the American Professional Football Association. The meeting was hosted by Canton Bulldogs owner Ralph Hay in the showroom of his Hupmobile dealership. In the image above, artwork by Dirk Rozich memorializes the moment of 'The Founding'.
Jim Thorpe, an Olympic gold medalist and Canton Bulldogs team member known as the 'world's greatest athlete' in his era, was tapped to lead the league as president. Two years later, at an owners meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, the two-year-old league created a constitution that officially changed its name to the National Football League.
September 16-19, 2020
In September 2020 the city of Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame will celebrate the kick-off to the next century of football. Save the date and stay tuned for more details on the events and festivities planned for a celelebration of the NFL's centennial in the city where the league was born - Canton, Ohio.
Canton, Ohio Football Road Trip
Football is woven throughout the fabric of Canton and the surrounding region's history. Take a road trip through Stark County to immerse yourself in the cradle of football civilization.
- Pro Football Hall of Fame:
2121 George Halas Dr. NW, Canton, Ohio 44708 | 330.456.8207
Located outside of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an Ohio Historical Marker commemorates Canton, Ohio as the cradle of professional football because of its role in the early development and founding of today's National Football League. The 'birth' of professional football is documented back to 1892 when William "Pudge" Heffelfinger was paid to play in a game in Pittsburgh, PA. A visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame museum unfolds the history of The Game, and is the first stop on many fans' bucket lists.
- The Birth of the NFL:
201 Cleveland Ave. SW, Canton, Ohio 44702
A sculpture in downtown Canton marks the site where the agreement was signed to form the American Professional Football Association, later renamed the National Football League. The piece is one of a series of public art called The Eleven.
- The Eleven:
The Eleven is a walkable series of public art throughout downtown Canton that commemorates some of the greatest moments in the first 100 years of professional football.
- 1920 - Birth of the NFL (201 Cleveland Ave. SW)
- 1925 - Red Grange Turns Pro (624 N Market Ave.)
- 1936 - The NFL Draft (228 4th St. NW)
- 1946 - Reintegration of Pro Football (238 Cleveland Ave. NW)
- 1966 - AFL/NFL Merger (420 3rd St. NW)
- 1968 - Super Bowl III (1001 Market Ave. N)
- 1970 - Monday Night Football (101 Central Plaza S)
To Be Completed Soon: 1958 - 1958 Championship Game, 1959 - Formation of American Football League, 1960 - Pete Rozelle Named Commissioner, 1967 - The Ice Bowl
- Canton Classic Car Museum:
123 6th St. SW, Canton, Ohio 44702 | 330.455.3603
The founding meeting of the National Football League was hosted in Ralph Hay's Hupmobile dealership showroom. See what a Hupmobile looks like and discover more about the history of Canton inside the Canton Classic Car Museum.
- Bender's Tavern:
137 Court Ave. SW, Canton, Ohio 44702 | 330.453.8425
Canton's oldest restaurant Bender's Tavern was established in 1902. It's known not only for its delicious fare, including seafood fresh from Foley Fish in Boston, but also for its famous, past frequenters rumored to include Jim Thorpe.
- Canton Brewing Company:
120 3rd St. NW, Canton, Ohio 44702 | 330.409.0343
The original Canton Brewing Company was founded in 1883. Their Cascade Beer was a sponsor of Ralphy Hay's Canton Bulldogs and presumably the beer of choice at the founding meeting. Today, Cascade Pale Ale is one of the core brews always on tap at the brewery.
- Royal Docks Brewing Company + Taphouse & Kitchen:
7162 Fulton Dr. NW, Canton, Ohio 44718 | 330.353.9103
Stop in at Royal Docks for their special edition Pro Football Hall of Fame ale Leatherhead IPA. The Stark County region is home to severl local craft brews or Hall of Fame Hops.
- Gervasi Vineyard:
1700 55th St. NE, Canton, Ohio 44721 | 330.497.1000
The Pro Football Hall of Fame and Gervasi Vineyard have partnered to produce co-branded wines featuring the Hall's iconic logo. To date there are three Limited Edition Hall of Fame Wines in the collection bearing names that reflect core values of The Game as identified by the Pro Football Hall of Fame; "Commitment", "Integrity", and "Excellence".
- Paul Brown Museum & Massillon Tigers:
121 Lincoln Way E, Massillon, Ohio 44646 | 330.833.4061
Massillon, Ohio passionately celebrates its favorite son Paul Brown. Paul Brown grew up in Massillon, Ohio and embarked on his Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket journey as an acclaimed coach at Massillon Washington High School. The Paul Brown Museum at MassMu celebrates and archives his legacy.
- Our Rivalry:
500 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton, Ohio 44702
The Massillon Tigers were among eleven franchises in attendance at the meeting on September 17, 1920. However, among the first orders of business was Massillon's withdrawal from professional football for the 1920 season. The team never joined the NFL.
The mural 'Our Rivalry' located in downtown Canton commemorates the longstanding football rivalry between Canton and Massillon, Ohio - a mere 11 miles apart. The rivalry began at the professional football level as early as 1894, fueled by a series of tightly contested championship games through 1919. The football rivalry between the cities lives on today through one of high school football's longest running rivalry games, Canton McKinley High School Bulldogs vs. Massillon Washington High School Tigers, contested annually on the last Saturday in October.
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