A rare look at the NFL in 1940

The NFL has been around for 90 years, but few football fans in 2010 have much of an idea of what the league was like in the pre-World War II days. That’s why this newspaper page from 1940 is such a great find.

As Paul Lukas of ESPN.com notes, it’s a rare full-color look at the uniforms of the day, with the Packers in navy blue and the Giants in bright red. We’ve all seen those uniforms as throwbacks, but it’s fun to see what the players of the day actually looked like while wearing them.

And to my way of thinking, it’s even more fun to read what a newspaper was saying about the NFL at the time.

“Coming into its own after years of struggle, professional football has carved itself a solid niche in the affections of American sports lovers,” the newspaper insert begins. “The action in the pro games, the power of the defense, the variety and adroitness of attack displayed by football’s greatest stars who’ve served glamorous apprenticeships on college gridirons, provide fans with new high standards of athletic performance.”

A blurb on Perry Schwartz notes that “Off-season, Perry, now 24, runs a farm in Mendocino County, Cal.”

The item on Davey O’Brien says he’s 5-foot-7 and 147 pounds and that he set a new record by “completing 21 aerials in a single game.”

Andy Farkas is described as “the shiftiest, hardest-running back in pro football, this former University of Detroit Ace. They call him Anvil Andy and Muscles because this 5-foot-10, 190-pound husky really pounds along when he lugs the leather.”

Of Cecil Isbell, we’re told, “He does everything well, but his forward passing is something the fans rave about — and so do his appreciative teammates on the champion Green Bay Packers.”

It’s fun stuff. Take a look.

36 responses to “A rare look at the NFL in 1940

  1. This is pretty sweet for a history loving dork like myself. Good find, thanks for sharing it, MDS

  2. Tebow probably looks at that picture of Parker Hall and says “See, you can be an MVP and win a passing title in the NFL with a throwing motion like this!”

  3. Good find. I never knew the Giants had a Michigan style helmet stripes. I always assumed they were a solid color.

  4. Football was played by real men and far fewer of the feminine NFL rules of today like pass interference.
    Cecil Isbell doesn’t get that much appreciation after taking over for Hall of Famer Arnie Herber. They both did throw to the greatest receiver of all time -Don Hutson.
    Some of the old records like Hutson’s 99 TDs look different when you consider they only played 10 game seasons.
    Cecil Isbell was a first round pick in 1938, had a 5 year career, made the Probowl 4 years.
    1938 the Packers lost the championship game to the Giants 23-17, but in 1939 shut the Giants out 27-0 to win the World Championship.
    In 1941 Isbell set the record for yards passing in a season. In 1942 he broke his own record by a third. Don Hutson’s record for receiving that season 1211 yards and 17 TD’s lasted until 1984 when 16 games were played instead of 11, and pass interference rules were in place.
    Watch some films from the 30’s and 40’s, it was a much tougher game back then.

  5. let me guess “North Killadelphia” –
    You’re probably under 25, right?
    Anything not in the last 5 years doesn’t hold you’re interest and is “the olden days”?

  6. I wasn’t aware that 1940 was Pre-WWII. More like during it. Very interesting though and love the giants helmet

  7. So that’s what they called it back then – lugging the leather? Better than choking the chicken, I guess.

  8. What was the year of the merger with the AFL?
    I’m not sure that NFL even existed in 1940.
    They had two leagues with different names.

  9. Savs:
    Don’t comment on History anymore you IDIOT. Does the date Dec 7th 1941 mean ANYTHING to you?
    Viking Fans
    In 1940 the Packers already have some championships under their belts.THAT’S why we bring up past glories we have some. In 1940 your “franchise” wasn’t even a horned nuisance in the womb of the NFL.

  10. 30PTBUCK
    You’re an idiot. WWII started sept 1, 1939. How bout not being a dick, when you don’t know what you are talking about.
    You must be a fudge-packer fan.
    florio your a dumb-ass.

  11. Come on savs, the United States didn’t enter WWII until 1942. 8th graders know that, get with the program.
    Along with raybin I am a fan of history. This is one of the cooler posts PFT has given us in a while.

  12. Thanks for pointing out why we laugh at the Packers. Comparing a Championsip count between a team that’s been around since the twenties to a team the arrived in 1961. That means you’ve had 40 more years to accumulate championships. When you compare teams success, it’s pretty customary to compare them, on an equal time frame.

  13. fun story dude, but actually, the war started back in september 1939. but hey, some of you americans tend to only think about yourselves!

  14. Davey O’Brien may think he’s great, but anybody could complete 21 aerials in the modern game… whatever that is. Is it like a rouge?

  15. Total league payroll in 1942 was probably about $1.2 million. So the salary cap for each team musta been nearly $100,000.

  16. Total league payroll in 1942 was probably about $1.2 million. So the salary cap for each team musta been nearly $100,000.

  17. The center who is 6’2″ and 225 lbs just shows how much bigger guys have gotten over the years. Imagine Jamarcus at 6’6″ 280 lbs and Brandon Jacobs at 6’4″ 265 lbs lining up behind a center that small? Janikowski is a kicker and is 6’2″ 250 lbs!

  18. The story is about American football in 1940;
    America entered WWII in December 1941;
    Thus it is about pre-WWII American football;
    Seems pretty simple to me…

  19. 30PTBUCK says:
    Don’t comment on History anymore you IDIOT. Does the date Dec 7th 1941 mean ANYTHING to you?
    The war was going on before the US got involved. Dec 7th is when WE got involved; however, 1940 was NOT pre-WWII, which started in 1939. Gasp – I guess you shouldn’t be commenting on history….

  20. mnmaverick says:
    March 30, 2010 2:25 PM
    What was the year of the merger with the AFL?
    I’m not sure that NFL even existed in 1940.
    They had two leagues with different names.
    The NFL merged with the 4th AFL in the 1960s. There WAS an AFL back in the 1920s, late 1930s and 1940s but there was no merger; however, the Cleveland Rams came out of the 1930s AFL and the New York Yankees came from the 1920s AFL.
    The NFL actually existed in 1920 but some people will try to make it 1922. The NFL did merge with teams from the AAFC back in the late 1940s.

  21. RayDaMayor says:
    Total league payroll in 1942 was probably about $1.2 million. So the salary cap for each team musta been nearly $100,000
    You’re seriously overestimating how much money these guys made back then. Remember, the NFL was NOT paying any where near MLB, who probably paid their best player more than what the average NFL team paid their entire squad. Of course, you do realize that there was no salary cap back then. 🙂

  22. Agreed with Bob Nelson – football played by real men.
    These guys had off season jobs because the NFL pay wasn’t enough to live on (kind of like the refs of today)
    A cool rule from back in this era – a tackle meant a guy had to be down for three seconds. Watch some old film and you see guys get knocked down, then jump back up and keep going. You had to really tackle them around the legs and hold on to get them down.
    Offensive line blocking was a lot better too. The rules were very strict on not grabbing ahold of D linemen so the O line had to use thier arms (not hands) and get low to block.
    If you get the chance to watch any OLD football films, do so, it’s fun to see.

  23. Dear Jerks
    As for history it could be said that WWII started in 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria.But the World was being enslaved before the United States entered the War after Japan attacted Pearl Harbor.True ,fighting began before 1940 but the Axis wasn’t being stopped it was being delayed. Now it is true I believe the war didn’t truly start before we were invovled WE were the reason tyranny was stopped at this time.
    As for mnmaverick ok let’s compare teams since the Vikings entered the league in 1961 they won 1 Championship 1969 but lost to Kansas City in the Superbowl the Packers 6 championships 3 Superbowls By the way the Saints came in in 1967 and have more Superbowl trophies than you and so does Tampa Bay but that’s why we LAUGH at the Vikings

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