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Massillon History: Pro Football

Massillon Professional Tigers Football Team

written by archives intern Amanda Wismer

Football, as it is played in America, comes from two sports: rugby and soccer. In the late 19th century American versions of football were created by college students. The actual date of American football’s inception is debated. Football has a long history in Massillon. As early as 1894 there were football clubs, most sponsored by local businesses. Even in the early years of the game, large crowds gathered at the parks where they played. In 1899 the Massillon-Canton rivalry game ended in a contested score, and professional football disappeared in Massillon until 1903.

The team that formed in 1903 was backed by Edward J. Stewart. He organized a team of local athletes and found jerseys that were yellow/orange and black, so they became the Tigers. They played their home games at Massillon Driving Park and at the Sunnyside Field on the grounds of Massillon State Hospital. From 1904-1905 the team was undefeated, 1906 was a successful season as well, but it ended in another controversial game against Canton, which ended professional football in Massillon again, until 1915.

When the professional players returned, backer Jack Whelan insisted that the players had high moral value. This was also the year that the Carlisle Indian Star, Jim Thorpe, began playing for Canton. Both Massillon and Canton claimed the championship in 1915, Canton won the championship in 1916, Massillon claims the championship in 1917, and the games were cancelled in 1918 because of WWI and the influenza epidemic.

The Massillon professional team continued playing until 1922 when the National Football League invited them to join, but the cost was too high. The Massillon Tigers were considered one of the greatest professional teams, sometimes referred to as the “forgotten team” of the early years of professional football. The Professional Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton because the Canton Bulldogs were one of the charter members of the NFL.

The Massillon Museum’s collection includes a large number of materials and ephemera from both the professional and high school football teams. The collection includes uniforms, footballs, programs, schedules, trophies, clippings, and photographs. For more information contact Archivist Mandy Pond over the phone: 330-833-4061, or via email.

For more information on the Paul E. Brown Museum in Massillon, please visit their website.

Books Referenced:

  • White, John E. (1994). The Massillon Tigers Story: The First Hundred Years. Prescott, AZ: Classic Press.
  • Shearer, Nicholis. (2008). Eclectic. Everyday. Elegant. Massillon, OH: Massillon Museum.
  • Vogt, Margy. (2002). Towpath to Towpath. Massillon, OH: Bates Printing, Inc


Virtual Exhibit: Massillon Professional Tigers Football Team

Photographs from the Massillon Museum's permanent collection.

Massillon Professional Tigers Team Roster 1905-1907



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