The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the ultimate dream for NFL players and coaches. While some may claim that they’re never thinking about it, the chance to receive the bronze bust sculpture and a gold jacket is always lurking somewhere in the back of their mind. Induction into the Hall of Fame represents a lifetime of achievement, symbolizes excellence, and is a true honor.
Every year, thousands of NFL fans flock to northeast Ohio for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. But do those fans know why they’ve traveled specifically to Canton, Ohio? The NFL headquarters is located in New York City, which has more than eight million people. So why is a city that houses just over 73,000 people the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Well, there are actually three reasons.
The NFL was founded in Canton, Ohio
While professional football was believed to have started in 1892, there was no real organization to the game. Teams had popped up around the country but there was little structure. Leagues had been formed but the pro game had a ton of problems. That all changed on September 17, 1920. On that day, a group of men met for a meeting in the auto showroom of Hupmobile, which was owned by Ralph Hay, who also owned the Canton Bulldogs, one of 11 franchises that were represented at the meeting.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the NFL had been born, although it was then named the American Professional Football Association. The league was renamed the National Football League in 1922.
The Canton Bulldogs were the first two-time NFL champions
The Canton Bulldogs were first formed in 1903 as part of the Ohio League. The Bulldogs were members of the Ohio League from 1903-1906 and also from 1911-1919, winning three titles in four years before joining what is now the NFL in 1920.
After the Akron Pros and the Chicago Staleys, who would become the Chicago Bears in 1922, won the first two NFL championships, the Canton Bulldogs would become the first two-time NFL champs, winning back-to-back titles in 1922 and 1923. Led by player-coach Guy Chamberlin, the Bulldogs at one point went 22-0-3 in a 25-game span, to this day still the longest undefeated streak in NFL history.
Ralph Hay sold the team following the 1923 season and it was moved to Cleveland. The Cleveland Bulldogs won the 1924 NFL championship but is not recognized as the same team. A new incarnation of the Canton Bulldogs was formed in 1925, much like what happened with the Cleveland Browns in the 1990s, but the team never won another championship and was officially disbanded in 1927.
The residents of Canton raised the money to build the Pro Football Hall of Fame
The residents of Canton, Ohio are the main reason why the Pro Football Hall of Fame exists today. The city had lobbied the NFL to build a Hall of Fame building there, with the reasoning that the league had been formed there and that it housed one of the best early teams in the league’s history.
However, what took things over the top was the $400,000 fundraising effort that took place within the community. Equivalent to nearly three million dollars in today’s money, the effort was enough to convince the NFL to erect the building in Canton and groundbreaking began on August 11, 1962.
The original building had just two rooms and took up 19,000 square feet. Today, after numerous renovations throughout the years, the Pro Football Hall of Fame consists of approximately 118,000 square feet.