Football's First Helmet Logos ($)
Several recent posts have covered aspects of football history discovered during a review of 2,000+ old college yearbooks. One post showed Texas invented the whiteout in 1920. Another included the only known image of a puntout being executed, while a third showed the field conditions of old were rather wretched.
Just as the world forgot about Texas' 1920s whiteouts when Penn State revived them (borrowing from hockey fans in Calgary), the same applies to the origins of helmet logos. The Los Angeles Rams are widely credited with being the first team to paint logos on their helmets in 1948. The story goes that Fred Gehrke, a Rams running back and art major at Utah, spiced things up by painting rams horns on a helmet. After showing the helmet to the team owner and winning approval for its use, Gehrke painted horns on all the team's helmets and the rest, as I wrote elsewhere, is art history.
Of course, the historical record changes with new information, which is the case with helmet logos. Old yearbook pictures show that Amos Alonzo Stagg and the University of Chicago Maroons painted their wishbone C emblem on the back of their helmets a quarter of a century before the Rams bore their horns. Images from the 1921 and 1922 seasons, when Chicago played a typical Big Nine schedule and a home-and-home series with Princeton, clearly show the emblems on their helmets.
It is unclear why Chicago abandoned their painted logo or why other schools did not add logos in the 1920s. Some teams did not adopt logos because they tried to deceive their opponents by wearing arm pads, stickum pads on their jerseys, and helmets matching the football color. Doing so made it more difficult for defenders to determine which offensive player had the ball. Some runners even tossed their helmets on the ground, so would-be tacklers might think the helmet was a fumbled ball.