Historical Society of Frankford collection on the Frankford Yellow Jackets
Held at: Historical Society of Frankford [Contact Us]1507 Orthodox St., Philadelphia, PA, 19124
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Frankford. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Frankford Yellow Jackets were an early twentieth-century football club located in the Frankford section of Northeast Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The team was the first professional football team to play in Philadelphia, joining the National Football League (NFL) in 1924. The Yellow Jackets ceased operations in late 1931, and its franchise was returned to the NFL. In 1933, the NFL granted an expansion franchise to Bert Bell and Lud Wray, who formed a new team named the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Frankford Yellow Jackets were initially a sandlot football club organized in 1899 by the Frankford Athletic Association. In the early 1920s, the team began to garner attention as one of the best independent football teams in the country.
Although still an independent team, the Frankford Yellow Jackets faced their first National Football League opponent, the Rochester Jefferson, in a scrimmage in 1922. The Yellow Jackets won, 20-0, and went on to play several other NFL teams in scrimmages in 1922 and 1923. In 1924, the Frankford Athletic Association was granted an NFL franchise for the Frankford Yellow Jackets and the team officially joined the National Football League.
The Frankford Yellow Jackets were one of the most successful NFL teams in the 1920s, completing their first season in 1924 with an 11-2-1 NFL record. Between 1924 and 1931, the Yellow Jackets scheduled more games than any other team in the NFL. A majority of the team's games were played back-to-back, with home games in Philadelphia on Saturdays and road games on Sundays. The team played home games at Frankford Stadium, built on a converted horse track in 1923 at Frankford Avenue and Devereaux streets. In 1926, the Frankford Yellow Jackets were the NFL champions, the first time a Philadelphia team had won a national football championship. That same season, the team set an NFL record with fourteen wins in a season, a record which would not be broken until sixty years later.
The team was supported by a band, cheerleaders, and a mascot, along with its own fight song. The Frankford Yellow Jackets were also a part of the Frankford community. The players lived in boarding houses in Frankford, often passing time playing football with the kids in the neighborhood streets. The team also donated any income generated beyond the player's salaries and team expenses to local charities such as Frankford Hospital.
In 1930s, the Great Depression impacted the Yellow Jacket's ability to fund the team, including attracting strong players. In 1929 and again in 1931, the stadium caught fire. Due to the financial strain, the team was unable to fund repairs and began its 1931 season as a traveling team with no home stadium. The team was unable to finish the season, suspending operations in November of 1931.
After the Yellow Jackets ceased operations, the Frankford Athletic Association was unable to find a buyer for the team and returned the franchise to the NFL. The NFL spent over a year searching for a new ownership group to operate a team in Philadelphia. In July of 1933, the NFL granted an expansion franchise and awarded the assets of the Yellow Jackets to Lud Wray, a former Yellow Jackets player, and Bert Bell, head football coach at Temple University. Bell and Wray took on the debt of the Yellow Jackets, but formed a new team, naming it the Philadelphia Eagles. After the debt was paid off, the team was no longer tied to the Frankford Yellow Jackets, but retained its powder blue and yellow colors for its uniforms for several seasons.
Tim Selway. "Frankford Yellow Jackets: 1926 NFL Champions." In Literary and Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Center for the Book. 2008. Accessed December 15, 2015. http://pabook2.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/FrankfordYellowJackets.html.
This collection consists of photographs, negatives, programs, and other ephemera relating to the Frankford Yellow Jackets, the professional football team that was the predecessor to the Philadelphia Eagles. Also included are photocopies of materials relating to the Yellow Jackets mounted on foam core. There are home game programs, 1923-1931. Photographs include team photos and depictions of practices and games. The negatives are of practices and action shots of various games in which the Yellow Jackets played. The negatives are labeled in groups with game dates and participating teams. There are also two scrapbooks, circa 1925-1927, with newspaper clippings about the Yellow Jackets.
The collection has various Yellow Jacket artifacts associated with it that were not included as part of this survey.
Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.
In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Historical Society of Frankford directly for more information.
- Historical Society of Frankford
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu and Anastasia Matijkiw through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
- This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Access Restrictions
Contact Historical Society of Frankford for information about accessing this collection.