Thursday, July 27, 2017

Brown Bears (1914)

When I began this little uniform project, I had 1925 or so pegged as a cutoff date. Before then, all the uniforms start to look the same, and action photos are low-quality and taken from a mile away. The research, once fun, becomes a chore.

Then I stumbled upon a pair of Brown Bears photos on eBay from 1914, the year World War I kicked off, and of course I couldn't resist. 

Clear photos? Close-ups? There's far too much cool stuff to ignore here. 

First, the helmets. They actually appear to be plastic at first glance, but they are leather upon taking a closer look (and if the esteemed Paul Lukas says they're leather, I'm siding with him). That makes sense, since plastic helmets didn't gain traction until after World War II, more than three decades later. A cursory Google search doesn't reveal anything quite like these Brown lids, which appear to be tan in color.

And check out the helmet tops! They're almost flat, and appear to be removable. 

Next, the uniform numbers, which were a fairly recent invention credited to legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. It appears they were stitched on a sheet of white cloth that was sewn onto the backs. Also note the unique font; this was long before someone decided block numbers were more readable. With all the crazy fonts used in college football today, I guess uni numbers have come full circle.

As for where these photos were taken? My guess is the old Polo Grounds in New York, as the Bears played three road games in 1914: Yale, Harvard and Cornell, with the latter occurring at NYC. The stadium bears no resemblance to Harvard Stadium or the Yale Bowl,  but does have a double-decked grandstand similar to the that at the famed home of the Giants (baseball and football versions).

Brown was 5-2-2 in 1914 under the guidance of Eddie N. Robinson (no, not that Eddie Robinson), who compiled a 140-82-12 record in three stints with the Bears from 1898-1925. (And in the Six Degrees to Maine department, he coached the Black Bears in 1902, going 6-2). In 1915, Brown went 5-4-1 and reached the Rose Bowl -- yes, that Rose Bowl.

More unis from the sons of Bruno: 201620152014, 2012-132004-082001-03, 1997-20001984-891981-8319781975-771973-7419721967-71, 1959-651957-581951-56.

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