Early History of the Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Press Gazette & Indian Packing Company Origins

The Green Bay Packers football team, unarguably the most famous NFL franchise, was founded on Aug. 11, 1919, in a dark 2nd story editorial room of the past Green Bay Press-Gazette building, along Cherry St in downtown Green Bay.  No one ever imagined the semi-pro football squad formed that day would amount to much, the details of who was there that day and what was specifically discussed were never documented.   The Green Bay Press-Gazette provided no information about the meeting the next day in its publication.   We will never know if the full squad of players who fielded that first team was all present, or just the movers and shakers, the details to this day are not known.    Further, the nature of the discussions was not documented, so we will also never know what the exact plan(s) were.  

Regardless, the Green Bay press, in its Aug 13 publication, documented that the Indian Packing Company would sponsor the football team and would have the nickname of “Packers”.  The newspaper said the home games would be competed at Hagemeister Park and listed almost 40 potential players.  The players were made up of former athletes at Green Bay East and West high schools.  

Shortly later, a 2nd meeting was held at the same location, almost 3 days after the first one.  We do know at this second meeting almost 30 players were in attendance.  Curly Lambeau was nominated as captain of the football team, and Mr. George W. Calhoun was announced as the manager of the squad. 

Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun - Founding Fathers of the Green Bay Packers

Curly Lambeau was the former standout of the Eash High School and had played on Notre Dame’s first team coached by legendary Knute Rockne in 1918.   Lambeau, having dropped out in December of that year, was working for the Indian Packing Company at the time of the team’s formation.  As a matter of fact, George Calhoun was the great-grandson of Mr. Daniel Whitney, who founded Green Bay and was working as a newspaper editor at the Green Bay Press-Gazette at the time.  

The legend of the story was the initiative for that first meeting was a brief meeting on a downtown street between Calhoun and Lambeau.  There has been so much conjecture and disagreement over the years, however, it is generally regarded that Calhoun and Lambeau were the co-founders of the Green Bay Packers. 

Early Success

In that first season, Green Bay went 10-1 against other semi-pro teams mostly from northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.    The Team practiced the first year on a field adjacent to the Indian Packing Company at the east end of Morrow St.  However, it played its home game at Hegemeister Park, which was only an open field with no seats.  Expenses were covered by coaches and players during those first years, as attendance and any form of revenue were virtually non-existent.  

The next year, the team went 9-1-1 against independent teams from nearby towns.   More importantly, the organization’s financials began to improve.   Later the next year, C.M. Murphy, a local traveling salesman, was named manager of the team and built a committee to construct a fence around the field so the team could charge for attendance.  And later in the year, two sections of seating were constructed so attendees could sit instead of stand.  

These were the early beginnings of the most storied football team in US history.  The Green Bay Packers started very modestly, but great throughout the decades to become a marquee sports team organization.