For further information or advice please Email the Webmaster

This is a non profit
site. Any infringement
of copyright or
intellectual property,
is unintentional.

Most covers can be
displayed as a
larger image,
in a new window,
by clicking on
the image.

Hosting at

Updated: 18/05/2006

History of American and Canadian Football

American Football
Folk Football was probably played in the USA from colonisation but it was not till 1867 that the first set of rules was drawn up by Princeton College. These rules were similar to soccer. On the 6th November 1869 Rutgers and Princeton played a game which has become known as the first game of American Football.

On the 26th September 1969 the USPS issued a stamp commemorating the game.

1969 Centenary Cover

Over the next few years more colleges became interested in playing competition football and in 1876 the Intercollegiate Football Association was formed. It comprised representatives from Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Columbia. Harvard and McGill (from Canada) played a rugby type football and this was the type of football that dominated.
Football Heroes
Walter Camp the Coach of Yale was instrumental in modernising the game in 1880. He reduced the number of players to eleven, introduced the quarterback, the series of downs and the scrummage of Rugby was changed to the scrimmage of American Football. He became known as "The Father of American Football."

On 8th August 2003 USPS issued four stamps commemorating Early Football Heroes. Walter Camp is shown at bottom left. Other heroes are Bronco Nagurski of Minnesota and the Chicago Bears, Enersest Nevers of Stanford and the Chicago Cardinals and Red Grange of the university of Illinois and the Chicago Bears.

By the early 1900's it was becoming obvious that the game was too dangerous with 18 deaths in 1905. This led to the introduction of the forward pass and now the game had evolved totally from Rugby. It was however not until 1913 that famous Notre Dame Coach, Knute Rockne, took full advantage of the forward pass. (On the 9th March 1988 a commemorative stamp was issued.) He became a legendary Coach and in 1924 his backline was nicknamed the "Four Horseman" because of their speed in a win over an Army team. As part of the "Celebrate the Century" series USPS issued the commemorative stamp for the 1920s.

The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame

Another great coach of the early 20th Century was Pop Warner. He coached over 49 years and at seven Colleges. He coached 47 All Americans including the great Jim Thorpe. Pop Warner was one of four coaches commemorated on a set of four stamps (see below) issued in 1997.
Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe was one of the greatest athletes of the 20th Century. At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics he won both the Decathlon and Pentathlon. He played 6 years of major League baseball and as well managed to lead the Canton Bulldogs football team to unofficial world championships in 1916, 1917, and 1919. He eventually finished his playing days in 1928 with the Chicago Cardinals. He was initially honoured on a stamp issued on the 24th May 1984 in his football gear and as part of the "Celebrate the Century" series  for the 1910s as an Olympian.
Another great coach of the early 20th Century was George Halas. He coached from 1920 to 1967 and had 40 seasons at the Chicago Bears and won 6 NFL Championships. George Calas was one of four coaches commemorated on a set of four stamps (see below) issued in 1997.

The American Professional Football Association was formed in 1920 and became the NFL in 1922. By the time of the first Draft in 1936 the Professional game was beginning to become more important than the College game. In 1946 the All American Football Conference was formed as a rival to the NFL. In 1950 the two leagues merged and for the next three seasons were known as the American and National Conferences. In 1953 this was changed to the Eastern and Western Conferences. In 1960 another league, the American Football League was formed. In 1966 for the first time the Champions of both Leagues met in the Super Bowl.

Four Coaches
In the 1960s the dominant team was Green Bay Packers. They were coached by Vince Lombardi (shown at left as part of the 1997 Coaches Issue) from 1959 to 1967 and won 5 NFL titles and 2 Super Bowls in 1967 and 1968.

Professional Football was becoming huge business mostly supported by the TV networks. In 1970 Monday Night Football commenced. As part of the "Celebrate the Century" series USPS issued the commemorative stamp for the 1970s.

The last coach of the 1997 Series was Bear Bryant who had the highest wining record of any Coach. He coached at 4 Colleges over 38 years till 1982.

The dominant team of the 1970s were the Pittsburgh Steelers. They won the Super Bowl in 1975, 1976, 1979 & 1980. As part of the "Celebrate the Century" series USPS issued the commemorative stamp for the 1970s.

The dominant team of the 1980s and 1990s were the San Francisco 49'ers. They won the Super Bowl in 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990 & 1995. As part of the "Celebrate the Century" series USPS issued the commemorative stamp for the 1990s.

San Francisco 49ers
On the 16th July 2003 the small Pacific Island Nation of Samoa released a set of 5 stamps and a FDC of Sporting Legends, including Jesse Sayolu, a Samoan, who played with the San Francisco 49ers for 14 years. His career saw him play in 170 games including 2 Pro Bowls and 4 Super Bowls.

The Super Bowl is the most watched Football Game on the Planet. Philatelic items are commonly produced such as this cover for Super Bowl XXXVI.

The NFL celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1994. In 2003 it consisted of 32 teams with 16 in the AFC and 16 in the NFC each Conference is divided into North, South, East and West Divisions of 4 teams..

Canadian Football
The first game was introduced to Montreal by a British Army Garrison. In 1874 McGill played Harvard, a game which was in part instrumental for the introduction of more Rugby like rules to America. In 1890 the Canadian Rugby Union was formed with teams in all four Provinces.

75th Anniversary Cover

In 1909 the Governor General of Canada. Lord Grey, donated a trophy called the Grey Cup. The above 1987 cover and stamp commemorated the 75th time the Cup had been decided.

In 1956 the professional competition became officially run by the CFL and the amateur game by the CAFA which latter became Football Canada.  From 1954 the Grey Cup became exclusively for the Professionals.

Today their are 5 teams in the West Division and Four in the East Division.

Canadian Football differs from the American Game in that their is one extra player, the field is bigger, only three downs are allowed and scoring is slightly different.

Australian Football and American Football
Kicking is the major skill required by AFL players and it is no surprise that exceptional kicks are sought out by NFL clubs. Ex Geelong Captain and 219 game veteran, Ben Graham, is playing the 2005 season with the New York Jets. Ex Brisbane (60 games) and Hawthorn (16 games) player, Nathan Chapman, signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers for 2004 but did not play any games. The major success story has been Darren Bennett with the San Diego Chargers. He played 4 games with the West Coast Eagles and 74 games with Melbourne. In 2004 he moved to the Minnesota Vikings where he is playing in 2005.

Perhaps the most famous player was another Melbourne player, Jim O'Dea. He played for the Demons from 1893-95 before moving to the University of Wisconsin to study Law. He was such a successful long drop kick for field goals and conversions that it was rumoured that he was responsible for the decrease in points for field goals from 3 points to 1. He made the 2nd and 3rd All American Teams in 1898 and 1899. He latter held coaching positions at Notre Dame, Missouri and Stanford.

The first Brownlow Medalist, Edward "Carji" Geeves, who played 124 games for Geelong, was recruited by the University of Southern California as a kicking Coach, in 1928. His students, the Trojans, increased their field Goal Tally from 1 to 23 and won the championship.

Carlton Reserves player and Olympic High Jumper, Colin Ridgeway, played one season with the Dallas Cowboys in 1965.