Fly Like An Eagle

     Today Uni Watch and Gridiron Uniform Database historian Tim Brulia brings us his long awaited research on the 1941 Philadelphia Eagles colors.  Previously we told you about a possibility that the Eagles wore silver-and-black and not their familiar green that year.  Well Tim has followed up on that possibility and brings us his research now:

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     In my years of researching these things, one of the "white whales" was the supposed truth that the Philadelphia Eagles in their long ago days wore black and silver. Well before the Oakland Raiders ever existed and made those colors famous.
Art Rooney
     When I began more original research of the Eagles, I encountered what appeared to be very dark jersey colors from about 1936 through 1940. Though the helmets and pants were white, I had assumed that these were the black and silver/white years. In fact, when I originally sent the descriptive database of all NFL uniforms to Paul Lukas at Uni Watch a couple of years ago, this color combo is what I used for Philly for these years. However, a rescrub of the Philadelphia newspapers, in particular the Inquirer, and a deeper perusal of the game reports revealed that the Birds were wearing green jerseys and not black for the 1936-40 era.
Thompson wasn't above trying new
things to find talent for his Eagles
(Vancouver Sun, 8/2/1941) 
     After the 1940 season, the Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers engaged in a very bizarre ownership swap. Art Rooney sold his Steelers to a youthful New York City millionaire, Alexis (Lex) Thompson. Rooney then bought his way into half of the Eagles from Bert Bell. Thompson actually renamed the Steelers the Ironmen. But very shortly afterward, Both Thompson and Rooney had buyer's remorse and wanted out. So, the three men agreed to re-swap their teams. Rooney was back in Pittsburgh with partner and pal Bell, and Thompson was much closer to his beloved Big Apple with the Eagles. Rooney quickly returned the Steelers name to the Pittsburgh pro club.  You can read more about this whole transaction here.
We think of Art Rooney as the Steelers'
founder that he was, but his ties to the
Eagles were not forgotten.  When he died
in 1988, the Eagles honored him with
a helmet decal memorial.
     Back to the uniforms. The two Keystone NFL teams would break out totally new uniforms replete with new color schemes. The Steelers, stunningly, would break out green jerseys in their third game of the season, at home against the New York Giants. In fact, the Steelers of 1941 bore such a striking resemblance to the 1940 Eagles that they brought back their yellow pants that they wore early in the season to replace the white pants. Meanwhile, the Eagles broke a rather wild looking (for 1941 anyway) outfit with a two-color helmet, light and dark jerseys both with contrasting side and sleeve panels, very dark pants and socks that matched the colors of the jerseys. I had assumed that the Eagles stayed with the green from 1940 and simply added silver as a trim color.
     Then, just a few months ago, I discovered a lead that I had to pursue. Heritage Sports Art, formerly Maple Leaf Productions, began to sell off the original artwork of the well-known evolutionary uniform murals that they did for so many pro and college sports teams. Just as happenstance, I thought I'd take a peek at the Eagles artwork. And honing in on the Eagles 1941 get-up, I saw the description of that uni, which said, "This jersey isn't quite as flashy as the 1934 jersey we see on this poster. The colors have changed to black and grey, and not only on the jersey, but the helmet as well."
     Woo-Hoo!! Now, can I confirm this claim?? I had to! So, in recent journeys to the Pennsylvania State Library, a rather old-fashioned ediface in Harrisburg (left), I took the task of digging through reels of microfilm of the Inquirer, from the time Lex Thompson bought the team in April till at least the early season. Alas, the search was futile. I found, apart from the paper reporting a total top to bottom overhaul, including the possible change of the team name (which never happened) to a near completely new player roster, nothing on the uniforms. Philly had at least two other papers in '41, the Bulletin and the Record. I decided to check out the Record, which closed shop in 1946. Also starting in April, I found little until PAYDIRT in a small article in the August 16th issue of the Record. The article had no writer credit, but a "Special to the RECORD" byline. The dateline was from Two Rivers, Wisconsin, when the Eagles held training camp that year. In the third paragraph came the confirmation: "Lending truth to the old bromide about fine feathers making fine birds, the Eagles appeared in their new regalia for the first time Tuesday This year's edition of the Quakers will feature black silk pants with silver stripes, gray jerseys with midnight blue numerals, black and silver helmets, and gray stockings with blue stripes."
   Coupled with the fact that Eagles also wore dark jerseys and socks with identical markings of the gray counterparts, they also wore midnight blue jerseys and socks with the silver/gray trim. The change has been made to the 1941 Eagles entry in the Gridiron Uniform Database.
   Meanwhile, this also necessitated a change to the Steelers 1941 entry. Why? Well, based on a photo that appeared in the November 10, 1941 issue of the Inquirer, I had thought the Steelers broke out their old black jerseys for an 11/9 game in Shibe Park with what I had assumed were the green clad Eagles. The actual colors would be the dark blue jerseyed Eagles against the green Steelers. Meaning that the Steelers never wore the famed black jerseys at all in 1941! Thus Bill has dropped the black jersey combo from the Steelers 1941 display.
   The legendary Art Rooney quote from 1941, "New team, new coach, new uniforms, but the same old Steelers!" most certainly was based on the Irish green-jerseyed Steelers.  Both teams would return to their more familiar hues in 1942.
   This "white whale" has now been harpooned.

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     Well, that research certainly gives us a better look into what these two teams wore in 1941 and answers the question about the Eagles in particular.

     Speaking of colors that teams have worn, I have received some feedback from comments I made yesterday about the color yellow.  Calling yellow gold did not originate with the Packers and Steelers fans of the 1960s and 1970s as I may have alluded to.  As was pointed out me, medieval tinctures (colors) of the European nobility used "Or" -- a yellow-hued color to represent gold. That is, even way back then they called the color yellow gold (my guess is for the same reasons that I said the Packers and Steelers did, became the name yellow has a negative connotation.)  I was in err to suggest that this all began recently.
     But I stand by my stance that yellow is yellow and gold is gold.  The St. Louis Rams may have changed their colors not from yellow to gold, but from "gold" to "metallic gold."  As I said you can call it whatever you want to call it.  And if the Steelers and Packers fans want to call yellow gold, they will continue to do so, I can't change that.  That's fine, we're not going to be able to stop them.  But, like I said, you can call anything by any name you want to call it.
     Packers fans, then, can call themselves the green-and-gold, and steelers are black-and-gold, that's fine, but then remember, Notre Dame would not be the blue-and-gold anymore, but rather the blue and metallic-gold.  But wouldn't it be easier just to call yellow yellow and gold gold?
     At any rate, I appreciate the feedback very much, and let's keep this discussion going.

The Packers in 1952 wearing yellow jerseys with green numbers and gold helmets against the Detroit Lions
(See, the Packers do did wear gold -- or is that bronze?!)


  1. That revised Eagles image looks like white, not gray to me. Is my monitor too bright or was it really *that* light of a shade?

    As far as the whole yellow/gold thing. I'm glad you guys are on the side of sanity rather than tradition. Referring to both colors as "gold" is just stupid and confusing, especially when you're dealing with uniform descriptions for a project like this site.

  2. Thanks, The Jeff, I should be clear, however, that the yellow/gold sentiments were just me, I don't know exactly how Tim and Bill feel about it entirely...

  3. also, yes the gray is light, compare the gray of the sock with the white of the sanitary sock below it...

  4. Rob,

    You are spot on with yellow and gold. I'm with you 100%.

  5. Yellow is yellow and gold is gold and never the twain shall meet!

  6. I guess the three of us are in agreement, then.

  7. Not really accurate to say they reswapped franchises. What happened was the Steelers moved to Philadelphia and were renamed the Eagles, and the Eagles moved to Pitsburgh and were renamed the Steelers.



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