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Halas and Staleys 1956

George Halas speaks at Wrigley Field with, from left, A. Rollin Staley and A.E. Staley Jr. in 1956. Founders of the team were honored. 

Football season is back. Local teams are on the field. And the Chicago Bears — the Decatur-born Bears, I should add — are ready to return for a 100th season.

Today, I'm excited about a new Herald & Review multimedia feature exploring the local roots of the legendary franchise. "Decatur's Birth of the Bears" is available to Herald & Review members right now at herald-review.com and on our app. 

It was a lot of fun searching our archives for photos and clips about the Decatur Staleys and the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co. Another resource was newspapers.com, which has all of our pages going back well over a century. (Shameless plug: Herald & Review members get discounts to newspapers.com, too.) 

Staley envisioned a football team for workers of his burgeoning food starch business. My favorite clip is from a Decatur Herald columnist in 1920 about Staley recruiting George Halas, an Illini standout who would have a huge influence on the National Football League. He was part of the Bears in various capacities for 64 years. 

But first he was a Staley employee. Halas, the columnist wrote back then, “is learning the starch business and started in at the bottom, hoping to work his way up and into a good position.”

Fair to say Halas did well for himself.

Our digital interactive includes a timeline, quiz and a look at the original Staley Starch Makers, which incredibly had five future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame​ in Canton, Ohio. Those early photos showed jerseys with almost no padding, let alone helmets.

Halas moved the team to Chicago in 1921, but Decatur will always be recognized as one of the 13 "original towns" of the NFL, also celebrating 100 years in 2019. The Bears had a fantastic event this summer in Decatur and donated to local youth football leagues. And of course, the team mascot, Staley Da Bear, is a nod to Decatur's continuing influence.

Mabry_Corey 7.21.19.JPG

Corey Mabry, left to right, Symone Mabry and Kinsley Mabry get a photo taken with Staley Da Bear on July 21 during a "Return to Decatur" at the Decatur Civic Center to celebrate the team's origins as part of the centennial season.

It all started here.

We're also planning more coverage about the Bears' anniversary and how it started.

Hope you like our new project. 

And thanks for reading.


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Chris Coates is the Central Illinois editor. Contact him at (217) 421-8905. Follow him on Twitter: @ByChrisCoates

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