There seem to be as many stories about how the Washington Redskins got their name as there are loyal fans. Some say its origins are racist; others contend they were named to honor the brave patriots of the Boston Tea Party who dressed up as Indians and threw bales of tea into Boston Harbor.
Here's the real story:
George Preston Marshall and M. Dorland "Larry" Doyle were a couple of playboys on the town at New York's swankiest nightclub during the '30s, El Morocco. While they were swilling champagne, New York's mayor, Jimmy Walker, walked over to their table and sat down. He bragged about the city's magnificent Giants team and invited the two to attend a football game the next day.
In no mood to argue, Marshall and Doyle agreed to the mayor's offer of a limousine ride to the Polo Grounds. With a police escort and sirens piercing the fog of their hangovers, they were whisked off.
While watching the game, a friend of Walker told them they could buy an NFL franchise for a mere $2,500. Caught up in the game's excitement,they seized the opportunity, little realizing that it would cost them a good deal more to put a team together.
Their original syndicate consisted of Marshall, Doyle, Vincent Bendix and Jay O'Brian. Marshall, owner of a chain of successful laundries in Wash-ington, was made president -- his Palace Laundries could wash the team's uniforms for free, after all. And so on July 9, 1932, the NFL awarded them a franchise.
The co-owners decided they would launch the team in Boston because they knew a judge there, and the supposition was that he could prove useful if they ever needed help with city hall. Soon thereafter Doyle, Bendix and O'Brian dropped out, leaving Marshall sole owner in their first year.
They began that year as the Boston Braves, playing at Braves Field, and using the name of the baseball team, as was the custom at other stadiums. But when Marshall moved his football Braves over to Fenway Park in 1933, the baseball Braves strenuously objected to his continuing to use the name "Braves," since they were no longer playing in Braves Field. Marshall had to change the name of his young club.
There have been stories from time to time that Marshall had Indian blood and so changed the name to the Redskins. But there is no evidence of Indian ancestry. Fact is, he chose the name because he had always been an admirer of the American Indian and because one of the team's coaches, "Lone Star" Dietz, was himself an American Indian.
Marshall organized the promotion of his team with the same savvy he used to build his laundry empire. His Palace Laundries, which provided the backing for his football hobby, were known for their aesthetic qualities, especially the color scheme of royal blue and gold, which was used in all the stores. Instead of windows stacked with bundles of laundry, all paraphernalia was concealed in the rear, and the windows were chastely decorated with a vase filled with gold leaves, flowers or wheat sprays, depending on the season.
Marshall's approach to promoting the Redskins was to organize a 100-piece band, dressed in maroon and khaki and feathered headdresses. The band was made up of talented musicians who played for the privilege of seeing the game. This beat the ticket price of $1.50 per game, $9 per season of six games.
In Boston, the fans were considerably less enthusiastic about their pro football team. Content to watch Harvard do battle with the other Ivy League teams, attendance was weak, and the Boston Redskins began losing money, despite winning the league championship. On the advice of Marshall's wife, who sensed that Washingtonians, many of them displaced residents from around the country, would prove better fans, the team was moved to the nation's capital, and so became the Washington Redskins.
Another of Marshall's pioneering efforts was the first NFL team fight song. With music by Barnee Breeskin and lyrics by his wife, Corinne, "Hail to the Redskins" was born and continues to rally the fans' spirit for their brave football warriors.
These are the incidents that fulfilled the destiny of George Preston Marshall to make the Redskins the true "Sons of Washington." -- Jordan Harrison Price is the granddaughter of the late George Preston Marshall and lives in Alexandria.