Who Made That Redskins Logo?

Sherry L. Smith, Dedman Family Distinguished Professor of History and associate director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at SMU, talks about the origin of the Washington Redskins logo.


When the newly formed Boston Redskins traveled to Chicago’s Soldier Field to play the Bears on Oct. 1, 1933, the visiting players were barely recognizable. The owner, George Preston Marshall, ordered team members to smear themselves with face paint before going out onto the field. His was the first pro-sports team to co-opt an American Indian identity with such fervor: The Redskins’ halftime band marched in tribal regalia; the coach wore feathers on the sideline; and Marshall had an Indian-head logo printed across the center of their uniforms.

Interest in American Indian culture spiked in the 1930s, says Sherry L. Smith, a historian at Southern Methodist University, but Indian iconography was already widely used. From 1859 until 1909, U.S. pennies showed an Indian face in profile, with a feathered headdress and a straight nose; Indian gold pieces and buffalo nickels with less-European-looking faces followed. The Redskins logo resembled these designs.

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