The Tonawanda Kardex (also known as the Tonawanda Lumbermen and, during its first season, the All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks) was an American football team active between 1916 and 1921. They played their games in the City of Tonawanda, New York, a suburb of Buffalo with close ties to North Tonawanda, New York where American Kardex was founded. The team is most notable for their one game as a member of the National Football League, the shortest lived team in the league's history.
The Tonawanda began playing games in 1916 as the All-Tonawanda All-Stars. They played their home games on the Tonawanda High School field, sometimes drawing up to 3,500 fans for a game. For the team's entire history, they were coached by Syracuse standout Walter "Tam" Rose. In 1917, they defeated the Rochester Jeffersons for the state championship. In 1919, they made the state playoffs, but lost in the semifinals to the Buffalo Prospects, who went on to win the title.
The 1920 All Tonawanda Lumberjacks were a very successful team, garnering a record of 7-1 against two local American Professional Football Association (the predecessor to the NFL) franchises and other independent teams, only allowing more than 6 points in one of their contests (the one loss, a 35-0 decision to Buffalo). Their last game of the season against the Rochester Jeffersons was among the first Thanksgiving Classics.
Tonawanda in the NFLEdit
With their 1920 success (and a crackdown by the NFL on playing non-league teams), the Lumberjacks joined the league in 1921 as the Tonawanda Lumbermen or Tonawanda Kardex, named for (and presumably sponsored by) the office supply company of the same name, still in business today.
Prior to 1921, the team played its home games at Tonawanda High School; however, their lone game in the NFL was an away game, and according to contemporary news reports, the team had intended to play as a traveling team had it continued beyond one game. NFL records list the nonexistent and spurious "Lumbermen Stadium" as the team's home field.
The 1921 season began much like the first, with a 0-0 tie against the Syracuse Pros, followed by a 9-7 win against the Cleveland Panthers. A game against the Rochester Scalpers scheduled for November was canceled; instead, on November 6, 1921, the Kardex traveled to Rochester to face the Rochester Jeffersons, where they played their worst game in existence—a 45-0 blowout loss to the Jeffs in front of 2,700 fans.
Considering that Syracuse and Rochester were two teams that Tonawanda had beaten handily in 1920, team management realized that the team was no longer fit to play at the top level that would be required of the top professional league in the United States, and so the Lumbermen folded. However records from the Pro Football Researchers Association indicate that Tonawanda had trouble scheduling games due to a lack of opponents. The NFL's franchise fee for 1922 also increased from $50 to $1,000, making it harder for Tonawanda play a second season in the league.
Whether or not the team continued to exist is somewhat unclear. Records from 1925 show that the Buffalo Football Bisons played an exhibition game against a team from Tonawanda prior to the 1925 regular season, but it's not known if it's the same Tonawanda team as the APFA/NYPFL franchise.
The "Lumberjacks" name is currently in use by North Tonawanda High School.
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