The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league’s National Football Conference (NFC) North division. The Bears have won nine NFL Championships, including one Super Bowl, and hold the NFL record for the most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the most retired jersey numbers. The Chicago Bears have also recorded more victories than any other NFL franchise.
The franchise was founded in Decatur, Illinois, in 1919, and moved to Chicago in 1921. It is one of only two remaining franchises from the NFL’s founding in 1920, along with the Arizona Cardinals, which was originally also in Chicago. The team played home games at Wrigley Field on Chicago’s North Side through the 1970 season; they now play at Soldier Field on the Near South Side, next to Lake Michigan. The Bears have a long-standing rivalry with the Green Bay Packers.
The team headquarters, Halas Hall, is in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois. The Chicago Bears practice at adjoining facilities there during the season. Since 2002, the Bears have held their annual training camp, from late July to mid-August, at Ward Field on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
In March of 1920 a man telephoned me … George Chamberlain and he was general superintendent of the A.E. Staley Company … In 1919, [the company’s Fellowship Club] had formed a football team. It had done well against other local teams but Mr. Staley wanted to build it into a team that could compete successfully with the best semi-professional and industrial teams in the country … Mr. Chamberlain asked if I would like to come to Decatur and work for the Staley Company. George Halas, in his book Halas by Halas. The team’s founder George Halas (right) with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle
Originally named the Decatur Staleys, the club was established by the A. E. Staley food starch company of Decatur, Illinois in 1919 as a company team. This was the typical start for several early professional football franchises. The company hired George Halas and Edward “Dutch” Sternaman in 1920 to run the team. The 1920 Decatur Staleys season was their inaugural regular season completed in the newly formed American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League (NFL) in 1922). Full control of the team was turned over to Halas and Sternaman in 1921. Official team and league records cite Halas as the founder as he took over the team in 1920 when it became a charter member of the NFL.
The team relocated to Chicago in 1921, where the club was renamed the Chicago Staleys. Under an agreement reached by Halas and Sternaman with Staley, Halas purchased the rights to the club from Staley for US$100. In 1922, Halas changed the team name from the Staleys to the Bears. The team moved into Wrigley Field, which was home to the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise. As with several early NFL franchises, the Bears derived their nickname from their city’s baseball team (some directly, some indirectly – like the Bears, whose young are called “cubs”). Halas liked the bright orange-and-blue colors of his alma mater, the University of Illinois, and the Bears adopted those colors as their own, albeit in a darker shade of each (the blue is Pantone 5395, navy blue, and the orange is Pantone 1665, similar to burnt orange).
The team’s official mascot, Staley Da Bear, made his debut at Soldier Field in 2003. He is named after A.E. Staley, the team’s founder.