Art of Football
Football Program Cover Art, The Chicago Game, 1893-1905

From 1893 to 1905, the University of Chicago game, often played on Thanksgiving Day, was the big game of the year for both schools. Originally proposed by the U of M Alumni Club of Chicago, the game was played in Chicago from 1893 to 1898. After a break in the series in 1899, the game alternated between Chicago and Ann Arbor.

The games in Chicago soon became a major event on the social calendar of the city's fashionable crowd. It was also a significant football event. The game frequently decided the mythical "Western Championship" as well as the actual Western Conference (later known as the Big Ten) title. Michigan's win in 1898 earned the Wolverines their first conference title and inspired Louis Elbel to write "The Victors," Michigan's world-famous fight song.

By 1895 the Chicago programs included all the elements of a modern program: an attractively designed cover, team and individual photos, statistics, and lots of advertising. The football shaped design would be repeated several times, including a home game against the Carlisle Indians in 1902.

The 1897 program was printed by the University of Chicago Press with cover art by the Illinois Engraving Company. The Michigan banners on the front and back covers more closely reflect the "official" maize and blue colors of the university than does the darker blue and bright yellow now associated with the football team.  As early as the mid-1890s the varsity lettermen's sweaters were dark blue. Fans, however, were still waving the pale blue pennants at least as late as 1910.

Chicago prevailed in the 1900 game, giving the Maroon a 5-4 advantage in the series. Things would change the following year. Not only was the game played in Ann Arbor for the first time, new coach Fielding Yost would start the Wolverines on the way to four consecutive victories by a combined score of 93-12.

Going into the final game of the 1905 season, the Wolverines had posted a 56-0-1 record under Yost. They had won four consecutive Western Conference championships and had been named national champions by various experts in each of Yost's seasons.

Led by the great Walter Eckersall, Chicago ended the "point-a-minute" teams' unbeaten streak with a 2-0 victory to deprive Michigan of another conference title. The game also marked a break in the series, which was not resumed until 1918.

1895 Chicago
1895 Chicago game


1897 Chicago
1897 Chicago game, front cover

1897 Chicago back cover
1897 Chicago game, back cover


1900 Chicago

1900 Chicago game


1905 Chicago

1905 Chicago game

The bitter rivalry between Yost and Chicago coach Amos Alonzo Stagg was one of the factors surrounding the controversy over eligibility and training rules that led Michigan to leave the conference in 1907. By the time Michigan returned to conference in 1918, Chicago had begun to de-emphasize football and the rivalry never reached its former level. The Wolverines went 10-2 against the Maroon before Chicago dropped football after the 1939 season.