The first night time NFL football game was played on November 6, 1929 under newly installed floodlights at Kinsley Park Stadium in Providence, Rhode Island. That evening, the Chicago Cardinals defeated the Providence Steamrollers 16-0 in front of an estimated 6,000 spectators. According to newspaper accounts, the footballs used in the game were painted white to aid in visibility. By 1932, as night games became more prevalent, manufacturers began producing painted footballs and footballs manufactured out of white leathers.
Our March 2017 Artifact of the Month is one of the earliest known examples of a night football, a circa 1932 Wilson Collegiate FBAW Houston, Texas high school trophy ball. The ball bears the score of a game played between two Houston high schools, the John H. Reagan Bulldogs and the Charles H. Milby Buffs on November 2, 1933. The ball also includes the names of each teams starting eleven, their coaches, and the game officials.
Constructed in 1926, John Reagan High School was renovated and renamed Heights High School in 2016. Also founded in 1926, the original Charles H. Milby High School was torn down in 2014 to make way for new school campus buildings.
Nowhere in the country are high school football fans more passionate than in the state of Texas. Night games under the lights are community events attended by tens of thousands of fans. Although the Reagan-Milby game took place on a Thursday rather than a Friday night, the ball is an incredible relic from the early days of Texas high school football.
According to the 1932 Wilson advertisement, the "pearl elk hide" white FBAW ball could be differentiated from other manufacturers balls that were "merely painted white." The FBAW featured a recessed, rubber-encased valve that was protected by a leather dust cap which is remarkably still intact on this example.
Reagan & Milby
Football Advertisement, 1933 Wilson Fall & Winter Catalog