Browse Exhibits (23 total)

For Championships and Ratings: The Rise of the NFL in the Television Era


The National Football League, professional sports powerhouse, billion-dollar business, and American cultural phenomenon, traces its roots to humble origins. Founded in 1920 in Canton, Ohio, the league's early days were were marked by instability and turnover. A blue-collar league for a blue-collar sport, the NFL would see rapid expansion and contraction as haphazard franchises emerged and folded with regularity across the coal towns and industrial cities of the Midwest. Pro football was a hardscrabble, gritty game for the working class, much removed from the pageantry and tradition of the Ivy League and other prominent collegiate programs. Even greater than the college game, however, was professional baseball. America's pasttime was the colossus of sports in the first half of the 20th Century, dwarfing the NFL and all other sport leagues. Pro football, it seemed, was destined to be little more than a niche sport.

In the years after World War II, however, the status quo would begin to shift. The suburbanization of middle-class America in the postwar boom began a slow erosion of the fanbases of the urban, mostly Northeastern based baseball leagues. At the same time the rapid rise of home television ownership forever changed the entertainment and leisure time habits of millions of Americans. It is television, and the market for live, regional and national broadcasts of sporting events it created, that had the single greatest impact on the growth of the NFL from national afterthought to national sensation in the little more than twenty years from 1958-1980.

This archive will highlight the important people and events that helped create the highly succesful marriage of pro football and television through an examination of different historical documents across a variety of media.

First, the 1958 NFL Championship game, often referred to as the "The greatest game ever played" will be examined. This game, in which the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants, served as a sort of coming out party for the NFL, as the thrilling game introduced millions of potential new fans to professional football on national television for the first time.

Next, no man was more responsible for the symbiotic relationship of television and the NFL than Pete Rozelle. The quintessential ad man led the league as commissioner through its most dynamic and formative time of the modern era, negotiating anti-trust laws, network contracts, rival leagues, and work stoppages during his almost thirty year tenure which saw the NFL rise from sideshow to headliner in American sports.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to the football hegemony staked out by Rozelle and the NFL came from the fledgling American Football League. The rival league, formed by scorned potential owners of NFL franchises, could not match the NFL's strength, but through some deep investors pockets and smart TV negotiating, the league grew into a credible alternative to the NFL, sparking bidding wars between the two leagues. in 1967 compromise was reached with the merging of the two leagues under the NFL brand and the creation of a joint championship, eventually dubbed the Super Bowl. 

It was TV money that had fueled the bidding wars between the AFL and NFL. In 1962, taking advantage of its newly bestowed anti-trust exemption, the NFL reached a two year deal with CBS for exclusive broadcast rights for $9 million. in 1964, two years later, CBS was forced to triple that bid to keep its coveted broadcast rights as the NFL surpassed bseball and became the preeminent sports business.This deal, and other important TV moments, is discussed in the fourth section The NFL: Coming to a Television Set Near You. 

With big money comes big spectacle. The first Super Bowl was played in 1967, three years later Monday Night Football, with its multitude of camera angles, personalities, and built-in narrative drama made its debut on ABC. These NFL events became more than just football games, they were mainstream entertainment, cultural holidays irrevocably linking America with the gridiron. 

The section titled Conclusion will help draw all these themes together and show how it was possible for the NFL to use TV to become the nation's most popular and powerful sports league. Finally, the last section Further Readings will give a list of secondary sources consulted in addition to the primary exhibit pieces placed throughout the pages of this archive. Each secondary source is annotated with a brief description of its main point and what was drawn from it for the creation of this exhibit. 

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Photojournalism in the Vietnam War

The United States’ war in Vietnam has been called “the living room war” due to the conflict’s unprecedented level of press coverage. For the first time in American military history journalists were given near unlimited access to combat zones in which American servicemen were fighting and dying. The result of this relatively unbridled access is a plethora of documentary evidence of the Vietnam conflict and its many facets. Furthermore, journalistic enterprise and ubiquity during the Vietnam conflict had a more profound impact on popular opinion than during any previous engagement. More specifically, photojournalism emerged during the conflict as both a popular and poignant medium for portraying the war’s effects. The importance of photojournalism during the Vietnam conflict is reflected in the lasting impact its most renowned photographs, such as Accidental Napalm Strike, have had on the American psyche. 

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Music Propels the Counterculture



The counterculture movement of the 1960’s became largely about breaking the rules and making a change to better the future of Americans. This movement, more commonly known as the hippie movement, was much more widespread and arguably, more successful than its previous counterparts. This is because of its unique origins rooted in the prosperity of the 1950's and because this counterculture infiltrated every aspect of American culture through various parts of popular culture, specifically music. As music spread the ideas and appearances of the hippies, the counterculture affected music as well. This can be seen through the evolution of two mainstream rock and roll bands, The Beach Boys and the Beatles, from 1962-1969. Through an examination of changes in topics, lyrics, instrumentation, and styles of each band, one can see the great and lasting affects of the hippies on American culture.  



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Desegregation at Private Universities in the South

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Private universities in the South desegregated because of money, and national prestige.  Faculty anger concerning segregation and student support of integration brought attention to the issue, but this did not change the mind of the board.  At this time the government is just starting to fund research at private universities.  The military industrial complex is starting in the wake of WWII and the Manhattan Project.  Northern philanthropic groups were less and less likely to fund institutions that supported segregation.  The board of trustees at these institutions acted as anchors slowing down the process of integration, and in the process costing the school national prestige and federal funds.  This exhibit will look at the two leading private universities in the South, and compare the ways in which Vanderbilt and Duke went about the process of integration.  Vanderbilt was a leader in terms of desegregating private education in the South.  Chancellor Harvie Branscomb recognized that he could use integration to increase funding at Vanderbilt, and to increase its national reputation.  Duke was already well known nationally, and it did not need to attract the funds that Vanderbilt needed.  Duke lost much national prominence during this era, and was no longer seen as the leading private university in the south.  As one alumnus put it Duke wanted to be a leader nationally while it held up the values of a region.   These were both private universities, which had graduate programs, located in segregated cities, and they had to deal with the same protests.  This exhibit will look at how the presidents interacted with the boards of trustees during this era, why they integrated, the schools reaction to the non violence movement in their city, and the thoughts and feelings of the first black undergraduate students at these universities. 

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Basketball, Race, and the Road to Acceptance


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On March 23, 1963 Loyola University Chicago's men's basketball team defeated the University of Cincinnati 60-58 to win the program's first national championship title. The game not only marked an institutional milestone, but it also signified a huge step toward integration on the basketball court. Loyola started four black players, an unprecedented move in collegiate basketball. Cincinnati started three, which meant that this national championship game would be the first ever where the majority of starters were black. However, in the scope of civil rights history another game trumps the Loyola-Cincinatti match-up in importance.

Just eight days before the national championship game, Loyola had faced a team with a much different background and look. It was the first time that team had competed in the NCAA post-season tournament, but not because they had never been qualified. It was a team bound by an “unwritten law” that prevented them from playing integrated teams. It was a team that had broken all of the rules to enter that NCAA tournament.

That team was the Mississippi State University Maroons.

Defying state authorities, the MSU coaches and players slipped out of the state in an elaborate plan to avoid a state injunction that would have prevent them from leaving Mississippi for the game. At the time, the Maroons were ranked sixth in the nation and had been forced to sit out the playoffs three times before. However, in 1963 MSU Coach James “Babe” McCarthy and school President Dean Colvard decided they would enter the tournament regardless of the racial make-up of opposing teams.

The decision that MSU made to play Loyola set a new precedent for previously segregated and racist basketball programs. In 1966, Texas Western started five black players in a national championship game against the University of Kentucky. It was the first time a national champion team had five black starters. Without the courage of the MSU basketball program and the success of Loyola in 1963 it may not have been acceptable, or even possible, in public view.

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Dropping Out: Intentional Communities of the Counterculture


Inspired by the rallying cry of the counterculture to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," many young men and women left tradiitonal society during the 1960s in favor of a great unknown within an intentional community. These intentional communities, or communes, have a long history but found their heyday in the hearts of the hippies. Such communities bred their own culture, inspired by the counterculture at large and yet, utterly unique in their daily life, values and social structures. This exhibit opens with a brief examination of both the history of the counterculture and intentional communities themselves in order to better contextualize the primary focus on life in the 1960s hippie commune. Use the following pages to familiarize yourself with major themes of the counterculture, hippie living, communes today, and more. 

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The Washington D.C. Uprisings of 1968

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Following the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4th, 1968, uprisings broke out in a number of neighborhoods in Washington D.C. Over 20,000 people protested over the course of twelve days causing significant damage along the U and 14th Street corridor, 7th Street and H Street. The civil unrest led to the deployment of 13,600 Federal troops, the largest military occupation of a United States city since the Civil War. The riots lasted for twelve days and caused over $27 million in damage. Neighborhoods that experience damage from the insurgencies did not recover fully for decades and the uprisings gave implications of the inequality and segregation plaguing metropolitan areas in the United States during the 1960s.

Reinforcement of Gender Roles in 1950s Popular Culture

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The 1950s saw a growing emphasis on traditional family values, and by extension, gender roles. With the growing popularity of the television and the importance of consumer culture in the 1950s, televised sitcoms and printed advertisements were the perfect way to reinforce existing gender norms to keep the family at the center of American society. 

Don't Miss Amerika! The 1968 Miss America Protests


The 60s were a time of rampant political protest.  Men and women joined radical groups fighting against racism, the Vietnam war, and more.  Women noticed a trend, however.  Men saw them more as sexual playthings that could cook and clean than as people able and willing to help fight for positive change.  

In response, some radical women decided to launch their own movement: the women's liberation movement. 

Organized by Robin Morgan, these women decided to protest the Miss America Pageant in 1968.  The successful protest brought women's liberation to the homes of millions of Americans across the country.  

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New Frontiers for Business and Pleasure: Commercial Aviation Since World War II

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Aviation is a mutil-billion dollar industry at the heart of many Americans' plans for work and leisure.  This exhibit uses popular medica to trace the development of this industry after World War II, during which time domestic and international markets expanded rapidly.

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