September 7, 1926: NFL’s first training camp begins at Two Harbors

On this day up the shore in 1926, the NFL’s newest franchise—the Duluth Eskimos—kicked off the league’s first preseason training camp in Two Harbors. According to Chuck Frederick’s Leatherheads of the North, camp headquarters were established at Hotel Agate in Two Harbors and in the American Legion hall in the hotel’s basement. The hotel, at First Street and Waterfront Drive, later became an apartment building known as Agate Manor. As many as twenty prospective players reported to Duluth’s Spalding Hotel at 8 a.m., Monday, September 5, 1926, and then took a bus to Two Harbors. Each day of camp started with a three-mile run or hike and then a hearty early morning breakfast. The meal proved heartier for some players than others. Lineman Oke Carlson reportedly downed twenty-four eggs one morning—and then chased them with a slab of steak. Morning drills started at 8:30 a.m. at the athletic field in Two Harbors named for Horace Johnson, president of the Duluth and Iron Range Railway from 1926 to 1930. Morning practices ended around 11 a.m., followed by lunch, and then afternoon practices ran from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. After dinner, the players gathered in makeshift classrooms to diagram, study, and learn plays. Practices were held twice a day “to get the players on edge.” The only player not in camp that first day was the team’s star, Ernie Nevers, who had been delayed while traveling north from St. Louis, where he had spent the summer playing for baseball’s St. Louis Browns. Learn more about the legendary Duluth Eskimos here.

Walter “Chet” Gayer leaps over a would-be tackler at the 1926 Duluth Eskimos training camp in Two Harbors, Minnesota—the first training camp ever held for an NFL team. (Image: Zenith City Press)