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History Class Tours Football Factory

Wilson Football Factory Tour

On Nov. 12, 2008, Dr. Russ Crawford's Football in American Culture class (HIST 462) visited the Wilson Football Factory in Ada, Ohio.

The students had the opportunity to see how the footballs are made, and learned that all of the NFL's balls, as well as 50 percent of Division I and 70-80 percent of Division III balls, are made here in Ada.

Crawford, assistant professor of history, said that, "The students enjoyed seeing how footballs are made, and were surprised at how hard the work was, and how fast everyone there worked."

The Wilson factory turns out between 4000 and 5000 footballs per day, Monday through Friday, during peak season (January to September). The factory opened in 1938 as a way of using the hides that were a byproduct of the parent company's meat packing efforts. The factory was named after an employee of the original company who oversaw the construction of the sporting equipment division.

The trip to the football factory was just one of the highlights of Crawford's class. The class also went on a field trip to the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in October, and had guest speakers from the Ada Dark Knights (a local semi-professional team) and Bowling Green State University.

The goal of the special topics class was "to package history in a popular form," Crawford said.

"I wanted to explore how American history affected football, and how football affected American culture," he said. "Sport is a good reflector in many ways of what is happening in the larger culture and history of the nation, and, in some cases, the world."

Crawford hopes to offer the Football in American Culture class again in the future, perhaps as a sequence along with 20th Century American Sport History and Baseball in American Culture, both of which he has taught in the past.