Army Navy Football Games - Three Centuries of Program Covers

20th Jan 2022

The Army Navy game is one of the country's classic rivalries: "America's Game," a natural rivalry that started in 1890. Our interest is in the programs put together to memorialize each game and there are programs from three centuries to collect and celebrate, beginning in 1899.

The West Point and Naval Academy teams are rich with football history and some of the greatest commanders our country has ever seen have played on the gridiron. Douglas MacArthur managed the 1903 Army team. Dwight D. Eisenhower played half-back for Army. WiIlliam (Bull) Halsey was a fullback on the 1902 and 1903 Navy teams. Army teams have had three Heisman trophy winners on them: Doc Blanchard (1945), Glenn Davis (1946), and Pete Dawkins (1958). Navy teams have had two Heisman winners: Joe Bellino (1960) and Roger Staubach (1963).

Army Navy programs were also blessed with talented and sometimes famous Illustrators including Gib Crockett, Howard Chandler Christy, and Percy Crosby.

Programs from the 1930s are rare and those from the 1920s and earlier are very rare, especially those from the 1890s or early 1900s. Games played at the Polo Grounds are also highly collectible as is the 1926 game played at Soldier Field in Chicago. The heyday of the programs are those from the 1940s and 1950s with the classic Americana imagery done by Gib Crockett.

The 1890s

The first Army-Navy game was played in 1890 at West Point and the second in 1891 at Annapolis. The teams met again in 1892 (West Point) and 1893 (Annapolis). There were no games played between 1894 and 1898, and there is no record of programs existing for those early games in 1890, 1891, 1892, and 1893, which is not to say they don't exist, because you never know. The 1899 game played at Franklin Field in Philadelphia was the fifth meeting in the rivalry and the first game not played at either Annapolis or West Point. The 1899 program is the first known Army-Navy program. It is a simple piece of light cardboard folded over. Inside is the roster for each team (the Naval Academy had 19 total players and the Military Academy had 24). The back page of the program is an advertisement for Marshall E. Smith & Bros., Athletic Goods and Men's Furnishings, 1020 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.

Attendance to the 1899 game required an invitation, as seen below, issued by the University of Philadelphia, which owns Franklin Field. 25,000 people attended. Three quarters of all Army-Navy games have been played in Philadelphia, which is a neutral site, equidistant between West Point, NY and Annapolis, MD.


                   1899                                                        An invitation to the 1899 Army-Navy Game

The 1900s

The programs for the games played at Franklin Field in Philadelphia are also simple fold out cards with four pages, but they are really just one piece of sturdy paper folded in half. There were games played from 1900-1908, although we only found program specimens for 1903, 1906, and 1907. The game in 1909 was cancelled when Army suspended their season after one of their players, Eugene Byrne, died from injuries sustained while playing Harvard. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to attend an Army-Navy game, in 1901, a tradition that continues to this day. Attendance at the 1901 game was also by invitation only.


                       1903                                                               1906                                                        1907

The 1910s

The record books say that the games in 1913 and 1916 were played at the Polo Grounds in New York. The program covers from those two years, however, say "Brush Stadium" on them. The Polo Grounds was for a short time named Brush Stadium, after the New York Giants owner John Brush. The Brush name for the stadium was unpopular so it revered back to the Polo Grounds, but these programs represent a rare piece of stadium history.

There were no games played in 1917 and 1918 due to the First World War. Although we aren't displaying programs for 1910, 1911, 1912, 1914 and 1915, they do exist, but are very rare.


                      1913                                                    1916                                                            1919                                        

The 1920s

Notice the same format to the programs from 1913 and 1916 to those played at the Polo Grounds in the 1920s. The four games played at the Polo Grounds in New York all have very similar covers: 1921, 1923, 1925, and 1927. The 1924 Army-Navy Game was played at Soldier Field in Chicago, and it was the official opening game to dedicate the stadium. It was a classic game ending in a 21-21 tie before a record crowd of 115,000. There were no games played in 1928 or 1929 and thus no programs. The games were not played those two years because the two schools differed over the eligibility standards for their players.


                    1920                                                            1921                                                          1922 


                    1923                                                          1924                                                            1925


                   1926                                                            1927                                                   1928,1929 - No game played

The 1930s

Program covers in the 1930s were done by some well known artists. Howard Chandler Christy was an American artist famous for the “Christy Girl,” similar to a “Gibson Girl”. He designed the Army-Navy Programs in 1936 and 1938. He painted the Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, a famous work he created in 1940. It hangs in the east stairway in the House of Representatives wing of the Capitol building.

The 1931 program contains an article written by John Heisman titled Makers of Modern Football. Ticket proceeds of the 1931 game went for the benefit of unemployment relief.


                    1930                                                           1931                                                             1932


                 1933                                                             1934                                                             1935


                                                                1936, A Howard Chandler Christy cover


                       1937                                                        1938                                                           1939

The 1940s

The 1940s had the most war oriented imagery on the covers than any decade, for obvious reasons. Amazingly, since World War II was raging, Army-Navy games were played every year during the decade. Franklin Roosevelt ordered that the game should continue during the war to help boost morale, but under special circumstances. Only those that lived within 10 miles of the host academy could attend and that half of each student body had to cheer for the opposition.

The 1940 Army Navy program was designed by Percy Crosby. Crosby is best known for his cartoon character Skippy, who is featured on the cover. Skippy and Crosby were honored with a US postage stamp, issued in 1997. 

Inside the 1941 program there is a nice black and white image of the U.S.S. Arizona which would tragically be sunk at Pearl Harbor less than two weeks after the game was played.

1944 saw Gib Crockett design his first program cover. Crockett was a sports cartoonist for the Washington Evening Star. His full name was Gibson Milton Crockett and he was a descendant of Davy Crockett. He illustrated Army-Navy covers for over forty years, between 1944 and 1984, an amazing feat. During Crockett's era the theme of each year’s Army-Navy program was decided each summer in an editorial conference. In addition to sports and political cartoons Crockett also did illustrations for various governmental agencies including the Treasury and Defense Departments. He often gave his original drawings for the program covers to government officials.

The 1945 program is one of the most iconic with its combined V. E. and V.J. Day theme.


1940 Army-Navy program with a Percy Crosby cover 


                     1941                                                               1942                                                           1943



                     1944                                                                1945                                                            1946


                      1947                                                             1948                                                            1949

The 1950s

The 1950s featured some of the best covers of all time. The 1950 cover showed the new innovation of television, which allowed football to be viewed at home. Army-Navy games have been broadcast on TV since 1945. The 1953 cover has one of the best all time illustrations, with an anxious fan practicing in his living room. The 1956 cover shows an enthusiastic fan at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station trying to take a piece of the goal post from the game onto the train where he is stopped by a ticket taker. Crockett often used relatives, friends, and acquaintances as models for the individuals portrayed on the program covers. Gib's father-in-law, Pearl Abbott, was the model for the bemused spectator coming up from the train platform below. The porter is modeled after one that worked at Union Station in Washington D.C. The 1959 program's theme was the "Space Age."


                   1950                                                                    1951                                                         1952


            One of the best covers ever: 1953


                          1954                                                                  1955                                                  1956


                        1957                                                1958, Alaska Statehood                                   1959         

The 1960s

The covers of Army-Navy programs in the 1960s featured largely patriotic themes and images that Norman Rockwell would have been comfortable with. The 1962-1964 programs have Roger Staubach a Midshipman and the 1965 program had a lengthy article titled Academy Athletes in the Space Age and highlights Buzz Aldrin, Frank Borman, and Alan Shepard. The 1960 cover is classic Gib Crockett and shows William Penn (who adorns the top of the Philadelphia City Hall) watching the game with binoculars from atop his perch. The covers for both 1961 and 1967 feature football heads.        


                        1960                                                                1961                                                     1962


                      1963                                                             1964                                                           1965

The 1966 cover features Uncle Sam


                              1967                                                                   1968                                                  1969

The 1970s

1971 also featured one of the all-time best covers, with two young boys arguing about football and a young girl holding the ball hostage because she wants to join in. 1974 represented the 75th meeting between the two teams. The 1975 program's theme honored the bicentennial of the founding of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps in 1775. The cover illustration shows a "Minuteman Quarterback."


                             1970                                                              1971                                                      1972


                           1973                                                               1974                                                       1975

The 1976 program celebrated the nation's bicentennial


                             1977                                                                 1978                                                       1979

The 1978 program contains an article titled Unsung Heroes of the Service Classic, and it is very enlightening. The first unsung hero is Dennis Michie, who was instrumental in the formation of the team at West Point and he played in the first Army-Navy game. The second unsung hero was Fred McNair, a Navy Midshipman. The War and Navy Departments ordered the Army-Navy games stopped in 1893 when high-ranking officers (a brigadier general and a rear admiral) from each branch became so heated about the merits of their respective teams that they challenged each other to a duel. McNair lobbied his father, a Navy Admiral, and after some cajoling the series continued. Army's quarterback in 1922, George W. Smythe, was an all around athlete; he also served as a holder for the team's kicker, and he blocked, caught passes and returned punts.

The 1980s

The 1982 program again featured William Penn atop Philadelphia's City Hall, leaving a note that he'll be back after the game.The 1983 game was held in Pasadena, California, the first game not played in Philadelphia since 1945.1984 also saw the retirement of Gib Crockett after 41 years, the cover pictures his easel with the words, "I Give Up," on it.  The 1998 program cover features a quote from William Penn, "No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself."


                               1980                                                             1981                                                         1982        


                            1983                                                               1984                                                           1985




                                1987                                                           1988                                                           1989

The 1990s

The 1990s saw the emergence of photographs used on the cover, replacing illustrations, and clearly some of the charm of the programs was lost. 1999 was the 100th meeting of Army and Navy and its cover shows a small image of the 1957 program. The 1990 program also has a collection of vintage Army-Navy programs mixed among the football helmets.


                           1990                                                                  1991                                                          1992


                         1993                                                                      1994                                                           1995


                           1996                                                        1997                                                      1998


        1999, the 100th Game

The 2000s

The 2000 program cover, for a game played in Baltimore, included throwback images from the 1924 and 1944 programs, which were the two prior times the game was played in Baltimore. 2009 was the first time a program cover was marred with a sponsor's name on it. Boo.


                       2000                                                                  2001                                                            2002


                      2003                                                                  2004                                                           2005


                      2006                                                                2007                                                            2008



The 2010s

The 2010s feature relatively unimaginative covers, often with the captains of the two teams pictured.


                            2010                                                                2011                                                         2012


                              2013                                                               2014                                                    2015




                             2017                                                            2018                                                       2019

The 2020s

The 2021 program commemorated the 10 year anniversary of the cowardly September 11, 2011 attacks.



                                2020                                                           2021

If you have any program covers that we are missing please contact us as we would love to add them so we can display a complete collection.


1. The 1906 and 1916 programs are courtesy of the Special Collections & Archives Department, Nimitz Library, United States Naval Academy.

2. The 1921 program courtesy of Worthpoint.

3. The Brush Stadium background and references come from

4. The 1899 and 1907 programs are courtsey of Huggins and Scott Auctions.

5. It is commonly cited that the 1926 game at Soldier Field had attendance of 110,000, although a lengthy article about the history of the rivalry in the centennial 1999 program says there was 115,000.