Food Connection: Chicago Bears Recall Life as the Decatur Staleys

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Jul 22, 2019

Whether or not you're a Chicago Bears fan, you gotta respect an organization that has survived 100 years and won many championships. This past weekend, the Bears kicked off their 100th season with a return to Decatur, Ill., where they began life as the Decatur Staleys.

The latter name acknowledged the group's origin as an all-employee team created for fun by food starch company A.E. Staley Co., which was acquired in 1988-2000 by Tate & Lyle Plc.

George Halas, who went on to become one of the founders of the National Football League, was hired by the Staley company as player-coach and helped create the team in 1920.

Feeling they were onto something, the heads of 13 similar company teams met in Canton, Ohio, on Sept. 17, 1920, and created a league, the American Professional Football Assn., which changed its name to National Football League in 1922.

After just one season in the cornfields of Decatur, the team moved to Chicago, where it was known as the Chicago Staleys before being renamed the Chicago Bears in 1922.

In their first season as part of the nascent league, the Staleys went 10–1–2, with all 10 wins coming by shutouts. But they lost the first league championship to the Akron Pros, who finished the season at 8–0–3, Wikipedia reports.

Back to the present: Tate & Lyle employees this past weekend celebrated with a birthday cake incorporating Decatur-made Promitor soluble fiber and an event booth highlighting their unique connection to the team. Christine Hood, Tate & Lyle culinary technician, even worked in some Dolcia Prima, Tate & Lyle's brand of sweetener allulose, into the chocolate mousse filling.

Bears in attendance included Bears Chairman George Halas McCaskey (grandson of founder Halas), alumnus Lance Briggs, General Manager Ryan Pace and Coach Matt Nagy.

The fertile fields of Decatur also gave birth to Archer Daniels Midland Co., which apparently also sponsored some of the "Return to Decatur" weekend.