Brownie the Elf is one of the official mascots of the National Football League's Cleveland Browns. Not used as often as the team's more well-known mascots, Chomps and Swagger, the mascot dates back long before the team began play.
From gpsgiftgallery.com, home of Brownie the Elf today:
The story of Brownie the Elf the logo begins long before the Cleveland Browns adopted the little creature — long before the team even existed, in fact. "Brownies" date back to folklore, where they were elf-like creatures who helped out with household chores as long as you left them little goodies to eat. (Palmer Cox was one of the first artists to illustrate Brownie on a consistent basis in his cartoons. He began drawing and using the elves in advertising work that he produced for different companies, including Kodak.
All of which brings us, finally, to the Cleveland Browns.
The association of the elf and the gridiron Browns begins in the late 1940s with Arthur McBride, who was the team's owner at the time. During a string of four incredibly successful seasons from 1946-49 (each of which resulted in an All American Football Conference championship), McBride sought to make his team more recognizable and marketable with music, parades, marching bands, and so on. He also asked for submissions for mascot logos, and after careful consideration chose Brownie as the new face of the team.
Brownie got an update around 1950 and looked the same until 1969. Alternate logos included an orange elf from 1950-69, and a halfback elf from 1960-69. After the Browns won the NFL title in 1964 (yes, it was that long ago, Cleveland fans), Brownie was often depicted with a crown signifying the team's achievement.
Even representatives from the Cleveland Browns are befuddled as to the exact origin, date, and key figures in the creation of the logo (which made its first appearance in an ad for tickets to the 1946 opening game against the Miami Seahawks). However, many of the earliest versions of the elf are credited to Dick Dugan, who became the sports cartoonist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and often depicted Brownie in battle against the team's opponents, like the Broncos.
Cleveland fans loved the athletically inclined little creature with pointed shoes, whose image could be seen adorning various publications and advertisements (from both the team and the public), such as the 1949 Media Guide.
So, what do you do with a logo that the fans love?
Well, if you're Art Modell, you get rid of it. Apparently, Modell, who became the team's owner in 1961, was completely embarrassed by the elf and hated it so much that in the mid-1960s he began to phase it out. Yes, in addition to taking the team from Cleveland, Modell also was responsible for putting the lovable Brownie on the unemployment line.
Thankfully, when the Browns were resurrected in 1999, Brownie got a new lease on life. New owner Randy Lerner has made a big push to use the elf logo more and more for the organization. "I think it's a great anchor for our tradition and for the look and feel of the Browns," he has said. "But I also understand that there is something to freshening up the act, so I think that's a balancing act we're having right now."
The Browns have used the elf logo on the 2006 Training Camp Patch celebrating the franchise's 60th anniversary, and a throwback elf logo appears on the front of their 2006 Media Guide.
While Brownie's revival is welcome news, there's one place that the elf should never appear, on the helmet (and thankfully, Lerner agrees). Paul Brown actually proposed this idea in 1953, but dismissed the idea after seeing mock-ups created by then trainer Leo Murphy. Good thing too, because the only thing that should ever be added to the team's helmets are uniform numbers, like the ones the team wore with for a throwback game against the Bengals.