The Strong Opens Display Honoring the Jeffersons

The Strong News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 • 585-263-2700 •

October 23, 2019

For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

Noelle McElrath-Hart, 585-410-6325,

The Strong Museum Opens
Display to Commemorate
Rochester Jeffersons Football Team

A new display at The Strong museum, housed in its America at Play exhibit, honors the history of football in Western New York. The display features artifacts from the Rochester Jeffersons, one of the original members of the NFL in 1920, alongside more contemporary items from the Buffalo Bills. The Jefferson items are on loan from John Steffenhagen, great-grandson of team owner Leo Lyons, and they include a jersey, protective gear, and franchise certificate. 

“Football has been among America’s favorite pastimes for more than a century,” says Christopher Bensch, The Strong’s vice president for collections.  “Few people know that this playful activity has early roots in the Rochester area, though, and that the city fielded a professional team until 1925. With the NFL celebrating 100 years, it only seems fitting to share this history and honor the legacy of the Rochester Jeffersons.”

The display features a comparison of protective gear from the Rochester Jeffersons—which included minor padding and a thin-leather helmet—with that of a modern Buffalo Bills player, who is equipped with high-tech pads and helmets. Guests can also view a complete Jeffersons uniform alongside a contemporary Josh Allen jersey, Doug Flutie-signed helmet, and game-worn shoes from beloved defensive player Kyle Williams. Non-game items include a 1916 state championship trophy, 1919 program cover for a game between the Jeffersons and Buffalo Prospects, 1923 franchise certificate (reproduction), 1993 Wheaties box signed by the Bills team, and a 2002 program autographed by Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

“My great grandfather played for the Rochester Jeffersons and then went on to become the coach, manager, and eventually owner—all by the age of 28,” says Steffenhagen. “The items in this display were passed down to me through my family, and I’m glad that thousands of people will have the ability to see them at The Strong and rediscover this often-forgotten piece of Rochester’s history.”

The display is included with general museum admission fees and remains on view through February 9, 2020.

About The Strong

The Strong is a highly interactive, collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. It is one of the largest history museums in the United States and one of the leading museums serving families. The Strong houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play and is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the Woodbury School, and the American Journal of Play. Together, these enable a multifaceted array of research, exhibition, and other interpretive and educational activities that serve a diverse audience of adults, families, children, students, teachers, scholars, collectors, and others around the globe.


Museum Hours: Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

General Admission Fees (does not include admission to Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden®): age 2 and older $16, under age 2 free, members free. Fees subject to change.

Admission to Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden: General Admission fee plus $4 for members, $5 for nonmembers, under age 2 free. Entry is by timed ticket only. Fees subject to change.