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Ward-Thomas Museum

Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums

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The Niles Red Dragon Story

Ward — Thomas Museum
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503 Brown Street Niles, Ohio 44446

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newspaper clipping

Origins of the Niles Red Dragon Name.

In the 1920s most of the Niles City School Board members had a Welsh background. Some consider that the dragon symbol comes from the national flag of Wales.


Left is the story from the January 18, 1934 Niles Daily Times newspaper in which the very first "Red Dragons" reference is made. "Niles teams have been nicknamed the Red Dragons. They earned the title by their record so far and will be out to better establish their grounds to such a title Friday night."

One story is that a visiting basketball team player watched the Niles Basketball team do 'The Weave' in warm-ups and said, "they move like a Chinese Dragon in a parade."

There is never any other mention of the origin, either in newspapers, school newspapers or yearbooks. There is much speculation as to why the Red Dragons..... Most common is the earlier-referenced Wales connection.

Niles Red Dragon

In 1998 when Niles was preparing its 100 years of high school football celebration, I contacted several individuals who were students in the mid-1930s. None of them knew the origin, and no one specifically remembered the Wales connection being brought up until many years later.

Larry Pallante, who graduated in 1928 and later went on to serve as a teacher and AD at Niles was at the 1998 celebration. He too told me that he never remembered hearing the Welsh connection until many years later. There was also speculation that Niles chose the fire-breathing dragon as a mascot to honor its original name, Heaton's Furnace. Again, nothing but pure speculation.

My best guess is that the Dragon was randomly chosen because of its fierce demeanor / reputation. The "Red" was added simply because it was already established as a school color. Most schools had school colors before they had mascots.... So when you see "Blue Devils", "Blue Jays," "Purple Riders, "Green Arrows," the colors were just added to the nickname because of previously-established school colors.

In a way, I think it is neat that there is mystery behind origin of the Red Dragons nickname. By: Steve Ruman, Niles Ohio.

The cover of the 1940 Niles yearbook shows the image of the dragon that was used in school publications and sports teams at that time.

In the 1910s and 1920s the Niles McKinley yearbook was called the 'Nisean'.

Later yearbooks began to use the Dragon image on ther covers.

The cover of the 1940 Niles yearbook shows the image of the dragon that was used in school publications and sports teams at that time.

There have been many different Dragon images in school publications and on sports team uniforms.

Currently, the Niles Red Dragon image that is in use is shown above with details in white with a bright red outline.

1955 yearbook cover

1971 yearbook cover

Original 1966 Dragon outline drawn by Valerie Nykula.

Original 1966 Dragon outline drawn by Valerie Nykula.

1989 yearbook cover

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