The Duluth Eskimos were a professional football team from Duluth, Minnesota in the National Football League (NFL). After spending most of their time as a traveling team, they withdrew from the league after the 1927 season.
The team initially formed in 1923 as the Kelleys (officially the Kelley Duluths, after the Kelley-Duluth Hardware Store). The team was put together by Kelley-Duluth Hardware Store owner M. C. Gebert with the help of Dewey Scanlon, a college graduate who played football at Valparaiso University in Indiana.
The Kelleys, residing in the northernmost city in the NFL at the time, had the disadvantage of not being able to play at home during late November and early December, due to the harsh winters in northern Minnesota. This meant that Duluth either played unusually short seasons (they played only 16 games in three years as the Kelleys—seven in 1923, six in 1924 and three in 1925) or had to play on the road (as the Eskimos did, which allowed them to have much longer schedules). Duluth's best season came in 1924, when the Kelleys went 5–1, putting the Kelleys in fourth place.
The Kelleys lost their name sponsorship in 1926, but signed star running back Ernie Nevers. The team renamed themselves Ernie Nevers's Eskimos in response to these developments. The 1926 NFL season saw an increased emphasis on traveling teams: the Los Angeles Buccaneers represented the West Coast, the Louisville Colonels represented the Southeast, and the Buffalo Rangers represented Texas and the Desert Southwest. The Eskimos joined in on the trend, becoming a traveling team (assumably representing the far northern states) and allowing themselves to play a far longer season than the Kelleys did. After one home game at the beginning of the 1926 season, the Eskimos never played in Duluth again. The team finished in the middle of the NFL standings in 1926, prompting the Eskimos to continue the traveling team setup. In 1927, the results were far more negative: winning only one game. Owner Ole Haugsrud then sold the team back to the league at the end of the season.
When Haugsrud did this, part of the deal gave him first rights for any future NFL team in Minnesota. He passed on buying a stake in the Minneapolis Red Jackets in 1929. However, when the NFL voted to expand in 1960 to the Twin Cities, Haugsrud was able to buy 10% of the Minnesota Vikings (90% of the team was owned by an ownership group that had originally planned to launch a separate team in the American Football League).