The Columbus Panhandles were a professional American football team based in Columbus, Ohio. The club was founded in 1901 by workers at the Panhandle shops of the Pennsylvania Railroads. They were a part of the Ohio League from 1904 before folding after one season. Three years later, the team tried again and playing the Ohio League from 1907 to 1919, not winning a championship, before becoming charter members of the American Professional Football Association (APFA) which became the National Football League (NFL).
The Panhandles are credited with playing in the first NFL game against the Dayton Triangles. They have no NFL championships, but Joseph Carr, the team's owner from 1907 to 1922, is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his work as NFL president.
The earliest existence of the Panhandles was in 1900; the Columbus Press-Post reported Jack Walsh creating the "Panhandle railroad team" consisting of "big hardy railroad men." No other articles in 1900 were written about the Panhandles. A game was scheduled for October 19 of next year, however, no source provided an outcome. In 1901, managed by William Butler of the Ohio Medical University, the Panhandles played two games against the Columbus Barracks, a team consisting of local soldiers. The results were split; the first was a 2–6 loss while the second was a 12–6 win.
Butler left the Panhandles for unknown reasons, and the new manager for the 1902 season was Harry Greenwood. Greenwood placed advertisements in every newspaper he could in order to schedule games against local opponents. His ad read "The Panhandle Athletic Club has organized a football team and would like to play any college, high school or manufacturing team on Saturday or Sunday." As a result, the Panhandles scheduled four games in 1902: three against the Columbus Barracks and one against the Dennison Panhandles, and finished with a 0–3–1 record.
Again, the Panhandles got a new manager for the 1903 season, E. E. Griest. Griest needed help with the team, so he hired Ben Chamberlain to coach the team. After an exhibition game against the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Panhandles won their first game of the season, a 38–0 victory over Neil Avenue Athletic Club. This victory gave the team some unexpected press; the Columbus Citizen wrote the first article praising the team. The Panhandles 1903 season ended with a 5–3 record.