The Watertown Red & Black is a semi-professional American football team based in Watertown, New York. The team is the oldest active semi-pro football team in the United States, and can trace its history to 1896, although the Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA) claimed it was founded as an Athletic Club in 1899. Because of this, the team has the most wins (565), losses (268), ties (43) and games played (876) of any semi-professional team; their overall win percentage is .670.
In 1902 the Watertown Athletic Association became known as the Red & Black Professional Football Team. Though it declined participation in the first World Series of Pro Football, it loaned its entire backfield to the Syracuse Athletic Club for that team's entry into the tournament, the first ever attempted national professional football championship. (The enhanced Syracuse team, which included Pop Warner, won the tournament in an upset.)
During the 1903 season, the Red & Black defeated a team from Cortland, New York by a score of 142-0, the second-highest in football history (behind only a 148–0 win by the Massillon Tigers over a team from Marion, Ohio a year later). Watertown participated in the 1903 World Series of Pro Football, finishing second to the Franklin Athletic Club, to whom the Red & Black lost, 12-0.
The Red & Black team, mostly located too far from pro football's core in Ohio and western Pennsylvania to play an extensive schedule against other fully professional teams, then dropped back to the semi-professional level in 1904 and has played with semi-pro status ever since. This allowed the scheduling of teams located within what was then a reasonable travel distance of Watertown. Several teams during the decades of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s brought the semi-professional championships of New York State home to Watertown. Alex Duffy wore the colors for 17 seasons, the last 15 as captain during the 1910s and 1920s.
In 1919, the team participated in the New York Pro Football League playoffs, losing in the regional quarterfinals ("Central New York Championship") to Syracuse.
During the 1923–1925 seasons, the team won 31 games, losing only to Binghamton, 6–0. The 1927 squad was undefeated. In 1935, the Red & Black was reorganized under George (Buzzy) Gibson and produced several outstanding teams. In 1936, the Red & Black played an exhibition game against the Syracuse Braves of the American Football League, losing 14–7.
Jake Devito and Rocco Canale guided the team when it was a member of the Eastern Professional League in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1950, the Red & Black went undefeated until losing the championship game to Hudson Falls at the Fairgrounds in Watertown.