49ers history lesson: How did the San Francisco 49ers get their name?

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the few teams to never move cities (not officially anyway) or change their name, but do you know how their name came about?
San Francisco 49ers v Washington Commanders
San Francisco 49ers v Washington Commanders / G Fiume/GettyImages

The 49ers are one of the most historic NFL franchises, but how much do you know about the history of the team name and how it came to be for the only team from the Bay Area?

One of the truly fascinating thigns about sporting history is where does a team get its beginning from. Not just how it was formed or what cities it's played in, but how they settle on its name.

Some range from the fairly obvious, such as the Houston Texans adopting their name from the state they play in, to the Green Bay Packers taking their name from the Indian Packing Company which gave the team its first injection of revenue to buy uniforms as well as giving it a field to practice on.

Sports are funny like that, it ranges from the mundane to the unique.

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The 49ers aren't any strangers to this either. Most younger fans probably never gave it much thought, but the team of course got its name from the famous California gold rush of the 19th century. Gold was actually discovered in California in 1848, but by the time word got out, it wasn't until 1849 that the state was flooded by prospectors seeking to find their fortune.

Probably for the best, the San Francisco 48ers doesn't quite roll off the tongue as smoothly.

Now, most 49ers fans are well aware of the history behind what the name stands for, and there's plenty of clues regardless. The shining golden helmets, the beloved Sourdough Sam prospector mascot, and the 49ers inaugural logo of a prospector firing two guns.

Although why he's nearly fired one shot through his foot and the other through his head (no, seriously. look at the old logo) is food for thought.

But while the story behind the name is well known, most fans aren't as well aware of how the name itself got chosen. Was it by a fan vote, a wisecracking journalist or drawn from a hat? Not exactly.

The name was suggested by Allen E. Sorrell, a business partner in the lumber industry of the 49ers' first owner, Tony Morabito. His suggestion was taken up, and given the name has remained untouched for nearly 80 years it certainly has been one that's stood the test of time in the American sporting landscape.

There you have it. The next time you see the 49ers take the field you'll know not only what their name was chosen for, but exactly how it came to be for this successful Bay Area franchise.

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