Before they could Unite, they had to Man Up. Talk about inauspicious beginnings, that would certainly describe the Newton Heath LYR Football Club. Founded in 1878 by the Carriage and Wagon Department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railroad, the team’s first recorded match was nothing short of underwhelming. Uniformed in the green and gold of the railway, the startup was defeated 6-0 by Bolton Wanderers’ reserve team, equivalent to a U.S. baseball farm team. The young club’s fortunes rose and fell in the ensuing years as it matured and recast itself amidst a sport looking for a home. The search ended in 1892 with the founding of the Football League, where Newton found itself favorably ensconced in the First Division only to be shortly relegated to the Second Division, gearing up as it went. By January 1902, with £2,670 in debts, or some £300,000 today, the club was served by the courts with a winding-down order. Refusing to accept such a fate, Captain Harry Stafford manned up, soliciting four local businessman who contributed £500 each in return for control of the club they promptly renamed Manchester United.
Famed for its rise during the Industrial Revolution, Manchester’s will to fight is rooted centuries earlier, in its 1620 foray into commerce, with the advent of fustian weaving. The rapid development of the city’s textile industry forged close ties to the City of London and in so doing, infused Manchester’s culture with puritanism. In 1625, closely following this new age of industrialization, 24-year-old Charles I acceded to the throne, and found himself pitted against a Parliament determined to check his royal ways. Funny thing, a large contingency of Charles’ constituents took offense to levying taxes without Parliamentary approval and denying Protestants aid in the Thirty Years’ War. Such was the tension that by 1642, the act of one Lord Strange, in exploiting his royal privileges, set off a chain of events. The haughty Lord’s attempted abscondment of Manchester’s militia magazine culminated in the death of Richard Percival, a hard-working linen weaver, and the English Civil War’s first casualty.
Assiduity, unity and fortitude would continue to shape Manchester’s future. The importing of cotton and 1764’s Spinning Jenny fully mechanized textile production sending the city’s population soaring from 25,000 with no mills in 1763 to 95,000 with 52 mills in 1802. So renowned was the Mancunian work ethic, the city adopted the motif of the worker bee symbolizing the ‘hive of activity’ the city had become in the 19th century. In 1842, the worker bee was officially added to the Manchester coat of arms as the city grew its way to one million by the turn of the century. It was through the labors of its worker bees that this formidable city became a great European metropolis.