Entry in progress. Wikipedia is wrong that this originated in the Navy in the 1940s. Touch football was popular for a long time on NYC streets—B.P.
Wikipedia: Touch football (American)
Touch football is a version of American football originally developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1940’s in which the players “tackle” the individual carrying the ball only by touching him with one or two hands, based on whether one is playing the one-hand touch or two-hand touch variety, as opposed to tackling him bodily to the ground or forcing a knee to touch the ground, as is normal in traditional rules versions of the game. The two-hand touch variation is the most popular.
Depending on the skill of the players, the available playing field, and the purpose of the game, the rules other than the tackling aspect may remain mostly the same or vary considerably from traditional American football. Touch football can be played by teams as few as two or as many as eleven on each side; usually, games consist of teams of four to seven.
Positions in touch football are far less formal than its more organized counterpart. While some games roughly follow conventions, more often, all players will be considered eligible receivers (as in six-man football), and there are usually no running backs. There may or may not be a snapper; if there is not, the quarterback initiates play by hovering the ball above the line of scrimmage and pulling it backward to simulate a snap.
Generally, in touch football, nearly every play is a passing play, whereas run plays and pass plays tend to be well balanced in organized football. Some games will also implement a “blitz count”, or a period of time that must elapse after the snap before the defense may cross the line of scrimmage in order to attempt to tackle the quarterback. The count thus gives the quarterback time to complete a pass in the absence of effective blocking (when teams are small, there is often no blocking at all). Other games will not use a count and thus blocking becomes important. Conversely, in the presence of a “blitz count” there is also often a “QB sneak” rule, which prevents the quarterback from taking unfair advantage of the blitz count by preventing the quarterback from crossing the line of scrimmage before the blitz count is finished.
Because of these rules, passing plays are far more common than running plays in touch football.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
touch football U.S., a form of American football in which a player carrying the ball may be stopped simply by touching him, instead of tackling;
1933 Jrnl. Health & Physical Educ. Oct. 41/1 *Touch football is now a scientific and standardized game.
1951 J. STEINBECK Burning Bright i. 37, I was..just playing around with some of the fellowstouch football.
1977 Transatlantic Rev. LX. 119 You often see Winterville kids playing touch football along the parkway.
YALE PLAYERS TURN TO “TOUCH” FOOTBALL
Pay-Per-View - Hartford Courant - ProQuest Archiver - Dec 13, 1923
Ninety Per Cent. of Princeton Students In Competitive Athletics ...
$3.95 - New York Times - Jan 20, 1924
At the same time there were over 300 students who ]ly played on informal teams in basketball volley ball, and touch football. It is obvious, of course. ...
3 February 1924, Charleston (WV) Gazette, pg. 9, col. 5:
CHARLESTON YOUTHS MAY TAKE
UP NEW TYPE OF GRID GAME
Touch Football Spreading in
Popularity Throughout U.S.;
Embodies All Principles of
It is almost a certainty that Charleston youths will be introduced to an entirely new game this fall.It is called touch football and although it has not “arrived” among the youngsters hereabouts at the present time it has won decided favor in the eastern states. At Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth and other big universities it is played informally by the students and has reached enormous popularity.
In practically every respect, it is like the ordinary game of football, except that the runner is not tackled. Tackling in any form is not permitted and when the ball carrier is simply touched or tagged the play stops.
MOORE’S GAME MAY STOP AS SQUAD MOVES TO NEW FIELD
Published On Thursday, April 02, 1925
In the absence of Captain Cheek and on account of the rather muddy ground no regular game was held yesterday. Coach Fisher put the men through a passing drill, and some touch football followed by track work around the Stadium.
20 July 1955, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, “Kids of the 30s Seem to Have Had More Fun in Sports” by Charles Sutton, pg. 16, col. 1:
I played so many games as a kid in Brooklyn that it’s hard to make an accounting of them now, what with 20 full years to bridge.
Back in Brooklyn, if we weren’t stopping traffic with a game of touch football, or crashing hedges in game of tag, we were probably playing a fast game of handball on a tenement wall.