Albion were one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888, and have spent the majority of their existence in the top tier of English football. They have been champions of England once, in 1919–20, and have been runners-up twice. They have had more success in the FA Cup, winning it five times. The first came in 1888, the year the league was founded, and the most recent in 1968, their last major trophy. They also won the Football League Cup at the first attempt in 1966. The club's longest consecutive period in the top division spanned twenty-four years between 1949 and 1973, and from 1986 to 2002 they spent their longest ever spell out of the top division.
The team has played in navy blue and white stripes for most of the club's history; and the club badge features a throstle perched on a hawthorn branch. Albion have a number of long-standing rivalries with other West Midlands clubs; their traditional rivals being Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves) both of whom were, like Albion, founder members of the Football League. Albion contest the Black Country Derby with Wolves.
The club was founded as West Bromwich Strollers in 1878 by workers from George Salter's Spring Works in West Bromwich, in Staffordshire. They were renamed West Bromwich Albion in 1880, becoming the first team to adopt the Albion suffix; Albion was a district of West Bromwich where some of the players lived or worked, close to what is today Greets Green. The club joined the Birmingham & District Football Association in 1881 and became eligible for their first competition, the Birmingham Cup. They reached the quarter-finals, beating several longer-established clubs on the way. In 1883, Albion won their first trophy, the Staffordshire Cup. Albion joined the Football Association in the same year; this enabled them to enter the FA Cup for the first time in the 1883–84 season. In 1885 the club turned professional, and in 1886 they reached the FA Cup final for the first time, losing 2–0 to Blackburn Rovers in a replay. They reached the final again in 1887, but lost 2–0 to Aston Villa. In 1888 the team won the trophy for the first time, beating strong favourites Preston North End 2–1 in the final. As FA Cup winners, they qualified to play in a Football World Championship game against Scottish Cup winners Renton, which ended in a 4–1 defeat.
In March 1888, William McGregor wrote to what he considered to be the top five English teams, including Albion, informing them of his intention to form an association of clubs that would play each other home and away each season. Thus when the Football League started later that year, Albion became one of the twelve founder members. Albion's second FA Cup success came in 1892, beating Aston Villa 3–0. They met Villa again in the 1895 final, but lost 1–0. The team suffered relegation to Division Two in 1900–01, their first season at The Hawthorns. They were promoted as champions the following season but relegated again in 1903–04. The club won the Division Two championship once more in 1910–11, and the following season reached another FA Cup Final, where they were defeated by Second Division Barnsley in a replay.
Albion won the Football League title in 1919–20 for the only time in their history following the end of World War I, their totals of 104 goals and 60 points both breaking the previous league records. The team finished as Division One runners-up in 1924–25, narrowly losing out to Huddersfield Town, but were relegated in 1926–27. In 1930–31, they won promotion as well as the FA Cup, beating Birmingham 2–1 in the final. The "Double" of winning the FA Cup and promotion has not been achieved before or since. Albion reached the final again in 1935, losing to Sheffield Wednesday, but were relegated three years later. They gained promotion in 1948–49, and there followed the club's longest unbroken spell in the top flight of English football, a total of 24 years.