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In 1937, a team known as the Cincinnati Bengals was formed as a member of the American Football League. The 1937 Bengals finished with a 2-4-2 record in their first year, but the AFL folded after the season. The Bengals continued as an independent team in 1938, and in 1939 joined a new AFL, finishing in second place with a 6-2 record. But again, the league folded after the season.
Once again in 1940, another new AFL emerged, and again the Bengals joined. But that AFL suffered the fate of the two AFLs before it, folding after the 1941 season as the United States entered World World II, and the Bengals folded along with it.
Pro football returned to Cincinnati 26 years later in 1967 when Paul Brown headed an ownership group that landed an expansion franchise in the modern-era American Football League. Brown, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who founded and coached the Cleveland Browns from 1946-62, picked the name Bengals for the new team “to give it a link with past professional football in Cincinnati.” Ref: http://www.bengals.com/team/history.html