The Evolution of the Baseball Up To 1872

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The Evolution of the Baseball Up To 1872

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A Chronology of Ballmaking up to 1872 – and a list of 32 Ballmakers, 1858 to 1890

by Rob Loeffler, March 2007

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The following chronology represents key points in the development of the baseball in the time period of the early 1800s to 1872. The information listed is based on research that I have been conducting on the development of the baseball in the 19th Century over the last 6 years. Any additional information to further refine this timeline would be greatly appreciated.

Chronology

Pre-1845

Baseballs are constructed of cores consisting of nuts, bullets, rocks or shoe rubber gum and even sturgeon eyes [1] [2] [3] [4] wrapped with yarn and covered in leather or sheepskin in the lemon-peel style or the belt/gusset ball style. Both cover styles are identical to those used in feathery golf balls from the 1700s. Typically homemade, the sizes ranged anywhere from 5.1 to 9.8 inches in circumference and could weigh anywhere from 1 oz. to 7 oz. with the typical baseball weighing 3 oz. Because outs were made by “soaking” a runner in the game of rounders or town ball, the early baseballs were typically lighter.[5]

1845 - 1854

The Knickerbockers developed and adopted the New York Game style of baseball in September 1845 in part to play a more dignified game that would attract adults. The removal of the “soaking” rule allowed the Knickerbockers to develop a harder baseball that was more like a cricket ball.[6]

Dr. D.L. Adams of the Knickerbocker team stated that he produced baseballs for the various teams in New York in the 1840s and through 1858. He would produce the balls using 3 to 4 oz of rubber as a core, then wound with yarn and covered with leather.[7]

1854

Joint rules committee at Smith’s Tavern, New York: The weight of the ball was increased to 5 ½ to 6 ounces and the diameter to 2 ¾ to 3 ½ inches, (a variance in circumference from 8 5/8 to 11 inches).[8]

1858

Dedham Rules of the Massachusetts Game specifies that “The ball must weigh not less than two, nor more than two and three-quarter ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than six and a half, nor more than eight and a half inches in circumference, and must be covered with leather.”[9]

William Cutler of Natick, MA reportedly designs the Figure 8 cover. The design was sold to Harrison Harwood.[10]

Harrison Harwood develops the first baseball factory (H. Harwood and Sons) in Natick, Massachusetts. Baseballs that are manufactured at this facility include the Figure 8 design as well as the lemon peel design.[11]

1860

National Association of Baseball Players rules specifies that “The ball must weigh not less than five and three-fourths, nor more than six ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and three-fourths, nor more than ten inches in circumference. It must be composed of India rubber and yarn, and covered with leather, and, in all match games, shall be furnished by the challenging club, and become the property of the winning club, as a trophy of victory.” [12]

1863

Weeks patents the cork center ball for use in cricket.[13]

1863 - 1866

National Association of Baseball Players rules specifies that “The ball must weigh not less than five and one-half, nor more than five and three-fourths ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and one-half, nor more than nine, and three-fourths inches in circumference. It must be composed of India-rubber and yarn, and covered with leather, and, in all match games, shall be furnished by the challenging club, and become the property of the winning club as a trophy of victory.” [14]

1860s - 1870

At least 9 manufacturers are producing baseballs during this time period, including 1) Harwood and Sons, Natick, MA, 2) Ryan and Harvey Ross, NY, 3) John Van Horn, NY, 3) Edward Horsman, NY, 4) Andrew Peck and Co., 5) Peck and Snyder, 6) Rice, NY, 7) S.W. Brock, NY, 8) George Ellard, Cincinnati, OH, and 9) John Whiting, NY[15]. One NY manufacturer is reported to have produced 162,000 baseballs in 1870 alone.[16]

1870

The New York Rubber Company reportedly manufactures a ball with a rubber cover which is deemed a failure for baseball uses because the rubber cover tears easily.

1872

National Association of Baseball Players rules specifies that “The ball must weigh not less than five nor more than five and one quarter ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine nor more than nine inches and one-quarter inches in circumference. It must be composed of India rubber and yarn, and covered with leather. The quantity of rubber used in the composition of the ball shall be one ounce, and the rubber used shall be vulcanized and in mould form. The ball is required to weigh not less than 5 and not more than 5 1/4 ounces, with a circumference of not less than 9 and not more than 9 1/4 inches.” [17]

References

  1. Woodbury Reporter, March 6, 1926. 70 Years Ago, Youths Made Balls at Home.

    George F. Morris, a Woodbury resident, recalls that overshoes were made from pure rubber gum and were salvaged by boys when they were worn out. Strips of rubber from the ball, wound into an egg-sized ball and baked in an oven until the rubber could be pressed into a solid ball. Yarn was then wound around the ball and a cobbler would be paid $ 0.25 to sew on a cover.

  2. Brooklyn Eagle, February 3rd 1884

    Base Balls. Manner and Extent of the Manufacture in this Country - How they were Made Fifty Years Ago - Gradual Growth of the Business - Preparing for the Next Season’s Trade - Dead Balls Going Out of Favor - Ball Makers’ Wages.

    An article discussing the early development of the baseballs. This article discusses the use of overshoe rubber to make a core for the baseball. In the lake regions, sturgeon eyes were used as a core. The article also discusses the business of making baseballs in the 1870s and 1880s.

  3. New York Times, April 30, 1871 Base Balls. Manner and Extent of the Manufacture in this Country - How they were Made Fifty Years Ago - Gradual Growth of the Business - Preparing for the Next Season’s Trade - Dead Balls Going Out of Favor - Ball Makers’ Wages. </p>

    An article discussing the early development of the baseballs. This article discusses the use of overshoe rubber to make a core for the baseball. In the lake regions, sturgeon eyes were used as a core. The article also discusses the business of making baseballs in the 1870s and 1880s.

  4. Major League Baseball Official Program, American League Championship Series, 1996

    An article by Tim Wiles, titled “What a Ball” about the history of the baseball.

  5. Gilbert, 1995, Elysian Fields, The Birth of Baseball, pg. 16 - 17.

    Includes a discussion of the Knickerbockers development of a harder baseball due to the removal of the “soaking” rule.

  6. Ibid.
  7. Sporting News, February 29, 1896

    Dr. D.L. Adams, Memoirs of the Father of Baseball. Dr. Adams reminisces about the early days of baseball when he was member of the Knickerbockers. Dr. Adams recalls that for six or seven years, he made all of the baseballs for his team as well as the other local teams. He discusses that he would use three or four ounces of rubber cuttings, wound with yarn and then covered with leather. It was not until 1858 that he found a saddler that would produce the ball for them.

    Sullivan reprints this article in Early Innings, A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908, pages 13-18.

  8. Peverelly, 1866, The Book of American Pastimes, pgs. 346 - 348.

    An annual joint meeting between the Knickerbockers, Gotham and Eagle clubs was held on April 1, 1854 at Smith’s Tavern in New York. The rules of baseball were revised and rule 17 dictated the weight and size of the baseball.

  9. Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players, May 13, 1858

    The Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players convened to codify the rules of the Massachusetts Game (town ball) in Dedham, Massachusetts. Rule one discusses the ball size and weight.

  10. Bob Schaefer, http:/groups.yahoo.com/group/19cBB/message/2146

    Mr. Schaefer indicates that he received information from the Natick Historical Society that Col. William Cutler designed the figure 8 ball cover in his kitchen at 10 West Central Street, Natick, MA around the year 1858. The idea was then sold to the Harwoods.

  11. Natick Baseball Factory, http:/www.natickhistory.com/timeline/baseball.html

    A small article on the Natick Baseball Factory by the Natick Historical Society and Museum. I have a photo of a lemon peel ball and it’s box that Harwood manufactured, indicating that they made both types of baseballs.

  12. 1860 National Association of Baseball Players, Rules and Regulations Adopted by the National Association of Baseball Players - New York, March 14th 1860. This reference is available online at http://opensite.org//Sports/Baseball/History/Rules/1860_National_Association_of_Baseball_Players/.
  13. In 1863, an Englishman named Weeks patented a cork center ball for cricket. http://webusers.npl.uiuc.edu/~a-nathan/pob/evolution.html

    Although not directly related to the baseball before the 1870s, this fact is important to the later development of the baseball. In 1910, George Reach developed the first cork-centered baseball.

  14. 1866 National Association of Baseball Players, Rules and Regulations Adopted by the National Association of Baseball Players, Held in New York, December 12th 1866. This reference is available online at http://opensite.org//Sports/Baseball/History/Rules/1866_National_Association_of_Baseball_Players/.

    Although this rule is commonly associated with 1866, these ball dimensions were in use by the National Association of Baseball Players on December 1863. The 1863 rules can be found in the 1864 edition of The American Boy’s Book of Sports and Games, pgs. 89-93.

  15. Robert Loeffler, 19th Century Baseball Manufacturers
  16. New York Times, April 30, 1871.

    Bats, Balls and Mallets. Concerning the Implements of Base-Ball - Facts, Figures and Fancies About the Trade- Neglected Cricket and Fascinating Croquet - Games that Have Gone Out, and Games That Ought to Come In - A Plea for Ladies’ Archery Meetings.

  17. The Rules of Baseball for 1873, as Revised by the National Association in 1872. http://wiki.vbba.org/index.php/Rules/1873

19th Century Baseball Manufacturers

Harwood Baseball Factory (1858 - 1890s)

Corner of Walnut Street and North Avenue, Natick, MA

Andrew Peck & Co. (1858 - mid-1860s)

105 Nassau Street, N.Y.

Merged with Snyder to become Peck and Snyder around 1868. They started stitching baseballs after in 1866 after returning from Civil War - obit.

John C. Whiting (1861)

87 Fulton Street, P.O. Box 2217, New York

John Van Horn (1860s - 1870s)

No. 33 Second Avenue, New York

Manufactored "dead" ball commonly used by National Association (1871 - 1875)

Ryan and Harvey Ross (1860s - 1870s)

Park Avenue, Brooklyn

Rice (1860s - 1870)

Nassau Street, NY

They were considered one of the earliest base ball manufacturers. Rice sold the company to S.W. Brock in 1870.

Edward I. Horsman (1862 - late 1860s)

124 South Sixth Street, New York

80, 82, 100 William Street, New York

Peck and Snyder (late 1860s - 1890s)

105 Nassau Street, NY (originally Andrew Peck & Co.'s address)

22 Ann Street, New York (moved to 126 Nassau address on May 1st 1870)

126 Nassau Street, New York (at least 1866 into mid-1870s)

Bought out by Spalding in 1894

George Ellard (1869 - 1880s)

143 Main Street, Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Red Stockings reportedly used the Ellard Ball in 1869 and 1870.

Waugh (Early 1870's)

222 and 224 Ninth Avenue, New York

Ward B. Snyder (1870s)

84 Fulton Street, NY (formerly of Peck and Snyder)

S. W. Brock (1870s)

Nassau Street, New York (purchased Rice in 1870)

S.W. Rice and Co. (1870s - 1880s)

147 Fulton Street, New York (probably the same Rice that sold earlier company to S.W. Brock in 1870)

J. Ryan and Co. (1870s - 1880s)

121 Nassau Street, New York

National Association made the Ryan Ball the official championship ball in 1873.

A. J. Reach Co. (1874 - 1883 and beyond)

1113 Market Street, Philadelphia

1022 Market Street, Philadelphia

They manufactured the American Association ball beginning in 1883 and were bought by Spalding in 1889.

Phillip Goldsmith and Sons, Inc. (1875 - 1899 and beyond)

Cincinnati, OH (Phillip Goldsmith was living in Covington, KY in 1880 census)

Josh Giblin (1875)

Boston, MA

He patented a ball with palm heart pill and rubber cover.

A. G. Spalding & Bros. (1876 - 1899)

108 Madison, Chicago (1876)

126 - 130 Nassau, New York (1884)

Hastings, Michigan - factory

They manufactured the official ball of the National League beginning in 1878.

Samuel Hipkiss (1876)

Boston, MA

He patented a ball with a bell inside it.

Wolf Fletcher (1876)

Covington, KY

He patented a baseball manufacturing machine.

Mahn Sporting Goods Company (1877 - 1880s)

James Osgood received a patent for Louis Mann for baseball cover in 1876. The ball was commonly used by National Association (1871 - 1875)

He manufactured the American Association ball in 1882.

W. B. Carr and Co./Wilson and Carr (late 1870s - 1880s)

136 N. Portland Avenue, Brooklyn also Box 19 at Brooklyn Daily

Eagle office (1884)

245 and 247 Gold Street, Brooklyn (1879)

Wright and Ditson Sporting Goods (1880 - 1890s)

580 Washington Street, Boston

970 Washington, Boston - 1880s

They were purchased by Spalding in 1891.

They manufactured the Union Association ball in 1884 (only year in existence).

Charles Edwards (1880s)

61 Fulton Street, Brooklyn

J. Carr and Seaman (1880s)

245 Gold Street, Brooklyn (1886 classified - NY Times)

581 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn (1886 classified - NY Times

J. Shibe Co. (1880s - 1890s)

223 North Eighth Street, Philadelphia

T.F. Griffins (1880s)

36 Gold Street, Brooklyn, NY

Samuel Castle (1883)

Bridgeport, CT

He patented the seamless ball and was marketed by A. J. Reach Co.

Thomas Taylor (1883)

Bridgeport, CT

He patented baseball a manufacturing machine.

Keefe and Becannon (1884 - 1890s)

157 Broadway, New York

An early customer of theirs was the New York Catholic Literary League.

They manufactured the Players National League of Base Ball Clubs' ball.

Ben Newell (1889)

Boston, MA

He patented a ball winding machine.

Overman Wheel Co.(1890s)

23 Warren Street, New York

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