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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE PIES

Original Baseball: 1925

Original Baseball: 1925

October 8, 1925. "Patent Office. Original baseball patented 1883 by S.D. Castle." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

Seamless Baseball

Had the seamless ball been accepted, the game would never have progressed to where it is today. Those seams provide the hurlers with the ability to change the aerodynamics of the pitched ball.

Base Ball

This "base ball" was intended for the same mass consumer use as a golf ball -- durable enough to be used over and over without the stuffing flying out of it.

Interestingly, it looks like the stuffing is flying out of it.

Mr. Castle's Baseball

Here's a link to Samuel D. Castle's original patent for this baseball. Castle did not "invent" the baseball, per se, but rather a seamless version of it. Castle, of Bridgeport Ct, held over a dozen patents, most relating to machinery for treating and stretching leather and furs. Curiously, his patent for the baseball does not consist of any leather. Instead, the lack of seams is achieved by repeated dipping in gutta percha (a natural latex) which builds up a durable leather-like surface.

Which leads to the obvious question

What did they play baseball with before 1883?

Roy Hobbs

Could this be the ball Roy Hobbs (aka Robert Redford) knocked the cover off for the Knights in the movie 'The Natural'?

Value?

Would love to see that ball appraised on Antiques Roadshow....

My Baseball

Holy cow!!! That looks like the baseball my buddies and I used way back in the fourth grade.

Palmer

Pretty fancy penmanship ... like the Palmer Method on steroids.

Karl Fenning

The man in the photo is Karl Fenning. The following ran as a caption for a similar photo from the Harris & Ewing studio. Fenning, a Washington native, is buried in the Congressional Cemetery: his obituary (PDF).


The original baseball, patented in 1883 by Samuel D. Castle, was found in the patent office yesterday among those patents which are to be sold or laid aside. It is being exhibited by Assistant Commissioner of Patents Fenning.

Washington Post, Oct 8, 1925

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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