c.1790 Court Tennis Racket

1880s Extreme Lob Racket

BROUAYE 1860 Prize Racket

"ROYALTY" inlay 1875

Feltham "HENRY V" 1878

Wright & Ditson "THE CLUB" 1887

Wright & Ditson "SPECIAL" 1878

Horsman Inlaid tilt-top

"Alah en Misterie" 1870s

Early and Asymmetrical Rackets

This is an especially fascinating and well-developed section within the Collection, featuring several uniquely rare rackets. Early strung rackets for the ancient game of Court Tennis were generally smaller in size. The Collection includes a very interesting example with elaborate carving and string pattern dating back over 200 years.

By the mid-1700s the rackets were full-sized with leather wrapped grips and lobbed, asymmetrical heads, as shown in engraving in the exhibit, from two French Encyclopedie (1762). This design enabled the racket head to reach closer to the floor to get the low bouncing balls, as well as for scooping the ball out of the corners. This design still perseveres in modern day Court Tennis.

The "Tilt-Top" rackets became the popular choice in the early days of Lawn Tennis in the 1870s. The Collection is fortunate to have many outstanding examples of early rackets, including the only known example of the Henry V model lawn tennis racket, and a stunning inlaid tilt-top probably owned by Royalty.

Ayres, 1885 twin laminated Flat Top

Windermere Cork Handle

Bliss Ashby Racket

West End Cork Handle

The Shattuck model flat top

Wright & Ditson thin handle, convex

Square Head flat top racket

Bussey "The Olympic"

Flat top with double collar

The Bussey Fishtail flat top

Flat Tops and 1880s Rackets

By the early 1880s the asymmetrical "Tilt-Top" rackets had generally fallen out of favor, superseded by the so-called "Flat Top" racket, which had a pronounced level flat top of the head, and a concave throat piece (i.e. curved towards the handle). An original 1886 charcoal still life provides graphic evidence of this design. The Collection includes some classic examples from this early era.

Horsman Seabright

Peck & Snyder Staten Island

Transitional Flat Tops and Rackets of the 1890s

By 1890 the extreme flat top design had relaxed somewhat, resulting in the so-called "Transitional Flat Top" racket, with slightly curved shape at the top. The throat pieces in this era were usually convex, i.e. curved towards the racket top. The Collection includes some fine examples from this period:

Bussey Ball Tail

Slazenger Demon Fish Tail

Fan Tail racket, The Winner

Bulbous Handle - Horsman Special

Cork Inlay Handle- E. Kent Powelton

Wood inlaid round handle

Fish Head Handle

Field Tennis, inlaid + string variation

Horsman, string variation

Racket with rubber sleeve grip

Unusual Handle and Stringing Variations

This is an especially fascinating section, demonstrating the continual ingenuity of racket makers. The Collection includes some fine early rackets with unusual handles and stringing patterns.

Victor Comet

Wright & Ditson Columbia

Spalding Oval

The Hummer

Horace Partridge racket

Rackets of the 1900s-1920

Racket technology continued to evolve into the new century. The head shapes varied considerably, gradually becoming more oval. Throat pieces were usually convex, but the concave throat piece began a comeback, and was laminated instead of the older solid wedge. Reinforcing tape was sometimes applied to the lower "shoulders" of the racket head. Classic rackets in this section include:

Spalding Young America

Spalding Greenwood No. 4

Tryon Ace, cork handle

E.Kent Speedwood split open throat

H.C.Lee Dreadnaught Driver

H.C. Lee with blue shoulders

Dayton Steel Rackets

Hazell's Streamline Rackets

Rackets of the 1920s-1930s

Racket makers continued to experiment with construction techniques into the 1920s and '30s, with several major innovations: the open throat, the split handle, the Dayton Steel racket, strung with piano wire, and the Hazell's Streamline, with its unique aerodynamic 3 pronged handle. Racket heads were generally oval in shape, with concave throat pieces. Classic example of rackets from this era include: