THE evoluTION OF THE RACKET 1
THE evoluTION OF THE RACKET 1
THE LIGHT RACKETS
OF THE 1920S AND 1930S
WITH THE RACKET
diferent GRIPS AND Wedge
The leather grip became prevalent in the mid-1930s; until then, rackets were gripped directly onto a wooden handle, which could be carved in different shapes.
Below is a display tester that belonged to one of the Williams sports equipment stores. Three identical ones were manufactured for the stores in Paris, Bordeaux, and Cannes. The glass (printed with the brand according to the metal plate on the base) and one side post have been replaced in the display. This piece contains five types of most marketed grips: the distinguished Fishtail, the oldest Rounded, the most common Regular, the most suitable for ladies’ delicate hands, Fantail, and finally the comfortable Bulbous. All of them pivot on a horizontal axis to facilitate testing.
Previously, rackets with different grips have been shown, and we will explore some more, focusing on the center, the heart of the rackets, and generally on the stages of different “wedges.”
THE LIGHT RACKETS OF THE 1920S AND 1930S
In the decades around the turn of century, rackets had considerable robustness. The instructors at that time recommended thick grips as prevention of tennis elbow, the rest of the frame was not out of place in thickness. In the following decades, the rackets released weight with lighter lines in the grips, handles and also in the frame of the head, appearing in some cases reinforcements in the shoulder area giving greater consistency in that area. The handles appear considerably thinner, initially in a lateral plane and in both planes subsequently. In 1907 the American brand HarryLee patented the racket with a groove that went through the handle laterally at its middle height seeking to provide flexibility. This idea is developed by different brands, predominantly the French ones that present models with grooves at different angles and depths, which do not always completely perforate the handle. There are also models with the vertices of the handle rotated with the intention that the front vertex “cuts” the air resistance in the flat gestures of the game of the time. An Australian model with this handle is shown here, to which is added another innovative balance adjustment system through a key that is inserted from the cap on the handle, state-of-the-art technology of the time.
THE OLD METALLIC RACKETS
Many tennis enthusiasts would be surprised to learn about metallic models like Dayton, thinking that Connors’ Wilson rackets were an absolute novelty. Similarly, we, who are more knowledgeable on the subject, are surprised when we discover a much earlier patent than what was known. Unfortunately, we do not possess any examples of The Centaur racket that marked the beginning of the metallic evolution.
The steel of Dayton, the aluminum of Birmal, and the stainless steel of Fox are examples of this evolution, but they failed to break the hegemony of wooden rackets until the arrival of the metallic Lacoste racket.
IN CONTACT WITH THE RACKET
Two essential objects had physical contact with the old wooden rackets. One, integral to the game as the moving object that gives it a purpose, was the ball. The other, unrelated to the game itself, was the presses, which served an important protective function for the rackets.
We can marvel at Jaume’s wonderful collections of multiple balls and presses, as well as Emili’s collections of individual presses. Few things escape their attention. Here, we present this aspect of the collection in a generalized way, stopping only at some special examples that came into my possession: Real Tennis balls that bounce only on a hard floor, balls from a Jaques&Son box from 1888 whose rubber has petrified, balls from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s that show the different texture of flannel fabric, absent in the Meeking balls from the World War II period when this fabric was restricted exclusively
to military uniforms, a restriction that also affected metal, leading to the replacement of ball cans with cardboard boxes.
A third object comes into occasional contact with the racket, its greatest weakness being the stringing. In the past, stringing well was considered an art. The sense of touch, feeling the tension when pulling, and the sound of the string being tensioned were the mechanisms used until the appearance of tension control machines in the 1930s. Here, we show one of the first machines that facilitated stringing with an adjustable fixed tension. The older support was used to fix and work comfortably on the racket, and shortly afterward, external mechanisms were patented to support the racket laterally, adjusting the strings to the same tension. An advertisement in the Chicago press offered the product as a simple and profitable way of working.