Lot # 6: Brown’s 1904 Major Niblick Rake Iron

Starting Bid: $3,000.00

Bids: 7 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Fall 2020",
which ran from 11/4/2020 12:00 PM to
11/21/2020 8:00 PM

Brown’s rake irons, or water irons as they are sometimes called, are among the most famous of all golf collectibles.  Marketed as “heros of the hazards,” these irons were designed to play shots from water, high grass, and sand. 

In 1903 and 1905, James R. Brown received two British Patents that covered his rake irons, including the Major Niblick rake iron offered here. This model is among the rarest of Brown's rakes as it was soon replaced by Brown's Thistle after the Thistle, which is also a niblick, was introduced.  The Major Niblick is a cross between the Thistle (which has five slots in the face, thin tines, no filigree on the face, and a head that is distinctly rounded on its back side) and the Major (which has thicker tines, six slots on the face, filigree on the face, and a comparatively flat back). As can be seen, the club offered here has five slots in the face and a rounded back like the Thistle and wider tines and filigree on the face like the Major. 

The shaft is original as is the sheepskin grip. The back of the head is stamped "Brown's Patent" in an oval. The filigree is strong and much of the original tinning remains on the head.

The story behind Brown's rake irons is documented in the March 1906 issue of Fry's Magazine.  James R Brown was not a golfer, but some of Brown’s acquaintances were golfers who would come to him complaining of sand that had gotten in their eyes while golfing.   The Fry’s article then recounts how one night, while sleeping, Brown “beheld an implement in his dreams which he calculated would stagger humanity.  With a plan of the club still in his mind’s eye he rose from his bed… hurriedly dressed, and in the silent hours set to work in his smithy, on his mental pattern.  Far into the night he worked, and the cocks were crowing before he returned to the blankets. Next day he was never away from his bench…”

During the next months, two more experimental models were tried before Brown made his breakthrough.  The Fry’s Magazine article continues: “One Saturday evening he set to work upon an idea which had been suggested to him that afternoon while he was racking his brain and raking his garden.  ‘Why not shape the club after the manner of an inverted rake?’ he asked himself. “  So he did.

Brown’s rake irons proved to be a flash in the pan.  They met with some success when introduced in 1904, but they never really caught hold.  In a few short years, Brown's hazard heros were well on their way out.

This is an prime example of one of Brown's rarest designs.

 TCA2 V 1: P262-264

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