Made in Glasgow, Scotland, and covered under a Feb, 21, 1893 British patent, William Ross' irons were the first spring-faced irons to be patented. It wasn't until 1896 before they came to market. When they did they were not well received and thus were soon off the market.... (To his credit, Ross also patented a spring face wood, though an example of that club is unknown.)
The July 1896 issue of "Golfing" contains an ad for the club that is reproduced in the accompanying images. The ad describes the club as having a head "of crucible mild steel, and a spoon-like cavity on the face. This cavity is covered with a strong tempered steel plate, which forms the striking surface. This plate has a powerful spring action on striking the ball...which gives great additional power to the club."
The steel plate on this club is held in place with three large circular steel rivets that extend through the plate. These rivets are hard to see in the images because the oxidation and wear to the steel head has blended the face plate, rivets and the head all together. But upon close inspection, the steel rivets can be made out—one in the heel and two in the toe—as can the edges of the steel plate itself. A number of the photos that accompany this lot zoom in close to show the edges of the steel plate as it runs along three sides of the face as well as the heel of the face, right next to the hosel.
Another Ross spring-face ad in the 1896 "Golfing Annual" states that the head is made from aluminum bronze. That ad is also reproduced in the accompanying images.
Three Ross brass head w/steel face irons are known to the auctioneer to go along with this steel head version. Ross spring-face irons are historic as the first of their kind. Just think about all the clubs made in the 20th and 21st century that advertised having a trampoline face of sorts—everything from Wilson's Reflex irons of the 1970s to the zillions of metalwoods built today with strict limits on their COR.
Original 38 3/4" shaft. The club still has its original grip but some of it is missing off the end.
TCA2: V2 p413