The most iconic ball in the game of golf is the Feather Ball. It's the stuff of lore and legend. Here, we have the real thing, a beautiful unused example with tight seams and original paint. Although this ball is unused, the owner had every intention of using it. He marked the ball with and "X" to help identify his ball from others during play. The ball is a little larger than normal and has but a single small chip in the original paint.
With the advent of the gutta percha golf ball in 1845, feather balls were well on their way out by 1850.
Feather balls—made with a leather exterior and a feather-filled interior—are the oldest remaining golf balls known. According to Thomas Peter's 1890 account in Reminiscenses of Golf and Golfers (p 8-9) the making of a feather ball was almost a science:
"The leather was of untanned bull's hide, Two round pieces for the ends, and a strip for the middle were cut to suit the weight wanted. These were properly shaped, after being sufficiently softened, and firmly sewed together—a small hole being of course left, through which the feathers might be afterwards inserted. But before stuffing, it was through this little hole that the leather itself had to be turned outside in, so that the seams should be inside—an operation not without difficulty. The skin was then placed in a cup-shaped stand (the worker having the feathers in an apron in front of him), and the actual stuffing done with a crutch-handled steel rod, which the maker placed under his arm. And very hard work, I may add, it was. Thereafter the aperture was closed, and firmly sewed up: and this outside seam was the only one visible."
By all accounts, the making of feather balls was hard work. A good feather ball maker working by himself crafted between 3-4 a day. It was also dangerously unhealthy work. These artisans were prone to contracting lung trouble and asthma from working in such close proximity to ordinary cocks and hens feathers, which is what Tom Morris identified the feathers as when asked about it in 1900. (Golf Illustrated, 7 Dec. 1900: 204).