Lot # 5: Unmarked Featherball

Category: Golf Balls

Starting Bid: $1,000.00

Bids: 17 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Fall 2023",
which ran from 11/2/2023 12:00 PM to
11/18/2023 8:00 PM

This circa 1830s feather ball has been well used.  Portions of the seam stitches are visible at various places. Little of the original paint remains. Despite its less than perfect condition, at over 180 years old this historical ball is loaded with character.  After all, it does look oooooold and has no need to apologize.  Quite the contrary.  There is nothing wrong with a genuine feather ball showing age and use. In fact, it's clear evidence of authenticity.  Golf balls were meant to be struck, and this one was—no doubt with great delight! Best of all, it has survived to tell the tale!

The leather is tight and the ball remains in solid condition. The two closing stitches lack all paint and are clearly visible.  The nature of the wear on this ball makes it interesting to examine and inspect the ballmaker's work as well as the golfer's use. This ball might not be perfect, but it sure is ruggedly handsome and a marvel to behold. 

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).

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