The club offered here, marked "Patent / R. Simpson / Reg No. 21,475" on the crown, is the first club patented by Robert Simpson of Carnoustie. The slightly longer than normal clubhead appears to me a normal transitional-type driver, but the head is unusual in its construction and material. it looks like varnish wood only because it was originally painted to do so!
In order to produce a stronger and more durable clubhead, Simpson's patent dated November 8, 1894, identifies this has as being made from "hornite" which he defined as "hard vulcanized fibre, which, as its name implies, imitates horn."
In his patent, Simpson states that each head is made as follows: "It is first sawn out of a sheet of material...after which it is soaked in boiling water for about twenty minutes in order that it may become flexible. It is then placed in a press somewhat similar to a letter copying press . . . and bent the desired amount.... the head is left in the press for about twenty minutes in order that it may partly set, after which it is removed to the appliance and kept there for about a week until it is thoroughly dry. [The appliance was a rack designed to keep the angle between the head and neck constant.] When the heads are thoroughly dry they are finished in a manner similar to wooden ones—except they do not have the "horn" in the striking edges as a facing or protection . . . ."
When viewing both the top of this head and the sole, one can see the layers of the vulcanized paper fiber. While the head on this club was designed to be more durable than wood, the club had other issues. One major problem is that, over time, the angle between the head and neck starts to revert or flatten. This club is no exception. It is distinctly flatter than normal, but not as dramatically flat as a few others the auctioneer has seen. This flat lie has actually become part of the charm of these clubs.
The 44" shaft and sheepskin grip are original. Overall, this is a wonderfully creative and attractive club from 130 years ago that remains in outstanding condition.