This is a rare late 1890s ballot box from the North Herts Golf Club, at least that is the indication with the North Herts Golf Club general committee meeting notice included inside the box when it was originally purchased at auction in the UK in the 1990s.
Ballot boxes were
used by the members of a golf club to determine—anonymously—who would
become a new member. When somebody applied for membership and their
name made it to a final vote, each person voting would pick up a single
voting ball (usually the size of a marble or slightly larger and made
from clay) and then place their hand into the center opening of the
ballot box. Then they would release the ball to the left or right in order to register their yes or no vote. After everybody
had voted the drawers would be opened, the balls in each drawer counted,
and the verdict announced.
The drawers on this ballot box are marked, "Yes" on the left and "No" on the right, and the top of the ballot box is marked "For" on the left and "Against" on the right, so the fellow voting can see which side to drop the ball inside the box.
The original divider is still inside the box. It will stand up and force fit into position. It can be taken down if desired, and the box can still be used to cast votes by reaching in beyond the "half-shelf" that rest just under the opening. The drawer, which is divided into the "yes" half and the "no" half will come out, but it is best to open the drawer by putting one's hand into the box and pushing the back of the drawer out using the tips of one's fingers. The drawer will come out easily enough. When pulling on the front of the drawer, as they would have back in the day, the drawer does not want to pull forward, but it will move up and down and side to side. The inside of each drawer has an incline plane in the back to help the balls move to the the front of the drawer.
While it shows some wear, this box remains in remarkably good shape. Everything is solid, as shown in the images. All the words are still clear and beautifully painted onto the box. The card that was in the box when it was originally purchased around 25 years bears a date of 30-1-21. North Herts Golf Club dates back to 1893, and this ballot box likely became a fixture there shortly there after.
This box, which is portable complete with as a handle on its top, was probably getting to the end of its useful life in 1921, given the sticky drawer and less than new appearance. Today, however, the drawer can still be opened easily if one simply pushes from the back side, and the wear on the box adds to its charm and helps document its age.
The box measures approximately 11" wide, 9 1/2" deep, and 11" tall. Measuring to the top of the handle the box is approximately 14 1/2" tall. The ball shown is not part of the lot. It is included to provide size prospective.