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Vintage 1870s Catalog Shows Amazing Old Baseball Uniforms

If Uni Watch had existed in 1873 the baseball (or base ball, or base-ball, or just B.B.) uniforms shown above might have been featured in one of my first posts. The team at far-right should be familiar to most of you, of course — the Red Stockings became the sport’s first professional team in 1869, one year after they became the first team to wear knickers and colored hosiery. As for the other teams, I don’t know much about them, but they sure looked sharp!

Those images come from an 1873 uniform catalog from Peck & Snyder, a sporting goods brand that was later swallowed up by Spalding. It’s filled with interesting stuff, including a surprising amount of space devoted to baseball belts:

Note that some of the belts are for the team’s captain (which in those days was analogous to what we now call the manager). That jibes with the famous story of Bob Ferguson, who was captain of the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues and, according to this page, “wore a white belt with the words ‘I AM CAPTAIN’ in capital letters just in case someone was unsure of who was in charge.” The weird thing about the catalog illustrations, though, is that the “CAPTAIN” lettering appears to be on the inside of the belt and thus wouldn’t be visible. Hmmmm.

Peck & Snyder supposedly invented baseball caps. Here are some of the styles they were offering at the time:

Naturally, I like the page devoted to socks:

Here’s something interesting: Before the advent of foul poles, did you know that teams used to have their own team-colored foul flags? Check it out:

There’s a lot more, including shirts, pants, shoes, bats, balls, and uniforms for other sports (and also for firemen, oddly). Most of the catalog is in black-and-white, not color, but it’s definitely still worth checking out. You can see the entire thing here.

(Big thanks to longtime reader Eric Bangeman for pointing me toward this one.)


Comments (14)

    I’m very cautiously assuming the other teams are the Brooklyn Atlantics, New York Mutuals and what I can only guess was a team either owned or sponsored by the 19th century Broadway theater mogul Tony Pastor, an early example of naming rights.

    Totally agree on the Mutal and Atlantic (keeping with the 19th century singular usage). For the first, it very well could be what you said, and be a non-National Association of Professional Base Ball Players team/club.

    Interesting that second cap style is appropriate for “Base Ball, Cricket, Archery, and Lacrosse”, but the first one is not for Archery! It’s also funny that there’s no Oxford comma in “Base Ball, Cricket and Lacrosse”, but the Oxford comma is added when Archery is introduced.

    Man that catalog – in addition to base ball, has cricket, fencing, archery, yachting, sharpshooting – and I think one of my two favorite things were the comparison of a footballs from “association” (soccer) to rugby – with a very round rugby ball! As this was the 1873, American Football wasn’t codified – with every club playing by “folk” rules, and the line between soccer and rugby styles very blurry in America. Would love to hear the Football Archaeology guy’s take on this.

    But my truly favorite thing has to be the Indian Club Exercise advertisement. I heard it became a favorite exercise amongst British East India officers who witnessed Indian wrestlers training. Still cool to see it in an advertisement.

    Cricket is the key word. The cricket cap precedes the Murrican ball cap by decades. Check out the British National Portrait Gallery (the Instagram of its day for proof). Of course the baseball cap as we know it was produced In Brooklyn.

    That jibes with the famous story of Bob Ferguson, who was captain of the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues and, according to this page, “wore a white belt with the words ‘I AM CAPTAIN’ in capital letters just in case someone was unsure of who was in charge.”

    Shouldn’t Ferguson’s belt have said “Death to Flying Things”?

    Those are so cool. And they’re a great example of shirts and pants being different colors; these days, far too often, people use insults like “softball tops” when that happens, but as we can see, such a look is older than the supposedly traditional white and gray!

    Completely off-topic: the Nippon Ham Fighters wore the custom uniforms designed by manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo:


    Crazy colors, plus the NOBs have both surname and given name (in that order, as in the Japanese language). I would have put one of the names below the number, but otherwise I love these red-and-black monstrosities!

    Those may be, simultaneously, the best and worst unis I’ve ever seen. Somehow these go about ten steps further than the diamondbacks “stepped in blood” snakeskin unis but are ten times more visually appealing.

    Vintage Base Ball folks have assumed that the top of the belts depict the back, not the inside.

    Beautiful catalog, with a capital B. I love these old style hats, especially the cricket ones that look like a cushion with a short brim. These were also handed out to scoccer players in Europe when they played an international game for their country, hence the expression: he earned 15 caps for Scotland (for instance), starting from the late 19th century. In my country, the Netherlands, these caps were given to internationals well into the 1930s I think.

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