Last November I published an article built around the evaluation of a 1908 Fred Tenney New York Giants home uniform. At that time, I laid out some information and trends that were intended to show known and likely manufacturers/suppliers of uniforms to the 16 major league clubs. This time I would like to plug some gaps and offer some additional insights as to the ordering practices and patterns of the Cincinnati Reds. The source of this information is correspondence between the Cincinnati Reds and personnel from Spalding, Horace Partridge, and the P. Goldsmith’s Sons sporting goods companies. These letters are part of the August “Gary” Herrmann papers that were donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. I have long been interested in this collection of papers. If you’ve read Harold Seymour’s works on late 19th and early 20th Century baseball, you will notice that he cites the Herrmann papers as a primary source. With that being said, let’s begin to look at Cincinnati Reds uniforms and manufacturers at the start of the 20th Century.
1900-1911: Although P. Goldsmith and Sons was established in 1875, it does not appear that they provided the Cincinnati Reds with their uniforms during this period. Correspondence from Goldsmith to Herrmann on 2 Dec 1911 provides that it was not because of lack of effort. Citing the rallying cry of “Cincinnati for Cincinnatians”, Herrmann is reminded that the Goldsmith company has “made many efforts to see the Cincinnati team go out with Cincinnati uniforms, but without success. We know we can put up a uniform at a lower price, and of better value than the Cincinnati Club have been paying.” The Reds where clearing wearing uniforms provided by someone. Does Spalding become the default?
At first I would have thought so, but correspondence from Spalding Brothers Athletic Outfitters to Edward Hanlon of the Cincinnati Reds on 23 January 1906 mentions that “Some two years ago the Cincinnati Club purchased uniforms somewhere else and with very bad results, and I sincerely hope that nothing will be done to shift the order to some other people.” For me, this indicates that in 1904, the Reds did not get their uniforms from Spalding. The use of the word shift also seems to denote that Spalding had the contract for 1905 and did not want to see it moved or “shifted” to another supplier. Since it does not look like it was Goldsmith by their own admission they were “without success” in getting the hometown Reds to don their garb thus far, who might have been in the mix? There is correspondence from the Horace Partridge Company dated 13 March 1915 asking that the Reds consider their product since they claim to be “the largest manufacturers in the country today of baseball uniforms and would appreciate the opportunity of submitting samples of our goods to you for your personal inspection.” In this letter, Horace Partridge does not cite any previous relationship with the Reds however. Wright & Ditson remains as possibility as does Draper Maynard, but this would only because of the combination of the fact they were not Goldsmith, Spalding or Horace Partridge, but were national manufacturers/suppliers in the early 20th Century as well.
Correspondence from the Spalding Company to the Reds dated 4 March 1907 indicates that they were the supplier for the Reds in 1907 because “we have all the measurements except Hall, Mitchell, Davis, Hitt, and Weimer. We received a telegram from Mr. Bancroft stating that the Cincinnati uniforms, that is, the navy blue suits, must be in Marlin Texas today.” I found this passage of particular interest since it offers:
– Insights as to who the Reds were ordering uniforms from (Spalding).
-Players were in fact measured for their uniforms.
-Specifies the “navy blue suits” which are not normally associated with the Reds from 1904-1908.
-Shows the order as being for 26 suits.
I feel it’s safe to assume the Reds got these uniforms since subsequent correspondence talks about the shipping and invoicing of product to Marlin, Texas.
For 1908, there is correspondence to Herman from the Spalding Company dated 9 January 1908 in which the Spalding Company agrees to “furnish the Cincinnati Base Ball Club the very best grade of uniforms and sweaters upon the same conditions as the 1907 season.” This further supports Spalding as the supplier for 1907.
1909-1912: Assumed to be Spalding as there is nothing to suggest otherwise.
For 1913 Spalding was clearly the dominant supplier of uniforms to major league clubs in the early part of the 20th Century. The information contained in the 1913 Spalding uniform catalog (with fabric samples) is testimony to this. The Spalding catalog makes reference to outfitting fourteen of the sixteen teams complete, but were the Reds to be part of this continued mix? On 19 December 1912, Goldsmith thanks the Reds for “favoring us with your business on baseball uniforms for this season.” This is followed up by a letter dated 22 January 1913 in which Goldsmith lists the players they have been sent measurements for. The letter goes on to indicate that the players have also been asked to specify the style of sleeve they prefer (detachable, elbow, 3/4s or full length).
For 1914, Goldsmith appears to confirm the Reds order for both home and road uniforms for the 1914 season with their correspondence with Mr. Herrmann on 20 January 1914. This order included 26 home and road uniforms, 28 Mackinaw coats and 12 sweater coats. Of great interest is the description of styles not typically associated with the 1914 season, but rather before thought limited to 1912. “We will make your road uniforms, specifications of which are as follows:
-Steel gray with navy stripe material.
– V-neck style, all sleeves 3/4 except pitchers which will feature detachable sleeves.
-Silk embroidered letter “C” on left sleeve (cardinal red).
Sweater coats to be manufactured as:
-Maroon body, black front, black military collar, black cuffs, and black letter “C” on left breast.
For 1915, the Herrmann file contains a letter from the Spalding Company dated 29 January 1915 thanking the Reds for placing their 1915 uniform with Spalding. The Spalding “Specifications of Order” dated 13 February 1915 provides information on a style of jersey I have not seen or heard of to this point. Included in this exchange was an artist’s rendering of what the uniform was intended to look like. This same correspondence make note that the Reds were at least provided their caps in 1914 by Spalding.
For 1916, Spalding confirms on 17 January 1916, that “the home and traveling uniforms are to be made exactly like the ones purchased from us last year-same quality of cloth and same style lettering on the shirts and caps.”
1917: Spalding confirms on 16 January 1917, that “Home Uniforms to be white with narrow black stripe; traveling Uniform to be gray with dark stripe, same as furnished last year. The shirts of both suits to be made the same quality, but a little lighter grade than the pants, owing to the fact that it is not necessary to have the shirts too heavy and they will be much cooler in the summer, the lighter grade wearing just as well as the heavy. The shirts are to be lettered “CREDS”, color of the lettering cardinal red. The sleeves are to be three quarter length, shirts to have Military collar to be button front.”
By 1920, Goldsmith still appears to be in the strong “try mine” mode. On 16 July 1920, they informed the Reds that if the Cincinnati ball club took the National League pennant in 1920, they will “gratis the Cincinnati Reds Base Ball Club, one set of Major League Uniforms.” The Reds were to be given their choice of home or roads. Too bad for both the Reds and Goldsmith, but Cincinnati failed to repeat in 1920.
1926 appears to have been a year in which the Reds obtained uniforms from both Spalding and Goldsmith. On 26 December 1926, the Cincinnati Reds informed the Goldsmith Company that “the uniforms you made for our team last year were very inferior to the Spalding, in fact, so much so that all of the players complained about them.” Herrmann closed the letter with “I am afraid under the conditions as they exist that I will not be able to help you in this matter for the coming year.”
So what are the take-away’s in looking at Cincinnati Reds uniforms for the first quarter of the 20th Century if they are seen as a typical ball club for the period:
-Data seems to reinforce Spalding’s dominance of the uniform market.
-Manufacturers made regular annual solicitations to the ball clubs to promote their products.
-Home town pressure/preference did come into play at times. This played out in Boston with Horace Partridge and Wright & Ditson. Later the same thing would be seen in St. Louis with Rawlings and in Chicago with Wilson.
-At least for pre-1920, orders appear to be for one set of home and one set of roads. This helps to explain why we can see multiple styles of uniforms worn by teams in a single given year.
-Players were in fact measured for uniforms and offered options on certain features at times such as sleeve style, or what side of the rear of the pants they would like the pocket to be placed. While the pocket may not seem like a big deal, gloves of time were often stuffed into them when not left on the playing field.
-There may be styles out there we didn’t know existed, even only in form of proposed offerings.
-There is still much we don’t know and may likely never know.
As always, enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions and comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.