Collecting vintage Tennis racquets (rackets) is a wonderful hobby which has been expanded considerably thanks to Ebay. Racquets never seen in Australia can now be purchased and the array of brands and designs is quite staggering. To appreciate the subject we recommend you find a copy of Siegfried Kuebler’s book “The Book of Tennis Rackets”. It is a wonderful testament to the first racquet makers through to the 1990′s. More updates are planned, and presented here are some unusual designs that have broadened the horizon of shape, function, stringing and look. One of the most significant developments in tennis racquet design has occurred due to the new construction materials such as graphite. This has allowed designers to explore a variety of shapes and string surface areas, the latest being 137sq in. 32 inch, (then reduced to 28″ Gamma BIG BUBBA) that earlier wood materials could not withstand.
Some people like paintings, racquet collectors enjoy the skill of fine workmanship in wood, unusual designs and special effects in the very same way and artistically, look sensational along any wall.
This gallery includes racquets made all round the world from the early 1920′s to 2005. Please also see some modern unusual racquets under a separate heading and you will see more unusual designs, such as the variety of wooden handles under other sections devoted to wood racquets, strings etc.
Hazell Streamline UK 1930′s
Made popular by Henry Wilfred “Bunny” Austin who played with these at Wimbledon.
Way ahead of their time, models were also produced for squash and badminton. Models were differentiated by coloured star logos and you may well find green, red, blue and white star examples all of which are very expensive.
Grays, famous even today for their Royal Tennis racquets acquired Hazell and produced a STREAMLINE version themselves in the 1970′s, also shown above.
In 1937, at around the same time, a very similar looking Snauwaert Triumph model hit the market in possible contravention of Hazell’s patent. Donnay made one in this style in the 1950′s called the Court King.
France c 1920s
Nice example of a hexagon shaped head starting just above the shoulders.
In Australia, Slazenger evaluated a wood racquet which had a tear drop shape along these lines to improve aerodynamics.
Hillman Herbert Cooper
‘Premier’ Model 1886
Patented tension adjustment system where a leather cord is tightened within the butt cap area.
In addition, a steel racquet which may well be one of the earliest.
The company was most well known for bicycle manufacture. A very rare item.
Thanks to US Collector, Randy Crow for the photos and history.
Patent # 346 751
As shown in Siegfried Kuebler’s book page 512
Craven Adjuster-tite 1928
A very early invention to change the string tension. Designed and patented by Edward Craven, the license was sold to Wilson, Magnan, Kent and Draper Maynard.
As you can see the butt cap permits the internal rod to be tightened or loosened.
Despite a few companies offering such technology, examples are scarce owing to the lack of uptake by customers.
Patent 1927 # 1 663 039
As shown in Siegfried Kuebler’s book page 539
Craven Proto-type 1929-1931
While known for the Adjuster-tite method, this design was patented in 1933 by Jacob Kleinmann. The crescent shape would wind down into a slot in the throat.
We are unsure if this ever made into production, but the International model name is a Craven racquet and we suspect they worked on a version.
Patent Application 1929 Given 1933 # 1 912 942
As shown in Siegfried Kuebler’s book page 546
Dayton USA 1922 – 1990′s
One of the first metal head/wood handle combinations. They were strung with piano wire. The factory made this product almost without change, including the wood handles up to 1995.
From Randy Crow, USA collector, comes this valuable research information.
1.If the butt cap has “Dayton Ohio” printed on it, it was made between 1923 and 1934.
2.If the plastic butt cap says “Arcanum O” and the throat doesn’t have the three-racquet logo, it dates from 1934-1974.
3. If the racquet has a logo of three stylized racquets on the throat, it was made after 1974.
There were plenty of models and colours so whilst available the trick is to find them in good condition with not to much rust or paint loss and learn how to differentiate the age of various models.
They were sold in Australia late 1922 and used by Gerald Patterson and Pat O’Hara Wood in local tournaments over 1923/1924. Some of the famous French musketeers visiting Australia in 1929 also were introduced to them by Patterson on a drizzly day at Royal South Yarra Tennis Club.
So rather than importing them from the USA, some lucky collectors may find some local delivered examples.
Please note that the Birmal, below, was also sold in Australia.
Birmal Aluminium c1923 UK
An all metal racquet which appeared at around the same time as Dayton in the USA. Originally with the pictured cord grip they eventually moved to a wrapped leather grip. In Jeanne Cherry’s book she cites the earliest metal racquets to a Scottish company called the Metallic Racquet Corp. c 1887. This photo is courtesy of www.woodtennis.com These racquets were sold in Australia in the mid late 1920′s and included in an ad from the Northern Territory and a 1927 McEwans catalogue at a mid price point of 55 shillings compared to 95 shillings for the best wood racquets.
Silver Fox UK c 1930′s
Potentially the first stainless steel metal racquet with a wood combination. Dayton used carbon steel.
A patent number printed with the logo cannot be confirmed as being correct.
Maybe a dummy patent was a good marketing idea back then?
See Arco stainless steel racquets to read about the first full frame welded stainless steel racquet invented in Australia in the mid 70′s
‘Allo ‘French Prototype c1940′s
Solid cast aluminium. Might be a one off. Found in a full length Allo bag. Allo were making weapons and car parts c 1940′s and had made wooden racquets from about 1900. The workmanship in the casting is extraordinary and you can see the string waves in the throat and the guides on the inside of the racquet. The strings sit in a protected channel around the frame which deepens at the top where most damage occurs.
A lot of thought has gone into this.