Take me out to the ball game

By Robin Waldman

I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game.
–Walt Whitman

Although Benjamin Franklin Shibe died in 1922, his accomplishments had a direct effect on your evening plans for tonight.

Never heard of him? You should thank Shibe, if you’re among the millions of Americans who are looking forward to tonight’s World Series opener in St. Louis, showcasing the Cardinals against the Texas Rangers. Shibe invented the automated stitching machinery that led to the standardization of baseballs, and we have his patent application (NAID 2524963) here in the Archives.

“The object of my invention is to produce a playing ball…upon which the layers of yarn may be wound under greater tension, whereby greater compactness results, perfect concentric formation is attained, and a more durable and rigid structure secured and uniform resiliency acquired and maintained.”

Without Shibe’s invention we might have needed to blame a controversial call tonight on a ball of non-uniform resiliency instead of on the umpire.

Patent files are fascinating, and provide a historical context for American entrepreneurship and invention. Each patented case file may include the jacket, printed specifications and drawings of the issued patent, petitions, applicant’s initial specifications, oath of invention, reports by patent attorneys, applicant’s drawings, amendments to the petition, powers of attorney, notices of allowances and fee payments, receipts for fees, and correspondence with inventor(s) and their attorneys.

But there is a trick to researching Records of the Patent and Trademark Office (RG 241): only a sampling of patent files are maintained in the metro DC area. Most are stored offsite because our local facilities cannot accommodate all of our holdings. Have no fear, though, because any offsite record that you would like to see in person in our research room can be retrieved upon request within 72 hours. We’ll tell you more about that process in a November post.

See folder: 924696 – Baseball – Benjamin Shibe (NAID 2524963), from the series: Selected Patent Files, 1840 – 2005 (NAID 1122319), Record Group 241: Records of the Patent and Trademark Office.

2 thoughts on “Take me out to the ball game

  1. Robin,

    Live and learn. Thanks for the story on Mr. Benjamin Franklyn Shibe and his automated stiching machinery. Iam a part time sports writer specially baseball who enjoy reading about “hidden” sports stories like yours.

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