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J.F. Hillerich & Son
1893 Newspaper clipping
1893 Newspaper reference

Consolidated Illustrating Co. 1895 Publication
Louisville Of To Day Consolidated Illustrating Co. 1895

1900 Louisville Slugger
 Copyrighted Bat Ad
1900 Louisville Slugger Baseball Bats
Simmons Hardware Co.
Catalog Ad

 
 

  Collectors News Announcements and Articles of Interest  
Keymancollectibles.com The Webs Best Recourse for Baseball Memorabilia March 27, 2018
  Found in a Closet - This J.F. Hillerich & Son Baseball Bat Could Be the Earliest Slugger to Surface. - Steven KeyMan  
  J.F. Hillerich & Son Copyrighted Baseball Bat  
   A, J.F. Hillerich & Son baseball bat with "Copyrighted" below the oval center brand, instead of the common "Trademark" branding, has recently surfaced. It might possibly be one of, or the earliest Louisville Slugger known to exist. The bat was found by Virginia Stinnett in an historic house owned by her family since 1830. "I don't remember my father mentioning the bat growing up." Said Virginia. "I found it in the back of our front hall closet in 1989 after my father passed away. I had forgotten about it until recently."
 the Redwood built in 1830 by Nathaniel Pendleton
 Virginia's home the "Redwood" was built in 1830 by Nathaniel Pendleton, chief magistrate and high sheriff of Culpeper County; author and signer of the first protest against the Stamp Act; captain of the First Regiment of Virginia; and chairman of the Committee of Safety and Correspondence. During the Civil War, the Redwood was used for several months as the headquarters of Gen. Rice, U.S.A., and his staff. Union solders were encamped in the surrounding fields. General Lee and Longstreet held a conference here. Virginia's father, Capt. John T. S. Kearns, who inherited this historic house and the contents, was the five-great grandson of Nathaniel Pendleton.

 Twenty-Eight years after finding the bat, Virginia finally decided to see if the bat had any value, and possibly sell it. A Google search brought her to the KeyMan Collectibles Louisville Slugger Bat Dating Guide. She couldn't find any reference to a bat that had "a diamond shape in the middle of a line," or the Copy Righted branding below the oval, so she contacted me about it. After I saw the pictures I began my own investigation by scratching my head.
 
  Dash-Diamond-Dash Copy Righted J.F. Hillerich and Son baseball bat   
   After doing an extended Google search, while scratching my head, I went through a number of auction archives, and found nothing like it. Not one bat that had the Copy Righted branding, the "Dash-Diamond-Dash" feature, and I also noticed that I couldn't find any bats that had the same branding font. This bat was not only extremely rare, but unique to any other Louisville Slugger bat that I have seen in three ways. I contacted the Louisville Slugger Museum to see if they could shed some light on this bat.

 I spoke with Chris Meiman, Curator of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. He told me that in the museum's collection there were "two bats with the same kind of font used for the center brand as the Copy Righted bat but with Trademark below the Oval. "One is an unnamed bat from our former traveling exhibition and the other is a game-used Hugh Duffy bat we have on display." Chris loosely dated both bats "from 1887 up to about 1905," the dating originally done by Dave Bushing, and re-evaluated in 2012 by Hunt Auctions.
 
   J.F. Hillerich & Son Baseball Bat Fonts  
    The branding on both bats also have the unique Dash-Diamond-Dash feature that makes them unique to all other Louisville Slugger bats. Baseball bats are branded with Dash-Dot-Dash, until 1921 when it was replaced with "MADE IN U.S.A." The museum doesn't have good records from before 1920, so as far as the "COPY RIGHTED" branding goes there is no evidence, or positive explanation to why it was used, in place of "TRADEMARK."  
 


 
   In lieu of records, and catalogs, we have no choice but to place the established dating of Louisville Slugger bat branding in chronological order, then see where the unique features on this Copyrighted bat fits in. Starting with the Dash-Diamond-Dash feature, it could only predate the Dash-Dot- Dash branding, which has already been established by mainstream bat dating, to be used from 1897 to 1921. However, the addition of "Co." after "J.F. HILLERICH & SON" to the trademark branding in 1916, assures that the Dash-Diamond-Dash on this J.F. Hillerich & Son was not used after 1916.  
   
    The font used for the branding on this "Copyrighted" Louisville Slugger bat, is like no other, with the exception of the two example in the museum. The use of this font could have overlapped with the standard branding used thereafter but once the "new" font became a standard trademark branding it is very unlikely that the older font was revisited. The "Copyrighted" bat font matching the two earliest examples in the museum, being loosely dated as far back as 1888, shows that it was the first Louisville Slugger branding used.

 I was told by an "expert" in the field of authenticating and dating Game Used baseball bats that "J.F. Hillerich & Son" branded baseball bats could not have been made before 1897 because John Andrew "Bud" the son of John Frederick, did not become a partner until 1897. But, the fact is, as evident by newspaper references, and illustrations the company was already doing business as "J.F. Hillerich & Son" as early as 1893, and as stated in an excerpt taken from page 92 of the consolidated Illustrating Co. "Louisville To Day" Mr. J.F. Hillerich conducted business by himself, "until the year 1888, When he took his son Mr. J.A. Hillerich in partnership...." This is the year Bud began turning bats.

 The name "Louisville Slugger" became the company's registered trademark in 1894, which also points to the fact that "Louisville Slugger" baseball bats were made before 1897 and because the company was conducting business under the name "J.F. Hillerich & Son" they were using the companies Trademark Branding. This would also prove that the original dating of the museum's bat from the traveling exhibition, and the game-used Hugh Duffy bat to 1887 is wrong. J.F. Hillerich & Son could not legally use a "Trademark" branding on the bat until 1894. This however could also explain the use of "Copyrighted."
 
  COPYRIGHTED * TRADEMARK * TRADE MARK REG U.S. PAT. OFF. * TRADE MARK REG.  
    Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection provided for original works of authorship. It is my contention that J.F. Hillerich & Son Copyrighted the term "Louisville Slugger" before it became a registered trademark, explaining the use of "COPYRIGHTED" on the bat. This also means that this Copyrighted baseball bat predates the two "Trademark"  bats in the museum. Evidence that "Louisville Slugger" was a registered copyright is shown in a Simmons Hardware Company bat advertisement published in 1900. The ad shows in print "The Louisville Slugger" with (Copyrighted) below.

 Mike of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Virtual Hall of Fame website, a longtime collector of game used bats noted that he had come across a few of these rare "Dash-Diamond-Dash bats over the years with this style font. Before seeing my study, the bats were roughly dated to before the 1900's using provenance through family ownership. Mike came to the exact conclusion as I, that the Dash-Diamond-Dash bats were from about 1888-1896. He also feels that the branding was changed in 1897. He only seen one other of the extremely rare Copyrighted bat which he also believes predate the Trademark bats. That makes only two known examples of the Copyrighted bat.
 
 
 
       
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