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CATCHER'S MASK
DATING GUIDE

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Reference

1907 Reach Patent Elastic Head Strap
1907 Reach Ptent for Elstic head strap
Google Patents

1911 D & M Electric Weld Steel Wire Catcher's Mask
1911 D & M Electric Weld Mask
Draper & Maynard, 1911 Baseball Catalog

Vintage Catchers Mask Dating Guide 
1877-1899 CATCHER'S MASK DATING GUIDE
  The first Catcher's masks were used in 1875, were heavy, clumsy and impleaded the sight of the catcher. The first retail catchers mask was made available by Spalding in 1877. Leather or and Canvas head straps are used to secure the mask to the head, chin and forehead for support. Hair stuffed side padding is used to cushion the face. The frames are made with a simple loop & clip wire construction. The first masks resemble Birdcages worn over the face. Manufactures start to develop designs to make the masks lighter, allow better vision for the catcher, and add more strength and better protection. Features such as the Neck Protector, "Goggle Eyes" (Spiderman masks), Sunshades, and black enamel coated steel wire is offered on the retail market.  
Visual Glossary
First Catchers Mask Patent 1878 Birdcage Parts of a Catchers Mask 1880s Catchers Mask
First Catchers Mask Patent
1878 "Birdcage" style
Circa 1890-1910s Goggles "Spiderman" style catchers mask with Neck Protector Circa 1880's Birdcage Style
Catcher's Mask

  The Dating of a catcher's mask could prove to be a difficult task. Construction styles and features could have been used for many years after they were introduced. For example the Catcher's Mask with the neck protector pictured in the visual glossary was sold from about 1890 into the 1910's. There are only slight differences between some years. Imported dogskin (yes dogskin) was used to house the padding when this masked first hit the market. Other material used for padding might date the mask to a later date. This model was also sold with a sunshade, but was not available before 1907. Masks with bright steel wires were sold before the black enameled wire was offered in 1896, to cut down on glare, but the bright steel wire masks were still available afterwards. Loop & clip construction gave out to Electric weld in 1911.  
Catchers mask with Loop & Clip construction 1911 Electric Weld catchers Mask 1912 Wide Sight catchers Mask
Loop & Clip Construction "Goggle Eye" catchers mask Catchers Mask constructed with Electric Weld introduced in 1911 "Wide Sight" eye space  starts replacing Goggle eyes in 1912
  These are the type of things to look for when dating a mask. Elastic head straps were not available until 1907. The construction methods are another tool for dating a mask. The loop & clip construction was used throughout the 1800's. Starting in 1911 Electric weld was used to construct the masks. Electric weld masks cannot date before 1911 but the loop & clip method was still used into the early 1920's. If you have a Loop & clip mask with an elastic head strap it was made in 1907 or later.

Basically the main features with masks, excluding the 1880's, but dated to the 1890-1899 manufacturing period are; Goggles  or "Spiderman" eye space, Loop & Clip construction, Side pads with leather forehead and chin straps, and no elastic used with the head strap.

Because it is easier to date a mask to the era when a feature was available I have listed a timeline below. You might be able to use unique features on your mask that overlap other features to narrow down the date. I have also included catalog images so you can match styles and construction characteristics like a fingerprint.
 
Catchers Mask Timeline
  • 1877 Spalding introduces the first retail Catcher's mask
  • 1891 Spalding introduces a Patented Molded Leather "Sunshade"
  • 1907 Reach introduces Elastic Head Straps
  • 1911 D&M introduces Electric Welded steel wire construction
  • 1912 Reach introduces "Wide Sight" frame construction Spalding
  • 1914 Reach introduces "The Spitter" hole
1880-1899 Catchers Mask Catalog Samples & Patents
 
1883 Spalding Catcher's Mask Ad 1892 Reach Catchers Mask catalog ad 1892 Spalding Catchers Mask ad  1896 Spalding Catalog ad
1880-1883 Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide 1892 Reach's Official 
Base Ball Guide
1892 Spaldings Official 
Base Ball Guide
1896 Spalding's Official 
Base Ball Guide
       
1883 Catchers Mask Patent 2 piece hinged frame  1887 catchers mask Patent for inflatable pads 1888 catchers mask patent improvements on forehead & chin straps  1899 catchers mask patent adjustable side pads
1883 Catchers Mask Patent 2 piece hinged frame 1887 Catchers Mask Patent for inflatable cushions 1887 Catchers Mask Patent  forehead & chin straps 1899 Catchers Mask Patent adjustable side pads
 
1890's Catchers Mask  Early examples of circa1980 Catchers Masks 1890s Catchers Mask
1890's Catchers Mask 1880's Catchers Masks 1890's Catchers Mask
 
 
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