UPSTATE N.Y. SPORTS LORE: Year of the (Baseball) Glove — J.A. Peach Company
Part 1 of a three-part series pertaining to the major baseball glove manufacturing companies that once operated in Fulton County.
At the turn of the 20th century, baseball had truly become ‘America’s Pastime’ and interest in the game was growing throughout North America at an unprecedented rate. There were two major leagues (National and American), numerous minor leagues, and hundreds of semi-professional and amateur leagues.
In addition to the thousands now playing the game at the organized levels, tens of thousands of youths were also partaking in the game across the United States and Canada. With these new levels of interest in the game came an increased demand for equipment to participate.
While 19th century players did not initially wear gloves, and would eventually wear gloves that were more likened to today’s ‘batting gloves,’ by the turn of the century, actual baseball gloves were being developed to better protect the players hands and to improve their fielding. Gloversville and Johnstown were the heartland of the American glove making industry, and it was a natural extension for equipment manufacturing companies to arise in this area as they had access to a significant supply of quality leather materials and an ample work force already skilled in the processes needed to produce the required finished goods.
Beginning in 1898, the first of three major baseball glove companies that would begin operations in Fulton County entered the sporting goods manufacturing scene with the formation of the J.A. Peach Company in Gloversville. John A. Peach, who resided at 35 Cedar St. in Gloversville, had been a glove cutter in the local glove industry, and put his knowledge of leather (cowhide, horsehide, deerhide and sheepskin) and practical experience of machine work towards making baseball gloves and other sporting goods.
This new company operated out of a three-story building located at 18 Mill St. in Gloversville.
In addition to baseball gloves, they also produced footballs, striking bags, snowshoes, hunting and fishing boots and moccasins. Today, this location is the site of the former Vertucci Glove Company building at the corner of Mill Street and Pine Street (behind the former Dunkin-Donuts on South Main Street). The site was most recently utilized by Walter Buyce to operate his “Gloves from Gloversville” glove making company, which has since moved to 11 Grandoe Lane.
On Sept. 30, 1904, Peach applied for a patent on a catching (fielder’s) glove he designed that was constructed with adjustable padding to “suit your hand.”
This glove had a replaceable inner lining that was held in place with metal snaps and could be instantly removed by the wearer and adjusted to their liking.
A patent was granted to Peach for this design on Sept. 26, 1905, and demand for this new model was enormous. Peach was forced to double his work force and had production teams working day and night to keep up with the demand for his products.
To allow his company to keep up with the surge of interest in his gloves, Peach began a working relationship with the Consolidated Sporting Goods Manufacturing Company in 1906. Consolidated Sporting Goods was a well-financed company based in Philadelphia. They already had a large presence in the sporting products industry (namely baseball uniforms) and expanded into the baseball glove sector by setting up a location at 61 Bleecker St. in Gloversville. This location is now the empty lot directly behind the Peking Chinese Food Restaurant (dumpster area) at the corner of Church and Bleecker Street.
Peach served as their plant manager at the new Gloversville location, while continuing operation of his J.A. Peach Company on Mill Street. By 1909, their capacity was 1,200 gloves and mitts per day and they held a large piece of the baseball glove market.
The line consisted of 110 styles of fielder’s mitts, 15 styles of basemen’s mitts, 20 styles of catcher’s mitts and athletic specialties such as striking bag mitts, leather wrist and ankle supporters and chamois pushers. The unique design was very popular with many major league players, including the entire Chicago Cubs team.
During this time, J. A. Peach produced a baseball glove advertising display poster that featured a stadium scene with 19 Major Leaguers endorsing their gloves. Included were future hall of famers Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Frank Baker, Napoleon Lajoie, Chief Bender, Ed Walsh, Frank Chance, Roger Bresnahan, John McGraw and Connie Mack. Only four of these pieces are known to still be in existence, with three being in the hands of private collectors and the fourth is housed at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Consolidated Sporting Goods wanted the Peach removable liner patent in their name, so the patent was reissued in 1909 with John Peach acting as the assignor for Consolidated Sports. Before the patent was reissued, Charles King of A.J. Reach filed a patent application for his own removable liner design. A.J. Reach subsequently sued Consolidated Sports for patent infringement and won a decision in the Philadelphia courts. This was a major blow to Consolidated Sporting Goods and by early 1912 they were out of business.
J.A. Peach Sporting Goods continued to operate and working to develop new designs of baseball gloves. On November 18, 1910, Peach applied for a patent on a catcher’s mitt with a “bifurcated patch” at the wrist opening. This new design provided a circular leather patch sliced part way, which formed a slot to surround and overlap the end of the wrist opening. This provided an extra layer of leather to stitch and eased the stress points at the end of the wrist opening, making it difficult to rip. Peach was granted a patent on this design on May 21, 1912.
However, the 1909 patent for the A.J. Reach glove remained a more effective design to reinforce the wrist opening of a glove and proved to have more success and influence on glove design moving forward. Due to this fact, the new Peach design failed to obtain the same popularity as their 1904-05 design and they began to lose market share to the other major baseball glove manufacturers of the day.
Peach eventually sold the J.A. Peach Sporting Goods manufacturing operation to glove maker Ralph E. Bradford of Gloversville in 1913. Peach then became identified with the Sells Horse Goods company in Canton Ohio to run their sporting goods manufacturing department. In early 1914, a fire at the Ralph E. Bradford Glove Shop at 5 Burr St., caused extensive water damage to all the contents of the building, which included baseball glove making equipment and inventory.
While the three-story building still stands today (next to the C.M.S. Broadcasting Company building at the corner of South Main Street and Burr Street), there are no records or reference as to what became of the Peach operation in Gloversville after the fire. John Peach himself would emerge as owner of the John A. Peach Sporting Goods Company of Canton Ohio in 1916 and once again in 1920 with an affiliation with the Peach-Tober Sporting Goods company in Hartford Connecticut.
For John A. Peach and his company’s role in developing and supplying baseball gloves to Major League Baseball, the J.A. Peach Sporting Goods Company has been nominated for induction into the Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony is set for June 22 as part of the annual Vintage Baseball Game to be played at Parkhurst Field in Gloversville.
Also set to be inducted at the ceremony are Johnstown’s Brian Mee, Fred Webb and F. Rulison and Sons. The event will be open to the public and the nominees will be inducted between innings of the game. For more information about the inductions and event, visit www.parkhurstfield.org .
As part of the special “Year of the Glove Exhibit” currently on display at the Fulton County Museum that celebrates the areas glove industry, there is also a “Baseball Glove Exhibit” featured that includes items pertaining to the J. A. Peach Company. Included are gloves, advertising items and a reproduction of the rare J.A. Peach store display that contains thirteen Baseball Hall of Famers. To see these items and the entire “Year of the Glove Exhibit,” visit the Fulton County Museum at 237 Kingsboro Ave. in Gloversville. Museum hours 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (Memorial Day weekend to last week of June), and 12 to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (July through Labor Day).
Mike Hauser is the founder of the Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame in Gloversville. If you have story ideas, old articles/photos or would like to nominate someone for the HOF, he can be reached through the organization’s website at www.fchof.com, email; firstname.lastname@example.org or call (518) 725-5565.