By the first quarter of the twentieth century, the Draper-Maynard Company of Plymouth, New Hampshire had become the preeminent manufacturer of professional model baseball gloves and one of the largest sporting goods suppliers in the United States. In fact, throughout the 1920's, the company claimed that between 80 and 90 percent of professional baseball players used their gloves. The metamorphosis of Jason & Nathaniel Draper's one-room glove factory in Glove Hollow into an iconic international brand is a remarkable American success story made possible by hard work and a little good fortune.
The Charter of Plymouth, New Hampshire
In 1763, Britain and France signed the Treaty of Paris, putting an end to the Seven Years War (French and Indian War in America). Under the terms of the treaty, France ceded Canada and the rest of North America east of the Mississippi to England. Eager to populate its new acquisition and generate revenue to repay its enormous war debts, the crown gave land grants to loyal subjects willing to start a new life in the American wilderness. In December of 1763, George the Third, King of England, granted sixty-two men land within the newly chartered town of Plymouth, New Hampshire. The men, many of whom had fought for the Crown in the French and Indian War, accepted the free land in exchange for agreeing to begin paying the Crown taxes annually after ten years.
120 miles northwest of Boston, Massachusetts at the foot of the White Mountains, Plymouth was blessed with good soil and an abundance of wild game. Farming was the primary occupation for Plymouth's residents through the eighteenth century, and by 1800, the population had grown to over 700. The rising population created an increased need for services and a new Plymouth merchant class soon emerged.
One Plymouth resident that capitalized on McQuesten's work was Jason Currier Draper, the son of a farmer who also conducted a meat market. According to sources, Draper learned the tanning trade from McQuesten, and then opened his own tanyard and glove factory on Glove Hollow Brook, in 1840 at the age of 26. The McQuesten's and Draper's had more in common than their trade; Jason's cousin's name was Alvah McQuesten Draper.
In 1857, Jason's younger brother, Nathaniel Fletcher Draper, a merchant, purchased stock and became active in the Glove Hollow business. Given their backgrounds, it is likely that Jason continued to manage the manufacturing process while Nathaniel handled sales and distribution. After Jason (1868) and Nathaniel (1871), passed away, Nathaniel's son, Jason Fletcher Draper, took over the operation of the factory.
Irwin Glove and Mitten Ad, 1890
Alvah McQuesten - Founder of an Industry
Born in Plymouth in 1797, Alvah McQuesten was a tanner, who purchased calfskins and cowhides from local farmers and prepared them for use in shoes, clothing, and other leather goods. By the early 1830's, McQuesten began experimenting with different techniques for preparing deer hide, a skin that was considered worthless because it became dry and stiff when treated with traditional tanning techniques. By boiling the skin, removing its natural grain, and curing it with hemlock and oil, McQuesten was able to create a soft, durable, and workable leather, "buckskin." McQuesten discovered that buckskin was an ideal material for gloves, which he began manufacturing in 1835. By the mid-nineteenth century, "Plymouth Buck Gloves" had become the chief export of Plymouth, with as many as twenty new businesses and hundreds of residents taking part in their manufacture [Stearns].
Levitt's Map with Views of the White Mountains, New Hampshire, 1871
J.F. Draper & Company
J.F. Draper & Co. Factory, Ashland N.H., circa 1890. Photo courtesy of Mike Tinney
The year after her father's death, Jason Fletcher Draper's younger sister, Harriet Emaline Draper, married John Fernando Maynard of Loudon, New Hampshire. Maynard was born on March 10, 1846 to a hard working farmer, Asa Maynard and his wife Lucy. Asa passed away when John was only two years old. At eighteen, John left Loudon for Manchester, New Hampshire to work for his uncle, a builder and contractor, and attended business college at the Bryant & Stratton Commercial School. Over the next few years John gained valuable experience in construction, handling large projects for his uncle's firm.
John Fernando Maynard
Arthur Albert Irwin was a skilled, Canadian-born shortstop for the Worcester (MA) Ruby Legs in 1882. During the season, Irwin broke the third and fourth fingers on his left hand. In an era when infielders and outfielders played barehanded, Irwin's injury looked to sideline him for weeks. However, the Ruby Legs didn't have a suitable backup shortshop, and Irwin was determined to play. He acquired an oversized glove, sewed the fingers together, inserted padding into the palm for protection and took the field. While the use of padded gloves by catchers and first basement was not uncommon in the 1880's, fielders wearing gloves was considered unmanly. In fact, Irwin hoped that spectators would forgive his use of the glove on account of his injury.
After the glove attracted the attention of his teammates and opponents, Irvin decided that it had potential. He traveled the 130 miles from Worcester to J.F. Draper & Co. in Ashland to solicit Jason Draper's help developing a protective yet functional infielders glove. Draper, who according to later accounts had never before watched a game of baseball, made a custom buckskin glove for Irwin. Durable, yet soft and flexible, buckskin turned out to be an ideal leather for this purpose. By the time Irwin's injury had healed, he had become so comfortable with the glove that he continued to wear one for the rest of his career.
In 1883, Irwin moved on to the Providence (RI) Grays, where he soon became the team's captain. In 1884, he lead the Grays to a National League and world championship. According to his manager, Frank Bancroft,
Buck Glove Advertisement, Boston Post, January 5, 1854
The Drapers of Plymouth
In 1875, Jason Draper and John Maynard became partners in the glove factory, which was renamed J.F. Draper & Company. Jason would oversee the manufacturing process while John became the company's only salesman. In 1878, the partners purchased Sam Fletcher's tannery in Ashland, New Hampshire, and Maynard designed and built an adjacent two-story 30' x 60' manufacturing plant, warehouse, and office. In 1879, Harriet Draper passed away, leaving John the single parent of their daughter, Inez. On February 23, 1881, John married a second Draper, Jason's other sister, Henrietta.
J.F. Draper & Co. Ad, 1890. Photo courtesy of Mike Tinney
With Irwin's success, the baseball fielding glove slowly gained acceptance and Draper and Maynard positioned themselves to capitalize on the growing demand. The details of the marketing agreement between Irwin and Draper are unknown, but there's little doubt one existed. From the mid-1880's until 1894, J.F. Draper & Co. touted itself as the "Sole Manufacturers of the Irwin Glove and Mitten."
"Irwin, especially, was the life of the team. While he cannot be classed as the greatest shortstop that ever lived, he was a great fielder, batsman, and baserunner, and no man ever showed keener intelligence or speedier work in the position than he."
J.F. Draper's Irwin Glove and Mitten
Arthur Irvin, circa 1885
Arthur Irvin wearing a fielding glove, circa 1885
1938 Illustration of Draper's first glove plant
February 9, 2016
The History of Draper & Maynard