February 9, 2016
The History of Draper & Maynard
Jason Draper and John Maynard understood the importance of sporting goods to the future of their company. By the 1880's, the handcrafted glovemaking industry had been decimated by industrialized manufacturers that employed new machines, less expensive materials and cheaper labor. The New Hampshire buckskin glove industry was breathing its last breath. The steady growth in the popularity of sports in America gave J.F. Draper a lifeline to a vast untapped market.
Again partnering with Arthur Irwin, in the late 1880's the company introduced Irwin's Improved Gloves. The glove pair featured a padded catching glove and a fingerless throwing glove. An 1890, advertisement for "The Celebrate Irwin Gloves" boasted their use by over sixty professional baseball players. The advertisement is also one of the earliest reference to "Draper & Maynard," the "largest manufacturers of baseball gloves in the United States."
In 1895, Arthur Irwin and Draper & Maynard parted ways and A.G. Spalding became the sole manufacturer of the Irwin Glove. The reason for the change is unknown, but it is likely that Irwin was offered a more lucrative endorsement deal by Spalding. The experience would have a lasting impact on the company's future stance on royalties and player endorsements. In an apparent jab at Irwin and Spalding, an 1895 advertisement for Draper & Maynard's new baseball mitts was quick to point out the superiority of the D&M design and quality over any other mitt manufactured. By the late 1890's, D&M had expanded their sporting goods line to other leather goods, including footballs, boxing gloves, and punching bags.
Irwin Gloves Advertisement, 1890
Ball Catcher's Glove patent illustration, J.F. Draper, Sept. 15, 1891
Base Ball Catcher's Glover or Mitten patent illustration
J.F. Draper, Sept. 15, 1891
An Untapped Market
Draper & Maynard Glove Advertisement, 1895
Catcher's Mitt patent illustration, J.F. Draper, Sept. 15, 1899
Catcher's Mitt patent illustration, J.F. Draper, Sept. 15, 1901
By 1904, D&M employment reached 125, divided into three separate divisions: leather goods, baseballs, and uniforms. The mainstay of the company remained its leather goods division. Leathersmiths, experienced with the specific properties of each section of hide, carefully cut leathers into patterns, which were then sent to the sewing room where workers sewed them into baseball mitts, footballs, basketballs, and boxing mitts [Freeman]. In a September, 1901 advertisement, D&M was referred to as "the largest manufacturers of leather and canvas sporting goods in the country."
Baseball production required a more complex manufacturing process. An India rubber core was wrapped with over 1,000 feet of yarn until the ball reached a fixed diameter. It was then dipped in dope, a form of rubber cement) to seal the ball. Hourglass shaped strips of alum-tanned horse hide were cut and punched by the leathersmiths, and then the balls were sent to be stitched. Keeping up with the demand for baseballs required hundreds of ball stitchers, more than the D&M factory could accommodate. Jason Draper came up with a novel idea; the company delivered the ball core, cover and thread to homes within a 100 square mile radius where men and women could stitch from home, at their own pace, and be paid for each ball they finished. At the height of production, over 600 workers stitched baseballs at home for Draper & Maynard [Freeman].
Draper & Maynard Factory, Plymouth, N.H. circa 1909
Workers cutting leather for baseball gloves, Draper & Maynard Factory, Plymouth, N.H. circa 1905
While the company advertised its goods under the Draper & Maynard name starting around 1890, it continued to operate as J.F. Draper & Co. until 1898. At the end of an economic depression called the Panic of 1896, J.F. Draper shut down its manufacturing plant while it negotiated a settlement of debts owed to its creditors. The settlement agreement included the creation of a new stock company, Draper & Maynard Company, and work at the plant resumed in January, 1898. The agreement may have included John Maynard's purchase of a controlling stake in the Draper & Maynard, for the new company named John Maynard President, Jason Draper General Manager, and Harry S. Huckins Treasurer.
Draper & Maynard Company
Boston Daily Globe Article, January 10, 1898
With their financial difficulties behind them, D&M moved quickly expand their operations. By 1900, D&M and its 100 employees had outgrown the Ashland factory. The Town of Plymouth, New Hampshire, eager to find employment for its unemployed former glovemakers, offered to waive D&M's taxes for a period of 10 years if the company moved their facility to Plymouth. Draper & Maynard accepted the town's offer and in December of 1900 opened a 3-1/2 story, 20,000 square foot wood-framed factory on North Main Street that was designed and constructed by John Maynard. The new factory featured electric lights and industrial machinery driven by steam power.
A Return to Plymouth
Postcard Announcing Draper & Maynard as Successor to J.F. Draper & Co., November 1898
Back of postcard showing D&M's line of sporting goods, 1898
Circa 1898 D&M Catalog, courtesy Plymouth State University
Postcard announcing The Draper & Maynard Co., 1898