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Answering the cries of football equipment managers across the country, Frank A. Buechner patented the first football with an external air valve on November 10, 1925. According to Buechner's patent application:
1923 A.D.
Addition of Valves
Football Technology - 1912
Stall & Dean Football Ad, 1920
A seminal moment in the evolution of the forward pass and the game of football was Notre Dame's defeat of previously unbeaten Army in 1913. The Fighting Irish, lead by Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne, brought the midwest passing game east and shocked the college football world by completing 14 of 17 passes for 243 yards and 3 touchdowns on the way to a 35-13 rout of Army. Notre Dame's offensive strategy was hailed as football genius, and the forward pass arms race on the East coast began. produced the following film on the 1913 game and its lasting impact on football and the evolution of the game ball.
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1906 A.D. - 1923 A.D.
The Pass Catches On
"My invention relates to foot balls in which an inflatable bladder or container is provided with an internal extending valve stem formed with an outer end rim adapted to lie between the closing flap of the casing and the casing itself."

An object of the invention is to so form the valve of an inflatable bladder so that it will not be necessary to unlace the casing to either inflate or deflate said bladder."
External air valves were incorporated into most collegiate and professional model footballs beginning in 1927. However, some manufacturers provided both external and internal air valve footballs into the mid-1930's.

The external valve eliminated the need to unlace and re-lace the football, allowing manufacturers to modify the type and size of the laces to further enhance aerodynamics.
Patent Application Drawing, Frank A. Buechner, Filed July 11, 1925
Football Technology - 1912-1925
Goldsmith Football Ad, 1925
Between 1929 and 1934, the NCAA made modifications to the regulation size of the football that transformed it into the form we know today. The changes significantly reduced the minor circumference of the ball, increased the length, and established an inflation pressure standard. All three of these changes greatly improving passing accuracy and effectively eliminated the drop-kick from the game.
1923 A.D. - present
Shaping The Modern Football
Major Circumference    
 28" - 28.5"
 28" - 28.5"
 27.75" - 28.5"
 28" - 28.5"
Minor Circumference
 22.5" - 23"
21.25 - 21.5"
20.75" - 21.25"
 21" - 21.25"
 no. spec.
 11" - 11.25"
 10.875" -11.5"
 11" - 11.25"
 14 - 15 oz.
 14 - 15 oz.
 14 - 15 oz.
 14 - 15 oz.
Inflation Pressure
 no spec.
 12.5 - 13.5 lbs
 12.5 - 13.5 lbs
 12.5 - 13.5 lbs
Comparison of Football Dimensions
Circa 1903-1925 Spalding J5 regulation football (left) and 2015 Official NFL football (right)
Circa 1903-1925 Spalding J5 regulation football (left) and 2015 Official NFL football (right)
The first recorded forward pass was thrown by Saint Louis University's Bradbury Robinson in September 1906. Saint Louis was coached by Eddie Cochems, known today as the "Father of the Forward Pass." Cochems 1906 team rode the forward pass to victory, finishing the season 11-0 and outscoring their opponents 407-11, including a 31-0 victory over midwest powerhouse Iowa. Midwest football teams were quicker to incorporate and utilize the forward pass into their offense while the historically more powerful East coast teams placed more emphasis on the traditional ground game.
Brad Robinson, circa 1906
In 1923, A.G. Spalding introduced the Spalding-Hart Metal Valve Foot ball Bladder. William Hart of Bloomfield, New Jersey invented the Hart valve in 1901 as an improvement for pneumatic tire tubes. Prior to the addition of the Hart valve, football bladders had long stems that were inflated with a pump and then tied to hold air within. This method lead to slow air leaks and accidental puncturing of the bladder stem during lacing. The addition of the Hart valve to the football bladder increased the longevity of an inflated bladder and by eliminating the long stem, simplified lacing of the football.
Spalding-Hart Valve Foot Ball Bladder Ad, 1923

The Ball that Shaped the Game...and Vice Versa

The Evolution of the Football
Chris Hornung
June 20, 2015
Page 3

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