06-17-2016

History of the Pigskin

The very first balls used in any kind of football gaming were crafted out of pig bladders; these balls were inflated. This is how the term "pigskin" came to refer to the modern day footballs made today. Balls that are made today have to meet specific guidelines and they are different shapes, depending upon the game of football being played.

Soccer games, sometimes identified as Association football, require players to use a Gaelic football for gaming: the ball is round in shape. The oldest football that still exists today was crafted around 1540 CE. This ball was found in the early 1890s in Scotland: it was located in the Stirling Castle’s roof. The football was crafted out of deerskin leather and the bladder of a pig. It measures 5.5 to 6.3 inches in length and weighs all of 4.4 ounces. This ball can be viewed at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Scotland today.

In Australian style football, an egg shaped football is used, however the ends of the ball are rounded off and not pointed. In Canadian and American style football games use a prolate spheroid ball and the ends are more pointed than those found on an Australian football.

In the early 1850s, two professional shoemakers, William Gilbert and Richard Lindon, hailing from the town of Rugby attended an exhibit in London where they displayed oval and round balls. It is Lindon who is responsible for creating an inflatable bladder made of rubber and a hand air pump made of brass.

By the mid 1850s Charles Goodyear, an inventor from the United States, created a football that was in a spherical shape and that sported rubber panels crafted out of vulcanized rubber. These were the most common footballs used in early American football gaming. In the early 1870s the official sizing and regulation of the football was implemented and it was determined at that time that the ball had to be 27 to 28 inches in length. This regulation remains in effect today. Earlier rules indicated that regulated footballs should weigh 13 to 15 ounces. By the late 1930s, this rule was changed to the new weight of 14 to 16 ounces. By 1937, official football gaming rules also indicated that all footballs had to be covered in appropriate materials like leather.

Once the regulations were put into place by the English Football Association regarding football weight and size, manufacturers began mass producing footballs for gaming. Thomlinson, a Glasgow based company, and Mitre were the first two manufacturers than began offering footballs in large quantities. These early footballs had rubber exteriors and the panels were stitched together to ensure the balls’ longevity. The balls made with the most impressive quality were created out of the rump of a cow and they are also the balls that proved the most expensive at the time. During the twentieth century, footballs were made with bladders made of rubber too so that they could endure greater pressure when inflated.

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