The history of the tennis racquet is a long and interesting one. Tennis was originally played in England, where the game was considered a sport for the wealthy because it required expensive equipment. It wasn't until 1874 when Major Walter Clopton Wingfield designed an indoor court in London, which allowed people to play year-round, that tennis became popular with the masses.
The Major Walter Clopton Wingfield indoor court
Tennis was originally played outdoors on grass, which made it difficult to play year-round in England. However, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield designed the first "real" tennis court in 1874. The court he designed had a roof and allowed people to play all year-round.
The 1880s, a turning point in the history of the tennis racket
The 1880s was a turning point in the history of the tennis racket. In 1883, Walter Clopton Wingfield patented a court he had designed for playing indoors. This design allowed people to play year-round and increased its popularity among the masses. Up until this point, tennis had been considered a sport for wealthy individuals because it required expensive equipment. The first "real" tennis racquet came about in 1880 when John Jaques & Sons created an aluminum frame with gut strings. By 1882, its popularity had grown so much that Jaques & Sons obtained their first overseas order from Australia. Rackets were manufactured by hand and ranged in price from $1.50 up to $6 each. It wasn't until around 1900 that the Jaques Company began using machinery to mass produce rackets because they couldn't keep up with demand at the rate they were being made by hand.
John Jaques & Sons, the first manufacturers of tennis rackets
The John Jaques Company was the first manufacturers of tennis rackets. The company was started by three brothers, John, Henry and Walter Jaques in 1806 as a maker of harps. They changed their name to John Jaques & Sons in 1874 when they began manufacturing the first ever indoor court at their factory in Clerkenwell, London. As production expanded they moved to larger premises at Hatton Garden, London. In 1882 demand for rackets had grown so much that hand-made production could no longer meet with demand and the company began using machinery to make them instead. In 1903 the company came up with the idea of using aluminum for frames which made them lighter and stronger than wooden frames.
In 1919 John Jaques & Sons opened a factory in New York City, followed by another in Australia in 1924 and a third one in Coventry, England in 1926. The company used the slogan "Rackets Since 1806" on signs outside its shops until it was taken over by Slazenger who dropped the slogan but continued to use "JAQUES" as a brand name within their product ranges.
Racquet and string materials in 1910-1920s
The racquet itself became an important factor in the game of tennis. The materials it was made out of, and how innovative it was, really got noticed by players. Racquets were very expensive at this time, especially if they were made out of gut rather than the standard cotton strings. Gut is a natural product that comes from sheep intestines and is not as strong as cotton; however, it is more elastic and does not stretch easily, so there is less risk for breakage when playing. This elasticity also creates more power behind your shots.
In 1912, the first metal racket head was patented by Dr. W.Hxndliker in Austria. This technology would soon be adopted by other manufacturers because of its advantages over the traditional wooden rackets--namely that the ball could now bounce off the metal frame without breaking or denting it to create a truer return shot than before.
What made tennis popular with the masses?
The game of tennis was originally played by only the wealthy because it required expensive equipment. But when Major Walter Clopton Wingfield designed an indoor court in London, people were able to play year-round. The first "real" tennis racket came about in 1880 when John Jaques & Sons created a metal frame and gut strings. This made the sport affordable and popular with the masses. By 1882, its popularity had grown so much that Jaques & Sons obtained their first overseas order from Australia.
New materials and technologies are always changing what is possible for makers.
Since that time, there have been a number of advancements in the materials and technologies used to make tennis rackets. In 1900, rackets were made from laminated wood. John Dunlop invented vulcanized rubber in 1839, which was used to cover the wooden frame of a racket by 1906. The first metal racket was produced by Gossima around 1919–20. In 1922, Leonard Richey created a steel blade and coiled wire mesh (gut) to replace the natural gut strings that had been traditionally used. In 1975, Prince introduced graphite composite as the main component of their rackets in an effort to reduce weight and increase strength.
In 2000, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. became the first company to
use a different material than graphite or steel for their tennis
rackets—ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE). Today's most
advanced composite materials come from companies such as Head and Yonex who've
developed new ways to engineer lighter racquets with higher performance.