“Making Footballs Is as Tough as Making Touchdowns”


Gene Badger, [Alex Grahn cutting leather shapes that will form the sides of a football], 1940 (2013.115.428)

First step in the long process is to cut the leather in the proper shape. Alex Grahn, from Sweden, has been doing it 15 years. Four pieces of leather shaped like this make the outside of the ball.


Gene Badger, [Thurston Ebbersten machine stitching footballs], 1940 (2013.115.437)

Next step is machine stitching. Thurston Ebbersten, also from Sweden, does the stitching. He uses three minutes to do one ball. It now has the unmistakable shape of a football.


Gene Badger, [Jack Johnson lacing leather footballs], 1940 (2013.115.422)

All are skilled workmen. None takes more pride in his craft than Jack Johnson, Norwegian born, who has been using needles and awl for 35 years. He puts in the tongue and eyes for laces.


Gene Badger, [Oscar Swanson racking balls that have been completely assembled and tested], 1940 (2013.115.438)

After the ball is finished it is tested by hitting it with a baseball bat, to show any weak points; also, it is pumped full of water, under steady pressure, to test it again. The balls are racked by Oscar Swanson, factory foreman for 30 years. Everything is ready now for the kickoff.


PM, September 22, 1940, p. 18, Photos by Gene Badger, PM Staff

Making Footballs Is as Tough as Making Touchdowns
When you see that ball tucked neatly under the arm of a fleeing halfback, you pay no attention to the ball – you watch the runner. But realize, please, how important that ball is. Making footballs is big business – and Spalding & Bros. have been doing it for decades. No. 1 cowhide – about 200,000 feet of it – is used. The factory in Brooklyn turns out 1500 a day during August, peak month.
PM, September 22, 1940, p. 18

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