Vintage Squash Racquets are a thing of beauty. With 140 years of Squash history comes generations of players and equipment that has transformed over nearly two centuries, into the game it is today. While we have the latest technology and materials at our disposal to manipulate shock absorption, aerodynamics, and tension; this was not always so.
The game of Squash did not become official until a century and a half ago, and it originated even earlier in 1830’s Harrow, England. At the end of 2016, nothing is hotter in sports than vintage gear. From football, baseball, biking, cricket, running, tennis, and squash, the gear of the past has the unique character that brings back the beginning of this game.
Before all of the technological innovations and rules implemented by the governing body of the World Squash Federation (WSF), formed in 1967, more simple racquets were used in the game.
Learn more about the history of Squash via our comprehensive article below:
Traditionally, standard squash racquets were made of laminated wood — typically Ash — with small stung area that used natural gut strings from animal intestines. Animal intestines proved to be the most resilient material to make squash and tennis racquets at the time and provided better tension than other materials, while remaining softer than other materials used despite the high tension.
The main drawbacks were higher costs to manufacture than other materials and weakness to the shear stresses from off-center hits. Durability if wet was not great and the delicacy and sensitivity of this material meant that a synthetic innovation needed to arrive in the game of squash.
Post-1980s Gear Racquets
After mid-1980s, rule changes meant that squash racquets were to be made primarily of composite materials and metals rather than natural gut strings and laminated ash wood. Kevlar, graphite, boron, titanium, and synthetic strings were the start of the “modern” racquets we use today.
Vintage Squash Racquets
With the extreme popularity of the internet and websites such as eBay, Amazon, and other selling platforms, selling genuine vintage racquets is easier than ever. This has caused a huge interest in vintage gear, as before the internet, obtaining anything vintage was done via word of mouth, in-person meets, and through family inheritance.
We are nostalgic for the early days of Squash and the times it represented. Not only do Squash players desire vintage racquets, but sports fans, interior decorators, and those seeking a vintage aesthetic. The appeal of sports gear from the past is not limited to today’s active players and experts.
Let us take a more personal look at the history of Squash around the world, with an up-close view of personally owned racquets from days long past.
1930’s Vintage Wood Ace Squash Racquet with Holder by N.J. Magnan Corp.
A vintage 1930’s wood racquet with the racquet cage like this is a beauty. The character that drips off of this piece of history is truly palpable.
There is actually provenance of the racquet shown in these photos. It was used by the seller’s father, who used it at the University of Maryland during the 1930’s. To be able to go to school during the Great Depression was a privilege, and one can imagine that not many people in the United States were playing at the time.
The owner continued playing and used this same racquet at Maxwell Field Air Force Base from 1941 to 1945 during World War II. This shows that unlike today, where we switch racquets as soon as a more efficient and technologically advanced one comes out, back in the early 1930’s, they held onto their gear as they could. You can see in the photos that there is very old adhesive tape on the top portion of the racquet, which tells that this was well-used and loved by its owner, who could not go out frivolously and purchase a new racquet during such times.
Think of the college boy turned Air Force man using this racquet during the Great Depression and through World War II. Having sat in storage since 1945, this is a great example of how age from past experiences and use can offer a lot of character and show off the history of Squash on a historic level.
Vintage Bancroft Fibre Sealed Squash Racquet with Wood Brace (The Racquet Club)
Here is one of the more common vintage racquets on the market today that appeals to a wide range of collectors. Bancroft is a well known and respected name, and finding a vintage piece in this condition is not always easy.
As the handle shows, this racquet belonged to The Racquet Club and is “fibre sealed” with a great vintage grip. The slight wearing offers a lot of character and you can almost imagine this racquet in the hands of a Squash player in the past. As a wood racquet, it is almost cringe-worthy to think about using this in today’s games, as it would break against modern balls used. It is good fortune that this one survived.
Also something you do not always see is the wooden racquet cage. This trapezoid cage remains intact when attached to the racquet, but easily comes apart. This is much different than today’s racquet bags and protective equipment and a real throwback to Squash history.
Medley of Vintage and Retro
The racquets shown below were collected in Camberley, Surrey, UK, and are a great example of wooden vintage racquets and more modern, retro racquets offering a great picture of Squash’s timeline.
From Head, Darby, Wilson, and other manufacturers, these old to retro pieces show the incredible evolution of gear. From frame materials, the use of racquet cages, shape, aerodynamic design, and the move from natural to synthetic fibers, this is a great photo.
Not only do Squash players and collectors love items like these, but interior decorators looking for that vintage vibe for a tennis or sports fan would love to pick these up. While not “valuable” in a monetary sense, it is certainly not something to throw away.
1940’s Vintage “Live Wood” Squash Racquet
This vintage racquet shows a wonderful patina on the wood that wears its age well. From the 1940’s (possibly earlier), this racquet is marked by the Narragansett Machine Co., Pawtucket, RI. Before the times of trendy names, this simply states that it is a part of the company’s “Live Wood” line, and is featured as a Model A.
Even now, so many decades later, this racquet is in great condition and is still straight and well strung. Since this was made decades before synthetic strings were even imagined, the natural gut was made from animal intestine and is naturally, quite dried out.
For an avid Squash fan or someone who wants to display this piece of history, this makes for a great look at history.
Vintage racquets are incredible to hold in your hand. To feel the old wrapped leather and see the evolution of this nearly two hundred year old sport is fascinating and illuminating. Whether you are lucky enough to find a pre-1900s racquet or purchase one of the more common early 1900s racquets, it is still a worthwhile pursuit to seek out these survivors that our grandparents and ancestors took comfort in, especially during the Great Depression and the two World Wars, where times were especially tough and the game of Squash was a welcome escape.