I’ve tried limiting my collecting to 1914 and later, but I can’t turn down an opportunity to learn about older sportswear, and to occasionally to buy a piece. I recently ran across an 1886 catalog by sporting goods company Peck & Snyder. I didn’t know a thing about the company, but thanks to the internet I can tell you that Andrew Peck and Irving Snyder opened their business in New York City shortly after the end of the American Civil War. Their claim to fame is the introduction of the baseball card, which they first mass produced in 1869.
The catalog is quite large, and includes both sporting goods and other amusements like magic lanterns and costumes for fancy dress balls. Most of the products are geared toward men, and while there are things for women, one has to look for them. What is most interesting is how women are portrayed in the catalog. The illustration above is typical in that women engaged in leisure activities, even more active ones than lying in a hammock chair, are dressed as they would be for other, more formal activities.
I guess a lady never lifts her feet onto the hammock. I’m just wondering how she kept from sliding out of it!
But it wasn’t just women who were wearing regular attire while exercising. Note that the man on the bicycle movement machine is wearing a vest. At least he is not having to wear a corset.
It might seem odd that there were exercise machines available for home use in 1886. I imagine these were purchased by the very affluent. I know that the Biltmore Estate in Asheville (built by one of the Vanderbilts) has a gym with all kinds of equipment. That house was built in the 1890s.
The Biltmore House also has a two lane bowling alley. Peck & Snyder sold balls and pins, though the Biltmore ones came from the Brunswick bowling company. Again, note the clothing, especially of the woman who is getting ready to roll her ball.
The catalog does have illustrations of women wearing proper gym attire. Ironically, they do not sell it, though there are quite a few pages of men’s athletic clothing for sale.
Those shirts might look like the form of a woman, but they are men’s “quarter sleeve worsted shirts” meaning they were made from worsted wool.
Some of the shoes are unisex. Here is a selection of tennis shoes.
Peck & Snyder included quite a few pages of skates, both roller and ice. The bicycle craze was just getting started, so there were only two models, both with the big front wheel.
There were pages of wool, silk, and cotton stockings and tights, which seem to be for men. I found this interesting because I recently found a very old pair of striped wool stockings that I felt had to have been a sports piece.
Women’s gym outfits like the one above are very hard to find, but there is one in the up-coming Karen Augusta sale. I wonder how one did jumping jacks with all those layers?