Mendon Baseball Uniform Preservation

This baseball uniform was worn by Frank M. Aldrich circa 1883. This was the standard baseball uniform used by the Mendon Town Team. It was donated in September 1972 by Florence J. Aldrich, the daughter of Frank M. Aldrich.

Mendon Historical Society
1880s Baseball Uniform Treatment
By Katy W. O’Donnell, textile conservator

Mendon Baseball Uniform featuring top, knickers, and hat made of wool, canvas and leather belt.

Deemed America’s national pastime, baseball has long been a part of our collective history, and items such as baseball uniforms can give insights into aspects of American life. This particular baseball uniform provides a rare look into the early years of the sport, when baseball was beginning to increase in popularity with the rise of professional leagues. Originating around the 1880s, this uniform is made of wool flannel and would have been worn with a set of underclothes, tall stockings, and a tie. The shield shaped chest placket and short pants (knickers) were typical of the uniform style that was being utilized during this time period, mimicking that worn by teams such as the Boston Red Stockings.

Arriving at the University of Rhode Island’s Textile Conservation Lab in overall good condition for its age and usage. Although our modern sensibilities are drawn towards clean and new clothing, the sweat-stained cap and dirt within the seams of the pants provide evidence that the uniform was used in game play. It is easy to imagine a player standing in the outfield under the hot sun or sliding to reach the base after a fly ball. Keeping evidence of use is important to telling the story of early baseball.

While this evidence remains, the uniform needed a gentle cleaning to remove insect remnants and a few small repairs to prevent further damage from occurring. The most obvious area in need of repair was a tear along the chest placket which was stabilized with a color matched fabric. Additionally, a few seams were resewn, and a patch was put in place to stabilize thin areas and holes near the left sleeve cuff. Interestingly, a few historic repairs were found in the sleeves, most likely mended after a game in which the player’s uniform was damaged. These were documented and left in place as further evidence of its use over time.

The Mendon Historical Society would like to thank Katy O’Donnell from the University of Rhode Island for her work on preserving this great piece of history.

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