The Ohio Horseshoe Company of Columbus, Ohio, is credited by most as the first commercial manufacturer of pitching shoes. They began in 1921 and most certainly were the first major manufacturer. Another amazing fact is that they continue yet today in the producing of official pitching shoes. National Standard of Akron, Ohio and Lucky Ringer of St. Louis, Missouri, followed closely behind and were marketing official shoes by 1922.

   State associations were forming in 1919, the NHPA originated in 1920 and became the sport’s sole governing organization in 1921. It was at that point that the sport had its phenomenal boom. Was this the beginning of the “shoe”?-No! In a booklet published by the Ohio Buckeye Horseshoe Pitchers’ Association in 1920, an ad appeared for official pitching shoes by William Weis. Weis is also known as the NHPA’s president in 1920. No pictured ads have surfaced, or shoes with a Weis brand name, so it must be assumed that the shoes were a brandless model. This is somewhat sup- ported by a newspaper photo of shoes pitched by the great Hughie Palmer-those shoes were brandless. This 1919 dated article is one more piece of evidence that official pitching shoes existed prior to 1921. That 1920 booklet also contained a print of the official shoe dimensions, which were drafted in 1919.

   A similar booklet was published by the Minnesota State Horseshoe Pitcher’s Association, with an ad by A.F. Hay. Unfortunately, this also was not a pictured ad, but stated that shoes could be purchased in pairs numbered 1 or 2. A son, Fred Hay, became the 1921 Minnesota State Champion using shoes made by his father. Those same brandless shoes are still in the possession of A.F. Hay’s grandson. By the way, Fred Hay was only 13 years old in 1921 and remains the youngest player to ever win a Men’s state championship.

   There were official pitching shoes made before the Hay or Weis shoes. William J. Martin (Cleveland, OH), was granted the earliest known patent for a pitching shoes-in 1915. It was even referred to as a quoit but was open on one side. That shoe was modified, re-patented in 1916, and again in 1919 to conform to the newly published standards, and named the Martin Improved Shoe. What is extraordinary about this shoe is that rather than the tradition blade calks, it had four spikes, designed for an interlocking with other pitched shoes. Martin went on to gain a fourth patent (1924) for a convention model, the Martin National Shoe. Martin National Shoes exist in at least 3 collections and are prized finds. There is no record of any Martin Improved Shoes in existence.

   I have, in my collection, 1 pitching shoe made by International Harvester. It has a logo and is a number 2, and does not fit our present day dimensions. It does conform well to Martin’s 1916 patent draft and therefore would date prior to 1919.

   So when was the beginning of the SHOE? This is about all the information we have at this time and frankly, we don’t know for sure.

   If competitive pitching dates back to 1909 and there is also documentation that some leagues existed even as early as 1898, the pitching shoe probably would date that far, even though shoes off the horse were commonly used in those days. No doubt the local blacksmith was the initial supplier of brandless shoes, but we do know that Mr. Martin got involved in 1916. This is what we know so far, and the search continues.


  • There are many pitching shoe collectors that have not signed up on our collector-trader roster. You are still wel- come to do so. Most of the collectors registered have pro- vided inventory lists of shoes in collection and then shared the list with the other collectors. It is interesting to read and know the shoes that others have been successful in finding. If you collect, or want to start collecting, sign up now.

  • There are members who do not collect shoes, but happen to have an old stray shoe or two hanging around. If you want to make those shoes available to our collectors, contact Bob Dunn and that information will go out to our registered collectors. If you wish to donate a shoe to the NHPA archives, contact Earl Winston directly.

  • The Oregon Horseshoe Pitchers Association collection was featured in a previous issue. If your charter has a shoe collection and you would like to be featured in our Horseshoe Trader series, write up the inventory and a brief history of how the collection got started, etc. and send that information in!

   Speaking of the Oregon horseshoe collection, they are housed in a traveling museum that has been around a few years now. Curator and publicity director Lee Wallace has been caring for and pulling the Oregon Museum trailer to tournaments all over the northwest. Lee has hosted visiting NHPA Hall of Fame director Earl Winston, while the two exchanged old horseshoe war stories and artifacts. Lee, probably rightfully so, claims credit for getting Washington interested in the museum bit.

   In 1996, while visiting Yakima, Lee visited with Bob Hoerner who indicated he was stockpiling memorabilia. A year later, the summer of ’97, Bob was passing the hat and running raffles to raise money for a Washington trailer-museum. Funny how the bug can bite you.

   If you have an interest or can provide an old sought after horseshoe, the NHPA first, would be interested in your find. If it is something already in the NHPA collection, no doubt one of the many increasing “traders” across the country would be interested. If all goes according to plan, there will be a Traders booth in Ainsworth for those interested. They may not be as valuable, but it can be alot of fun looking for “horseshoe gold” in the hills, old barns and grandpa’s attic.