The Innovation of William J. Martin


   To make any correlation to the efforts of William Martin to our sport, we have to understand that in the beginning of the interest in horseshoe pitching, the sport was more commonly called QUOITS. Quoits meant throwing a metal object at a stake. A quoit was and still is a round metal ring. But pitching a horseshoe at a stake was also referred to as quoits, sometimes as horseshoes. Never the less, today we can safely say when William Martin of Cleveland, Ohio began his quest to present a better quoit, he was really introducing a better horseshoe.

   Martin's first patent was filed in January 1915. This was just after the formation of the Grand League of the American Horseshoe Pitchers' (Kansas City, Kansas) in 1914 and prior to The National League of Horseshoe and Quoit Pitchers in 1919. There was enough horseshoe pitching going on that Martin saw the need for a better horseshoe. Up to this point the shoes used in the game were that right off the horse or primitive models made by blacksmiths. His initial patent truly initiated the manufactured and precision designed pitching horseshoe.

The narrative for this patent is rather brief so it is being reprinted in total:



Specification of Letters Parent   Patented May 4. 1915

Application filed January 18, 1915. Serial No. 2,858

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, William J. Martin a citizen of the United States, residing at Cleveland,click to enlarge in the county of Cuyahoga and State of Ohio, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Quoits, of which the following is a specification.

This invention relates to quoits and comprises a quoit in horseshoe form, modified as hereinafter pointed out to serve the intended purpose.

In the accompanying drawings, Figure 1 is a perspective view of the quoit showing the top and Fig. 2 showing the bottom or underside.

In drawings, 6 indicates the body of the quoit having a form or outline similar to that of a horseshoe, and provided on its underside of face with two front conical calks or points 7, and at the heel with wedge shaped calks 8.
The outer corners of the latter are recessed or beveled as indicated at 8, to receive the index finger of the player when the quoit is pitched.

   The side of the body of the quoit is slotted as indicated at 9, to receive a strip of chamois, leather or other soft material 10, which is wrapped around the bar and inserted through the slot to be held in place. The chamois, leather or similar soft material may be applied to either side of the quoit, according to whether the player is right or left handed, and its purpose is to prevent blistering or injury to the hand of the player.

   The device is used in the usual manner and the calks serve the purpose of preventing sliding of the quoit after it strikes tlhe ground.

   What I claim as new is:
   A quoit, the body of which is provided with a slot and a covering of flexible material extending around the body and through the slot.
   In testimony whereof, I affix my signature in presence of two witnesses.
Witnesses:     John A. Bommhardt      J. B. Davis

click to enlarge   Just over a year after receiving his first patent, Martin received his second patent on August 1, 1916. The narrative in this application is considerable so the reprinting is prohibited, but it is the illustration that is the most interesting in any event. The roundish shape and make-up is so similar to other shoes found that can be identified as pre-1919. The shape of the heel calks and the peg style toe calks are represented again in the picture of his 1919 improved pitching style horseshoe. Martin redesigned his 1916 version to comply with the 1919 draft of the standards for the official horseshoe. Keeping peg style calks certainly kept an uniqueness to the other pitching shoes being designed during the era. But the lock-on innovation must not have been too popular with the pitchers as Martin also began manufacturing the Martin National Shoe with the tradition style toe calk.

click to enlarge    Ohio, National Standard and Lucky Ringer are given credit it for being the first commercially manufactured pitching shoes. This is the case because there is no evidence that Martin was in the market at the same time or of comparable volume in selling shoes. The earliest advertisement found for Martin shoes is from a 1928 Horseshoe World magazine. This ad states that the shoes were pitched in the 1925 and 1926 World Tournaments.

   There is a definite pattern here though, to say that William Martin is the first to design the manufactured pitching shoe.