The Artifact of the Month for July is a baseball uniform, believed to be from the town of Good Hope.
Made of heavyweight wool, this pale gray uniform with a large red G and a large red H sewn on each side of the chest was recently donated to the museum by Roger D. Jackson of Macomb. The Jackson family believes that the baseball uniform possibly belonged to Rogers’ father, Donald Ray Jackson, born 1909 and died 1999. The Jackson family has resided in this area since early in the 19th century, and they were one of the founding families of the town of Bardolph.
Louise Jackson, wife of Roger, remembers distinctly when she discovered the baseball uniform at the Jackson home. “I was sorting through some things in a closet and uncovered this box. I opened it up and there was the baseball uniform.” Apparently, it had been stored away for such a long time it had become forgotten. Mrs. Jackson realized the historical significance of the uniform and decided to donate it to the museum where it could be preserved and protected for future generations to see it and enjoy it.
Mrs. Jackson believes that the baseball uniform is probably from Good Hope. She speculates that it probably belonged to her husband's father. She found the uniform when she and Roger moved into the elder Jacksons home, located south of the city of Macomb. When they moved in, the house was still full of the previous Jackson’s belongings.
Louise recalled that Roger’s parents, Donald and Margaret Jackson, had lived for many years in their home and Louise remembers fondly “…Margaret was the type of person who kept everything, she never threw anything away!” Margaret passed away in 1985, Donald passed away in 1999. No one alive now knows how long the baseball uniform had been stored away.
Living in the Jackson home and finding things stored away has been a delight for Louise. She discovered that Margaret was a saver of all sorts of things, and Louise has found photographs, documents, and historical items throughout the house. Louise appreciates that she lives in a home that contains such a treasure trove of family memorabilia. Through the years, Louise has been carefully going through all that the previous Mrs. Jackson had so lovingly stored away. She is now considered the caretaker of all this material for the next generation of the Jackson family and has been creating photo albums and memory books for the other members of the family.
Louise found no note or identifying material with the uniform. She went through the family photographs and did not find any family members pictured in this baseball uniform. It is possible that this uniform belonged to Donald Ray Jackson. Born in 1909, he would have been a young man during the 1920s, when the uniform was most likely made and used. The estimated date can be determined by the uniform’s manufacture tag, Lowe and Campbell Athletic Goods Co., Kansas City, Mo. This company only existed until 1931, when it was taken over by Wilson Sporting Goods.
Donald Jackson grew up in this area, and he could have played for a Good Hope team. Baseball has been popular in west central Illinois a long time. For many years, every small town had a team; there were many high school baseball teams and town teams. With no family members alive to remember the history, we may never know the full story of this uniform. Regardless, we can appreciate it today as a surviving example of a historical clothing item with a local connection.
According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, in 1849, the first organized baseball club, the New York Knickerbockers, were the first to adopt an official uniform consisting of blue woolen pantaloons, white flannel shirts and straw hats. The choice of wool for uniform fabric was significant in baseball history. Early baseball clubs wanted to present themselves as respectable, gentlemanly organizations. While cotton would have made for less expensive and more comfortable uniforms, the fabric was at that time associated with workers’ clothing, it was not considered fashionable and respectable dress. By donning wool uniforms, early baseball clubs distanced themselves from the working class and aligned themselves with organizations of a higher status. Wool uniforms became the standard, and it may seem odd to us now to play a sport in such an unlikely fabric, but wool uniforms remained the norm until the 1970s, when uniforms of synthetic fabrics replaced them.
From an essay by Heather Munro.