Historic racquets on display at WSTC
by Michael Perlman
Jan 23, 2018 | 1801 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The late Eugenia Frangos with her husband James.
The late Eugenia Frangos with her husband James.
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Alan Edelman
Alan Edelman
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Bea Hunt with tennis great Ivan Lendl.
Bea Hunt with tennis great Ivan Lendl.
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Step into the charming Tudor-style clubhouse of the West Side Tennis Club (WSTC), and you will see photos of past matches and champions like “Big Bill” Tilden, Helen Jacobs, Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson playing in Forest Hills Stadium, America’s first tennis stadium, designed by Kenneth Murchison in 1923.

On the second floor is a library that recently underwent a partial conversion to turn it into an exhibition space, an effort spearheaded by the WSTC Foundation, whose mission is to preserve tennis history and introduce underprivileged youth and the physically challenged to the sport.

“The creation of a tennis library and archive demonstrates the commitment WSTC has made not only to preserve its history, but to curate the history of tennis around the world,” said Alan Edelman, co-chair of the Archives Committee and member of Tennis Collectors of America (TCA). “This development is very important, since we are making our tennis research library available to tennis institutions worldwide.”

The first exhibit at WSTC features 20 tennis racquets spanning from the 1890s to the 1990s, demonstrating how technology has evolved. Visitors can view high-end racquets used by tennis legends, as well as lower-priced racquets created for the mass market.

The exhibit was co-arranged by 47-year WSTC member Bea Hunt, who serves as Edelman's co-chair on the Archives Committee and TCA secretary.

Some racquets on display are the Spalding “Slocum Junior” (1890–1905), which was named after Henry Slocum, one of the first American tennis players.

Also on display is a circa-1926 Dayton “Holiday” steel-and-wood racquet, a Wright and Ditson “All American” (1934–1942), which features an early example of a leather grip, and a “Jack Kramer Autograph” (mid-1970s), which is considered the most popular tennis racquet in history.

The “Arthur Ashe Competition” racquet recalls the 1970s, when tennis was at its height in popularity and various sporting goods manufacturers entered the industry, such as AMF-Head.

The first manufacturer of metal skis, AMF-Head partnered with Arthur Ashe to create a fiberglass and foam racquet that lies between two thin sheets of aluminum.

The most recent racquet on display is the Dunlop Max 200G (1984–1990), which was designed for John McEnroe to offer him greater control and a larger head, and it became the first injected-mounded graphite racquet. It was also used by 1988 Grand Slam winner Steffi Graf.

Including the racquets, also on display are various American Lawn Tennis magazines, including such a 1947 copy that features the Davis Cup, a 1990 issue commemorating “78 years of American History at Forest Hills,” and a Billie Jean King-autographed issue from 1974.

Some of the more unique items on display include a press packet from the first U.S. Open Tennis Championships in 1968 featuring a satirical illustrated cover.

“I was happy to donate the tennis racquets,” said Edelman. “My intention was to provide a display that would show a good representation and be fun to look at, so I included a few very unusual racquets. The racquet exhibit is only an example of how the archive and library is coming to fruition.”

The ongoing project serves as a testament to Eugenia S. Frangos, a WSTC member for over 40 years and longtime chair of the Archives Committee, who passed away two years ago this month.

“When the WSTC celebrated its 90th anniversary in 1982, Eugenia compiled many possessions found around the clubhouse and grounds and secured them for an archive going forward,” Hunt said. “She found historic photos, posters, tennis programs and books, architectural plans, trophies, and wonderful items from our Davis Cup and U.S. Nationals and Open history.”

A few years ago, Edelman visited the WSTC and befriended club member James Wilson.

“I was told that the WSTC didn’t have much of an archive library, which was shocking, since I consider it the most important tennis institution in the U.S.,” said the Baltimore resident.

Edelman also learned there was an interest in his collection of over 500 magazines documenting tennis history from the early 1900s until the late 1980s. Wilson suggested creating a reference library and archive extending beyond the club’s membership. The WSTC Foundation plans to rotate exhibits periodically, and is accepting donations of tennis publications and memorabilia.
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