ELLIS DRAKE (1839-1912)

The forgotten Stoughton Inventor of the Baseball Cover


                                         "Stoughton Man Invented First Cover for Baseball"

Stoughton is a proud town, proud of its industries, businessmen, local figures, of its past history and of its many organizations.  Its citizens are proud of the accomplishments of former residents and often times discussions are had concerning their merits. A very interesting man who formerly lived in Stoughton, being born here in 1839, was Ellis Drake, who according to a story in the Boston Sunday Globe in 1909, invented the cover of the baseball in its present form. 

The story concerning this invention was published in the April 3rd issue of The Stoughton Sentinel in 1909 and told much of his life.  The following paragraphs are taken from this old issue:

The man who invented the cover of the baseball in its present form, and who first used it, was Ellis Drake, a typical Yankee genius, and a native of Stoughton.

Mr. Drake says:

"The recognized game of ball was called 'round ball'. The main feature was 'tucking out' by throwing the ball at the batter while he was in transit from base to base. 

"The balls were two inches in diameter and were loaded with from one to one-and-one half ounces of lead, wound hard with knitting yarn and covered with chamois skin."

"When projected by an expert thrower during the excitement of a possible defeat, we'll say, if you doubled yourself into deformity or dug your grave in the ground with your nose, you had about an even chance of surviving to hear the score at the end of the game."

"During the decadence of round ball and the advent of baseball, my father, John E. Drake of Stoughton was a shoemaker.  From his shop I secured all kinds of leather.  My comrade and myself used it in covering balls in the old forms, known as the 'Lemon Peel' and 'Belt'."

"My experience revealed to me that the corners and joints give out first, and quick at that, and when we threw a ball at an opponent we could inflict a black and blue spot on him to emphasize a brilliant victory.  It was also noticeable that the wind would get under the broken flaps and retard the [---] efforts."

"One day in school when the teacher was not looking - it was a rare moment - I took a sheet of paper and made a diagram of a baseball dover in its present form."

"It was just a thought that came to me.  Later I made sample covers out of paper and then cut up some of my father's leather, until at last I had a baseball cover that was serviceable."

"We boys used the baseball with the covers in the present form and they lasted well and gave us a chance to play the game with old-time enthusiasm and without injury."

"As near as I can find out, about two years afterwards George and Harry Wright got hold of the plan and put baseballs on the market with the cover I had invented."

"In the days when the cover was new to me I neglected to have it patented, so others reaped the benefit of my work in that respect."

"It is a satisfaction to me, however, to think that I have been able to confer some pleasure on the world, though I have never received a thank you or a complimentary ticket to a ball game."

Thus is Mr. Drake's story told, a tale of inventive genius but with rather impractical business head.  Mr. Drake first began inventing things when only a child.  His first effort was a toy card which was propelled by  wind and which subsequently proved a success.  He devoted his life to inventing many objects of usefulness and made many improvements on ex[---] machines of the time."

His work brought about a new type of skate, may shoe factory appliances, a fountain syringe, a new cannon and shot which was tested and patented by the United State government, and may improvements on the old type of sewing machine.  Mr. Drake's story is now well-known to most of Stoughton's present-day residents but a few of the real old-timers knew that he was an inventive genius that everyone should be proud of. His life is but a sample of the lives of many Stoughton residents who have risen to places of prominence in the business world.


                                                              Genealogy of the Descendants of Ellis Drake

ELLIS DRAKE, born in the "Dry Pond" section of Stoughton, Mass. 16 February 1839; died at Stoughton 18 December 1912.  Ellis was a son of John Ellis Drake (1810-188) and Susan S. (Treadwell) Drake (1811-1894) of Stoughton. Ellis married at North Bridgewater, Mass. 25 November 1860 by Rev. A. P. Cleverly to Melissa Hall.  She was born at North Bridgewater, Mass. 22 November 1839; died at Stoughton, Mass. 3 February 1905, due to pneumonia. In the 1860 Census Melissa was still an unmarried school teacher residing with Ellis' parents in Stoughton. In 1870 Ellis was living in Stoughton as a "grocer" residing with his wife and children Evelyn and Frank in his father's home.  In 1900 Ellis is living in Stoughton with his son Frank's family, and is now listed as a "machinist". In 1910 Ellis was living at 276 Capen Street, Stoughton with his son Frank.  In 1910 Ellis was a neighbor to George Gerard the Stoughton photographer, and John W. Wood the manufacturer. 

Children born at Stoughton: 

            i.     John Ellis Drake, b. 24 November 1861; d. at Stoughton 19 August 1863

            ii.    Evelyn Augusta Drake, b. 11 May 1863.  She was unmarried in 1892.

+         iii.   Frank Ellis Drake, b. 17 March 1866; d. at Stoughton 10 April 1933.  He married at Stoughton in 24 February 1887 to Louisa Buxton. 

                 She was born at Cambridge 1 December 1866, dau. of John & Louisa (---) Buxton.

                 Children born in Stoughton:

                                a.    Marian Louise Drake, b. 7 October 1887.

                                b.    Evelyn Minerva Drake, b. 30 August 1890.

                                c.    Frank Ellsworth Drake, b. 20 June 1893.

                                d.    Myra Hall Drake, b. 11 December 1896.


               iv.  Susan Stone Drake, b. 10 July 1871. She marr. at Stoughton 27 August 1891 to Wayland Wellford Webster.  Wayland was born at 

                    North Easton 25 March 1868, son of Clinton B. & Mary A. (Wilbur) Webster.  Susan and her daughter Ruth ran Webster's Ice Cream located

                    across from Stoughton Town Hall.


                                a.     Ruth Standish Webster, b. 16 August 1892.


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