Special Collections

Collection ID: SP-23
Location: SP-23

(Description ID: 595720)

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums

Larry R. Michaels - Tennis


Scope and Content

The Larry R. Michaels Early Tennis Collection was donated to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in 2013.

In little more than a decade after lawn tennis was invented in England and imported to America members of the Hayes family were playing the sport in Fremont, as shown by several photographs in the Lucy Elliot Keeler Collection. 

A form of lawn tennis was being played in England during the early 1870s, but its official beginning is usually designated as early 1874 when Major Walter Wingfield codified the first rules and patented the first equipment for sale.  Developed from the ancient sport of court tennis, which was played indoors with walls surrounding a court, lawn tennis instantly became popular because it could easily be played outdoors on expansive Victorian era lawns by both men and women.  The fact that it could be enjoyed by both sexes competing together led to its fast growth in England and America, as well as in many other countries before 1900.  Tennis also provided more strenuous exercise than other lawn games like croquet, which it surpassed in popularity during the 1880s. 

Lawn tennis arrived in America before the year 1874 ended, and was soon being played in Boston, Newport, New York, Philadelphia, as well as New Orleans and San Francisco.  The foundation was laid for the development of tennis when Major Wingfield’s original rules were rewritten by Henry Jones, Julian Marshall, and Charles Heathcote in 1877, the year the first important tournament was held in Wimbledon, England.  Men’s doubles began at Oxford in 1879, and Women’s singles was first played at Wimbledon in 1884.  Dr. James Dwight, often called the “Father of American Tennis,” helped establish a Lawn Tennis Association in America in 1881. The first nationally sanctioned tournament was played that year in Newport, Rhode Island, now the site of the Tennis Hall of Fame.

By the late 1880s, lawn tennis was being played in countries all around the world, often in clubs established for that purpose, but also for recreation by any young men and women with the time and leisure to do so.  Members of the Roosevelt family were avid players in New York at the same time the Hayes family circle was enjoying the sport in Fremont.  Interest in tennis waned during the turbulent 1890s, but again became immensely popular in the first years of the 20th century.  In 1900, Dwight Davis donated his ornate Lawn Tennis Challenge Trophy that generated much interest in the sport and allowed players to compete for their country, as they do to this day for the prestigious Davis Cup.  The first years of the 20th century saw tennis continue to grow and the foundations were being laid for the modern game that developed after World War I.

During these decades techniques, equipment, and fashions evolved rapidly as the sport became more competitive and played by more people.  Early books and photographs show how the underhand serve, oddly shaped racquets, and long skirts and petticoats were replaced by more powerful strokes and volleys, stronger equipment, and even dresses well above the ankles.  Also, tennis was gradually being played by all classes of people throughout the world, and had an influence on the changing role of women in sport and society.

Scope and Content
The collection consists of books, articles, pamphlets, catalogues, photographs, and other source materials from the sport of lawn tennis, emphasizing its first decades in America and Great Britain from 1874 to 1916.

The earliest materials in the collection are from the mid-1870s, consisting of pictures of Major Wingfield’s hourglass court and his first patented equipment for the game of lawn tennis, as well as articles about those first games and tournaments.  The bulk of the collection, probably 80%, dates from the 1880s into the early years of the 20th century, as the game was rapidly changing and growing in popularity. The collection ends with the players, techniques, and other developments in lawn tennis at the time of the First World War, which effectively brought the world into the modern era.

The books in the collection are divided into non-fiction and fiction.  As the number of players rapidly increased, there was a demand for instructional books that described and showed proper stroke techniques and strategies.  Many of these books were written by and about well-known players of those early years.  They form the core of the most important lawn tennis writings of the time.  Other books discuss equipment, making a tennis court, or the health benefits of playing the game.  Also, young adult popular fiction often had the hero or heroine participating in tennis. Many books featured young ladies with tennis racquets on the cover.  Well-known writers such as Richard Harding Davis included a tennis story in one of his collections.

There were also many articles about tennis published during this era of the great national periodicals. Popular magazines, such as Harper’s Weekly, along with many others, featured tennis articles and pictures of people playing the game.  The collection contains a wide variety of original and copied articles, often illustrated, that cover the many aspects of lawn tennis’ early development.  Reference is made to the original periodicals already in the Hayes Presidential Library.

Also in the collection are records of early tournaments, equipment catalogues, postcards, advertisements, Victorian fashion photos, and other tennis memorabilia of the times.  The popularity of tennis from the 1880s into the early 1900s reflects changes taking place in fashions, the relations between the sexes, and the acceptable activities for women.  The materials are organized by subject.

The collection also shows how the sport continued to grow in popularity and made rapid advancements in technique during the first years of the 20th century.  With the coming of World War I, the formative period of tennis came to an end.  Many tournaments were suspended during the war, and then by the 1920s tennis was spreading around the world as a new generation of players, such as Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen, took the sport into the beginnings of the modern era.  This collection therefore concludes with the end of lawn tennis’s early development about the time of the First World War.

There are few gathered collections of early books and other source materials available to those who would want to study the history, techniques, equipment, attire, strategies, and other developments relating to the early years of tennis.  Such a collection of illustrated instructional books, magazine articles, published prints and photographs provides background information on an activity that gained rapidly in popularity at the end of the Gilded Age.

Ac. 5822
¼ linear ft.


General Histories

Tennis: Hayes Family in Fremont

Invention of Lawn Tennis—1874

Beginnings of Lawn Tennis

Lawn Tennis Equipment and Courts

Tennis Instruction and Technique


Tournaments—U.S., Olympics, and Others

Davis Cup

Lawn Tennis Beyond Britain and U.S.

Top Players—Men

Top Players—Women 

Lawn Tennis—Society and Fashion

Tennis in Art

Tennis in Fiction

Tennis Prints in Popular Magazines

Tennis Postcards

Tennis Advertisements

Tennis in Periodicals—Miscellaneous

Court Tennis—Origins of Lawn Tennis


Books (transferred to the Hayes Presidential Library General Collection):

-Baddeley, W.  Lawn Tennis.  London: Routledge & Sons, 1895.  Seven photo plates.

-Beldam, George W. and P. A. Vaile.  Great Lawn Tennis Players.  London: Macmillan, 1905.

-Davison, Alvin.  Health Lessons: Book One.  NY: American Book Company, 1910.  Cover.

-Dewhurst, Edward B.  The Science of Lawn Tennis.  Philadelphia: Innes & Sons, 1910.

-Doherty, R. F. & H. L.  On Lawn Tennis.  NY: Baker & Taylor, 1903.

-Heathcote, J. M.  Tennis, Lawn Tennis, Rackets, and Fives.  London: Longmans, Green, 1890.

-Lambert Chambers, Dorothea.  Lawn Tennis for Ladies.  London: Methuen, 1910.  23 illus.

-Little, Raymond.  Tennis Tactics.  NY: Outing Club, 1913.  Illustrated.

-Marshall, Julian.  The Annals of Tennis.  London: Field, 1878.  Facsimile ed., 1973.

-McLoughlin, Maurice.  Tennis as I Play It.  NY: George Doran, 1915. (2)

-Myers, A. Wallis.  The Complete Lawn Tennis Player.  London: Methuen, 1908.  2nd edition.

-Paret, J. Parmly.  Lawn Tennis Lessons for Beginners.  NY: Macmillan, 1916.

-Payn, F. W.  Tennis Topics and Tactics.  London: Upcott Gill, 1907.  Illus.

-Peile, Capt. S.C.F.  Lawn Tennis: As a Game of Skill.  Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1887.  4th edition.

-Vaile, P. A.  Modern Tennis.  NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1915.

-Vaile, P. A.  Spalding’s Lawn Tennis Guide.  London: British Sports, 1906.

-Walsh, George E.  Making a Tennis Court.  NY: McBride, Nast, 1912.

-Wilberforce, H. W. W.  Lawn Tennis.  London: George Bell & Sons, 1892.

Books (Fiction):

-Ade, George.  The Girl Proposition.  NY: R.H. Russell, 1902.  Illustrated.  Tennis cover.

-Aldridge, Janet.  The Meadow-Brook Girls on the Tennis Courts.  Akron: Sealfield, 1914. (2)

-Barbour, Ralph Henry.  The Crimson Sweater.  NY: Century Co., 1908.  Opp. p. 122.

-Davis, Richard Harding.  Stories for Boys.  NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891.  Pages 130-165.

-Flower, Jessie Graham.  Grace Harlowe’s Sophomore Year at High School.  Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1911.  Fiction.  Tennis cover.

-Holmes, Mary J.  Aikenside.  Chicago: Donohue, [c. 1900].  Tennis girl on cover.

-Humphrey, Frances A.  Little Pilgrim at Plymouth.  Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1890.  Pages 155-174.  Fiction.

-Meade, Mrs. L. T.  The Girls of Mrs. Pritchard’s School.  NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 1904.  Fiction.

-Meade, L. T.  The Time of Roses.  NY: Hurst, [1913].  Fiction.  Tennis cover.

-Meade, L. T.  Wild Kitty.  NY: Hurst Co., [1890].  T. Earl Christy tennis cover.

-Morris, Gouverneur.  The Championship.  NY: Ridgway Co., 1913.

-Penrose, Margaret.  Dorothy Dale at Glenwood School.  NY: Cupples & Leon, 1908.  Fiction.

-Smith, Mabell S. C.  Ethel Morton at Rose House.  Cleveland: Goldsmith, 1913.  Fiction.


-The Out of Door Library: Athletic Sports.  [NY]: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897.  Contains: “Lawn Tennis,” by Robert D. Wrenn, pp. 155-174.  Illustrated.