A Trip Back in Time | Who's on First? | Capt. Bogardus

Aim for the Stars | Addie Cushman

Who's on first? Portlock, Paine, Moreson?

Getting to the bottom of the target ball barrel:

Who gets the credit for being No. 1?

The following continues a talk begun in issue XXXIV (spring, 2007) of On Target!, the newsletter for collectors of target balls, retracing the birth of target balls with early shooters A.H. Bogardus, Ira Paine and friends, including people you have never heard of, I'm sure.

First, let's back up and reprint (and re-edit) previous comments, then go forward — and backward again — from there. (Phew!) Also note: This detailed report is aimed at the most anal of collectors, but will reveal to others how much research has been done, and how much is left to be done.

But, let me say from the start: This will produce no firm answers, but will come close; it will also raise a heck of a lot of other questions! First, let's rule out the usual suspects ...

Ira Paine: Was he first up to bat? Second? Third?

In the 1870s, Ira Paine and Capt. A.H. Bogardus seem to be the "developers" of target ball shooting in the U.S., while Bogardus nominates a mysterious Charles Portlock with the "introduction" of ball shooting "into this country."

For more on Paine, I dug out my volume of Forest and Stream issues for 1876 — the earliest year we had thought, sans Portlock, for U.S. target ball shooting — and, 416 pages later, find that the first reference to glass balls in 1876 is in the Aug. 24 issue:

Improved Trap Shooting — Messrs. Eaton, Holberton & Co. have obtained the sole agency of the new spring trap for throwing glass balls. The trap is now being used by Mr. Paine on his starring tour through the west, and has excited the greatest interest among sportsmen wherever he has shown them.
A number of the leading sportsmen and clubs have ordered them, and Mr. Bergh indorses them with the following letter:

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Headquarters Fourth Avenue cor. 22d Street
New York, August 7th

Mr. Ira Paine:

Sir: Believing that the Omni-potent Creator of all things never designed that any of his living creatures should be wounded, mutilated, or destroyed for the mere fun of so doing, it affords me profound satisfaction to know that you have an invention which, while it supercedes the necessity of inflicting pain and suffering, as pigeons hitherto used by marksmen as a medium of obtaining accuracy of aim, it at the same time procures to those employing it all the pleasure and skill which is derived from the former practice.

Having personally witnessed an exhibition at your gallery of the humane, ingenious and pleasurable pastime afforded by your spring traps, I would earnestly recommend their general use.

— Henry Bergh

While Bergh and Paine (below) call this a spring trap, this trap is NOT powered by a flat metal spring (as in the Bogardus trap) or a coiled spring (as in the English-developed Bussey trap with its tin propeller); Paine's "spring" actually is a rubber band, from which balls spring into the air.

The same Forest & Stream issue contains an Eaton, Holberton & Co. ad for Paine:

The Pigeon's Friend
Ira A. Paine's Glass Ball Trap —
The best practice in the world. Affords more amusement than a billiard table or bowling alley. Call and see it, or send for circular to Eaton, Holberton & Co.,
102 Nassau Street,
P.O. Box 5, 109.

There was no illustration with this ad. There was a second ad, the next week, then nothing regarding Paine for the rest of the year. Maybe the world wasn't beating a path to his door (it is, after all, a most primitive device).

In another shooting publication, the Spirit of the Times, on July 29, 1876 Paine ran a larger ad which carried an illustration of his "Spring Traps."

On Nov. 2, 1876 Holberton has dropped Mr. Eaton from the business, and added Beemer, and — in a F&S ad — offered "Paine's patent glass ball trap and balls."

There are late 1876 Forest and Stream references to Bogardus, but (in Forest and Stream, anyway) only that he is shooting at various pigeon matches across the country. However, I found this item in the July 19, 1876, issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, dealing with a pigeon match between Capt. Bogardus and Dr. Talbot at Deerfoot Park in Parkville, Long Island, the day before: Bogardus, despite giving Talbot a two-yard advantage, won the match 26 pigeons to 19.

Then, this comment: "After the match the captain gave a peculiar exhibition of his skill breaking 100 glass balls at 21 yards in 16 minutes. The spring trap to be used being out of order, the balls were thrown by hand. The captain succeeded in breaking 100 balls out of 128 in 12 m, 32s."

And where does the recently found Moresons ball fit into all this? You will remember, from issue XXXIV, the mid-blue balls found in France and embossed "Moresons Glass Ball / Pat June 15 1876." An English ball, say some, but it sure looks like an American ball to me (in late 2009, another Moresons, in cobalt blue, was reported in Belgium). Of note, all letters and numbers are very sharp and clear, except the "6," which looks as if it were drawn free-hand; it appears somewhat like a "5," but it is not a "5." Top English collector John Hargreaves added: "The 6 is especially faint, but it does look more like an upside-down question mark, in that the top half of the loop is not complete."

We move on to Adam Bogardus' comments, but, trust me, they aren't going to clear up the confusion.

In Capt. Bogardus' book, Field, Cover and Trap Shooting, third edition, revised, 1891, Bogardus states (on pages 361-362) that "shooting glass balls from traps ... was introduced into this country some twelve years ago by Charles Portlock of Boston. The traps, however, were nothing like as good as they might have been. The traps threw the balls nearly straight up in the air, and as a matter of course it very easy to hit them. ... in 1876 Ira Paine got up a trap after Portlock's pattern, with the addition of an elastic spring, and this threw the balls farther and better than Portlock's trap did." (Bogardus and Paine were well acquainted with one another, having been competing in pigeon matches back to at least 1871.) Bogardus then points out the flaws of Paine's device, and explains that in the winter of 1876-77 Bogardus devised his "effective" machine "calculated to throw balls from 28 to 35 yards and not very high."

By practicing with his traps, Bogardus claimed, "amateurs may become crack shots." And, for the next 16 pages, A.H. Bogardus lists many of his greatest ball-shooting achievements, including breaking 5,000 in 500 minutes. Paine is reported to have had an ad as early as the March, 1876 issue of Rod & Gun (which later merged with Forest and Stream) that said: "Ira A. Paine's Hall — Trapshooting day and evening. Glass balls thrown from spring traps at twenty-one and twenty-five yards rise. Instructions given to amateurs free, from 10 am to 1 pm."

Bogardus "cut a deal to manage a target-ball-shooting demonstration at Suffolk Park, Philadelphia, in connection with the 1876 Centennial," author Ed Muderlak of Durand, Illinois, reported. "This was announced in a June, 1876 issue of Rod & Gun: ‘Captain A. H. Bogardus will shoot an exhibition on the 4th of July, to break 1,000 glass balls thrown up at twenty-five yards from a spring trap or by hand. Two balls to be in the air at the same time. To be broken in two hours and forty minutes.' After the demonstration at the Centennial, a glass manufacturer started making glass balls trademarked with Bogardus' name."

But, we are trying to break the 1876 glass ball barrier, so let's keep pushing back. Muderlak also stated that "there had been some mention of target-ball shooting in the sporting press as early as 1872. The ‘trap' was called a ‘machine' and measured 3 1⁄2 by 7 feet; the glass balls were made in small quantities and cost as much as wild pigeons." The late Dick Baldwin of the Trapshooting Hall of Fame once wrote of the "scramble for a suitable substitute target. The beginnings of a solution were already present in England, where a contraption called a ‘sling device' was in use. It threw glass balls as targets. Often the balls were filled with feathers for those who still liked to see the ‘feathers fly.' Charles Portlock, a Boston shooter, introduced these glass balls and traps to the United States. The old live bird shooters didn't find them much of a challenge, as they only went a few yards in the air and a distance of 30 feet or so. Bogardus took to glass-ball shooting almost immediately."

Well, Dick is gone, so it's too late to ask him where he got his information. Is the Portlock reference taken and repeated (again) from Bogardus' book? I have yet to find any reference to Portlock that doesn't sound like it was based on Bogardus' claim. But Dick's reference is the first I have seen making Portlock a "Boston shooter." Or was that an assumption on his part?

Also, the "sling device" referred to above, and the feather-filled balls sound like Paine's creation. But, since Paine had traveled to England, did he come across glass ball shooting in the Mother Country that he later introduced back in the States?

Something I've not tracked down: When did Paine first visit England? Before 1876?

Let's turn to what is commonly known about Paine after 1876. The following is from Kenny Ray Estes (who replaced Baldwin), the current head of the Trapshooting Hall of Fame Museum:

"Regarding your question as to whether Ira Paine's patent was for a spring trap, as suggested by Henry Bergh: His first trap used the elastic cord with the cup.

"175,870, Improvement in Ball Throwers; Filing date: March 6, 1876; Issue date: Apr. 11 1876. Then came his patented improvement of glass balls with feathers:

"196,379, Improvement in Glass Ball Targets; Filing date: 22 Sep. 1877; Issue date: 23 Oct. 1877.
"Then he had a reissue of his first patent, which contained additional wording that mentioned the elastic cord or spring trap, but the trap looked identical to me and I saw nothing that looked like the traditional spring trap as we know it."

A late 1877 advertisement in Forest and Stream claimed that 30,000 Ira Paine balls were on their way to England. Of interest (to me, at least), Paine was in Michigan (your editor's state) when he filed for this re-issue:

RE9042 Ball Trap; Filing date: 12 Dec. 1879; Issue date: 13 Jan. 1880.

Kenny Ray continued: "You probably know that Paine and Bergh were not on friendly terms. In 1872, Bergh was after the pigeon shooters. Bergh wanted to stop a pigeon match on Long Island and Mr. Parks, president of the Long Island Shooting Club, had Ira grass a couple of pigeons to show Bergh how they are killed. This was also a test case. "Bergh's henchmen went out and retrieved the pigeons, one still alive. Paine put his gun up and awaited his arrest and incarceration in the Westchester jail. After awhile, Ira picked up his gun and live bird traps and the shooters left for home."

Coincidentally, this was reported in the Daily Democrat of Sedalia, Missouri, Jan. 17, 1872, on Page 1:

"Ira A. Paine, the pigeon shooter, is preparing to commence suits on three charges against Henry Bergh, President of the Society, for permitting of cruelty to animals and for interfering with him in his professional business. Paine has retained the best legal talent in the city, and many think Bergh will have to pay heavily for his officiousness."

Kenny Ray Estes concluded:

"He was suing Bergh, I believe, because he held the dying pigeon and would not permit the shooters to wring its neck and put it out of its misery. He charged cruelty to animals by the society's leader."

However, as noted on the previous page, Paine and Bergh patched things up after Paine introduced his "improvement" to a glass ball thrower. But that was ca. 1876.

A Forest and Stream ad for his feather-filled balls dated late 1877 claimed that "during Mr. Paine's absence in England his *patents were grossly infringed upon. Glass Balls and Traps of the most worthless description were sold in large numbers. Balls that could not be broken with a cannon were thrust upon the market by thousands. On his arrival home, seeing this state of affairs, he immediately, with his fruitful brain, invented the Paine Feather-filled Glass Balls.'

If the feather-filled ball patent was applied for on Sept. 22, 1877 (and granted Oct. 23), and Paine's trip to England was earlier in 1877, what were these balls that Paine complained about and when were they made? And what were these patents that were infringed upon?

*Paine's first patent (that I am aware of) was for the "Improvement in Ball Throwers," Patent 175,870, dated April 11, 1876, and filed March 6, 1876 (as noted earlier).

The 1876 patent, for a slingshot-like device, said that "the ball is put into a cup" and shot skyward. But if Paine didn't design his feather-filled ball until a year-and-a-half later, what ball was Paine placing into his trap?

Now, thanks to researcher Jerry Kuntz of New York, we can move our timeline back one year earlier, at least regarding the trap:

"Attached is an article from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper for June 12, 1875," said Jerry. "It describes a trap made of India rubber being used at Epsom Downs, England. It also suggests the shooting is being operated as some sort of franchise, and that it is rigged like a carnival game." That article also stated:

Artificial pigeon-shooting, as now carried out on the Downs at Epsom, between the station and the stand, would delight Mr. Bergh. The arrangements are remarkably simple. A catapult, formed of two pieces of india-rubber, having a cap in the centre, is so adjusted that, by pulling a cord attached to a kind of trigger, the spring is released, and a thin, colored glass ball is ejected some fifty feet into the air. The shooters stand about twenty-five yards behind the catapult, and to break the glass balls in the air requires some little knack. By attending to the following rule, a decent shot may easily break the ball every time: "Follow the rise of the ball with the muzzle of your gun, but wait until it is upon the turn before you pull the trigger."

At Epsom the odds are always against the gun, as the charge is only two-pence per shot, and, consequently, there is only a drachma of powder in the cartridge, and often no shot. Many really good shots have made terrible fiascos before their friends when shooting at the artificial pigeons at Epsom.

(The above article, almost word for word, was also printed in the June 5, 1875 Chicago Field, which credited it to the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of London.) The trap described sounds like the one Paine patented in 1876; but, did Paine see it in England, or hear about it being used in England, and simply patented a U.S. version?

And, again thanks to Jerry Kuntz, we can now go back another three years!

While Kuntz found no listing for Charles Portlock, in the June 12, 1872 issue of the Boston Daily Advertiser, he did find an article titled "Anniversary of the Portland Light Infantry," dated June 10, from which the following is edited:

"The 60th anniversary of the Portland (Maine) Light Infantry was celebrated on Saturday in spite of the rainy weather. ... It rained nearly all day, but everybody declared that the celebration was a success. ..."

There was a parade, starting at 9:30 a.m., after which "a substantial breakfast was served, after which target shooting with Springfield breech-loading rifles, and shooting at glass balls with shot-guns, foot ball, bowling and other exercises occupied the time until the dinner call sounded. After dinner, a prize drill in the manual of arms and bayonet exercise took place ...

"There were five sets of prizes for shooting — a first and second for members of the active company ... and two for shooting at glass balls with shot guns, the last-mentioned being open to all present. The prizes were awarded as follows ... Glass balls, first prize, Private Theodore Morrill; second prize, Alexander Taylor ..."

So, for one evening at least, Theodore Morrill is the first-known target ball shooting champ, back in June of 1872.

But the next day, that honor is taken from him, as the birth of target balls moves back still three more years!

The next morning, Jerry Kuntz pushed the introduction of target balls back to 1869 — and moves it from Maine to Scotland!

Jerry sent to us a Scottish newspaper dated Oct. 8, 1869; under the heading "Sutherlandshire Rifle Association," is this (edited) report:

"The shooting was resumed on Wednesday morning under the most favourable auspices as regards weather. A finer day could not have been desired for rifle shooting, and some really excellent scores were made ..."

Shooting categories included the "Enfield all-Comers' Match" and a "Small-bore All-Comers Match" at 400, 500 and 600 yards. A big-gun artillery match was also part of the day's thunderous competition.

"A new feature was introduced in the shape of blue glass balls thrown up in the air as substitutes for pigeons. Many of these balls were broken to pieces by the well-directed aims of several of the gentlemen from *Dunrobin Castle and others, before they reached the ground. Considerable interest was manifested in this competition, which lasted only a short time."

But were these the shots ultimately heard round the world?

Back to the research sites ...

(*Dunrobin Castle is located a mile north of Golspie in Sutherland on the east coast of northern Scotland, about 90 minutes north of Inverness.)

In late August, 2007, Ian Simmonds of New York kindly sent a copy of a New York Herald article he patiently transcribed, which I will reprint in a moment: Ian noted: "Last weekend, I found the article that I had mentioned. Unfortunately, the quality of photocopy that I got from the microfilm was pretty poor. I've attached what I managed to transcribe."

I replied to Ian: THANK YOU VERY MUCH!! ... It helps to fan the fire, which burns from one side of the Atlantic to the other, then back again. (Will we ever truly find that first spark?)

I mentioned to Ian that a few days earlier I had heard, in a radio interview taped 20(?) years ago, an "expert" (Alex Kerr) say that ball shooting started in England. But, I suggest, Sir Henry Halford was a major shooter / expert in 1870s' England, and it would seem likely that he would have been familiar with glass balls if they indeed had started there.

The article (slightly edited, below) indicates otherwise. (Underlining added. And note that some words could not be deciphered.)

The British Visitors Recreating at Elm Park
National Guard at Creedmoor — Good Work by the Second Brigade

New York Herald, Sept. 1, 1877

At the invitation of Judge H.A. Gildersleeve and the members of the West Side Gun Club Sir Henry Halford and the following named gentlemen of the British rifle team went yesterday to witness the sport of glass ball shooting at Elm Park: Messrs. Milner, Ferguson, Greenhill, Humphreys (accompanied by Mrs. Humphreys), Evans, Fraser, Piggott and Bigby. Among the absent members was Sergeant W.H. Gilder, who remained behind the team sick at Bridgeport on Thursday.

The visiting riflemen, accompanied by Judge Gildersleeve, Colonel John Bodine and Mr. L.M. Ballard, all of the American team of 1875, arrived at the Park a little before 11 o'clock and practice shooting was at once commenced.

The shooting of glass balls, sprung from a steel trap, instead of live pigeons as in Europe, was a novelty for the Englishmen. Mr. Ira Paine, who has invented the "feather balls," furnished them for the occasion as a compliment to Judge Gildersleeve and his friends. This new style of balls gave during the afternoon such satisfaction that after the shooting was over the West Side Gun Club held a special meeting to adopt them, ordering 1,000 of them forthwith.


A match was shot between Sir Henry Halford and Mr. Milner on the one side and Judge Gildersleeve and Mr. Schweyer on the other. The distance from the trap was 35 or 40 yards, with a rise of about 18 yards. The following are the scores, which show that in the five pairs of balls shot by each man the Britishers considerably distanced the Americans:

J.K. Milner . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 — 8
Sir Henry Halford . . . . . 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 — 7
Judge Gildersleeve. . . . . 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 — 6
E. Schweyer. . . . . . . . . . . 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 * (*Discontinued)

After settling this little affair and indulging in some [???]nitory individual practice the guests, their entertainers and friends sat down to a substantial luncheon in the rotunda. Judge Gildersleeve, who was accompanied by Mrs. Gildersleeve and family, proposed in a [neat?] address, as chairman, that speechmaking would be dispensed with. Nevertheless, the distinguished captain of the British team was called upon to say a few words, which he did.

The marksmen left the table to participate in a match made up of the members of the Gun Club and their visitors to the number of 14 competitors altogether. Three pairs of balls were shot at by each man.

The leading scores are ...

I edited down the scores, skipped the National Guard meet, and continue with the report of the ...


The usual periodical competition for the gold badge of the West Side Gun Club was shot after three o'clock, the contest lasting nearly two hours. There were 30 entries. Ten pairs of balls per man were shot at, the prize being won by Mr. Louis Brizzolari, who made 16 out of 20 balls.

The following are some of the leading scores:

Louis Brizzolari. . . . 11 11 11 11 01 11 10 11 11 00 — 16
E. Schweyer. . . . . . . 01 11 11 01 10 11 11 11 11 00 — 15
F. A. Dugro. . . . . . . . 01 11 11 11 10 11 11 01 01 00 — 14
J. Monaghan. . . . . . .11 00 11 11 11 11 10 01 10 01 — 14
*I. Paine. . . . . . . . . . 01 11 11 10 11 01 01 00 11 10 — 13

The sport terminated with a few other unimportant matches at a quarter after five o'clock.

*It is interesting to note that champion shooter Paine, an innovator and promoter of the glass ball world, shot dead last!

And, this later bit of unhelpful information:

From Forest and Stream, July 18, 1878

Captain Bogardus in England — We are in receipt of a letter from Captain Bogardus, dated London, July 2. He says, referring to the Pennel match: "I had a close match, but I got away with it. Mr. Pennel was in his best form. I am more than pleased with the courtesy which has been shown me. I prize the handsome cup which I have won more than the stakes. I expect to be in New York by the first week in August, and desire to be particularly remembered to all my friends. Eugene is very much feted, and has quite astonished my many English friends." ...
The accounts of the glass ball performances of (Captain) Bogardus and (son) Eugene seem to have excited a great deal of interest in England. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News gives an excellent account of an exhibition held at Agricultural Hall. One paper states that some doubts existed among the audience as to whether the glass balls were not some self-explosive contrivance which burst at the report of the gun.
No doubt England will adopt our glass ball system, and the sacrifice of pigeons will be lessened. In England, Bogardus kept to his Scott gun, and in his glass-ball shooting used entirely the Dittmar powder. Just now we are on the winning cards in England. When we beat our cousins at the Derby some of these fine days, our measure of triumph will be quite compete.

So the English may "adopt our glass ball system," implying that A: balls aren't used in England or, maybe, B: they will adopt the system, i.e., Bogardus' traps and shooting rules. It also doesn't preclude the idea that balls indeed started in England but fizzled, as suggested in the Oct. 8, 1869 Scottish newspaper report below, and the idea was carried to the States where it took root and, in time, was adopted and carried whole cloth back to the mother country.

The following Marrison item suggests an answer to this:

As noted, on April 10, 2008, I received an incredible e-mail from Jerry Kuntz of New York, with information that greatly changed what (little) we really know about the birth of target balls.
The (real) inventor of target balls?
"OK, I've got new earliest mentions of target balls. Both of these are from Bell's Life and Sporting Chronicle of London. The 1867 (newspaper) item (below) mentions blue glass balls creating a sensation.
"The second item is an ad from 1869; it's in the third column, about halfway down. They are being sold by Robert Marrison, gunmaker of Norwich in the County of Norfolk. I have found references to Marrison filing a patent in 1864 for a breech-loading mechanism. Also references that he went bankrupt in 1863 and again in 1865."

— Jerry.

I wondered about the name "Marrison" being so close to "Moreson," the name on the ball found in France almost two years ago (page 43, issue XXXIV of On Target!). That item, as noted, is embossed ‘Moresons Glass Ball / Pat June 15 1876', the earliest date yet found on any target ball. At the time, we debated whether this ball was English or American (although it was found in France and, later, another example reported in Belgium).

I e-mailed John Hargreaves in England, asking him if he knew anything about this. John replied:

"I had never heard of this name until a few weeks ago; the name was listed amongst gunmakers catalogues listed for sale at Wallis & Wallis (auctioneers of militaria, arms, armoury, toy and special connoisseur items).

"I liaised with a dealer, who would have been a serious competitor, but he only got part of the haul and he told me that there was nothing amongst the papers he got, relating to my subject. He then sold it all to a book dealer from Wales.

"I came to the conclusion that this Marrison has nothing to do with our Moreson, but do you know something different?"

— Regards, John.

I replied to John that his assignment was to track down Marrison and see what he could find for 1867-69.

Now, back to our timeline, and these reports in an early English sports paper:

Bell's Life in London
May 11, 1867
Lea Brook Shooting Grounds, Wednesday. — Mr. J Harding will give 10s, to be added to a 5s sweepstakes, to be shot for on Monday, May 13, at 5 glass balls each, 1 oz of shot, handicapped from 20 to 23 yards rise, to commence punctually at one.
Royal Oak Park Grounds, Manchester. — Mr. J. Cooper (the proprietor) will give a 7-bore pigeon gun to be shot for here on Monday, May 20, by 20 members, at 10s each, at eleven blue glass globes, 1 oz shots, all to load from one bowl. To be handicapped from 20 to 25 yards. The globes, which created so much sensation at the Lea Brook Grounds, Wednesday, will be free to all shooters.
Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle
Aug. 11, 1869
(An advertisement)

SHOOTING from the TRAP AT GLASS GLOBES equal with birds. R. Marrison having improved these traps to give any direction* to the flight of the ball, invites orders for them. Traps are 30s, glass balls 12s per gross. Address R. Marrison, Great Oxford-street, Norwich.

*This trap clearly can NOT be a Paine trap.

"Lacking any other candidates," said Jerry Kuntz, "I nominate Robert Marrison as the inventor of glass target balls."

My question is: The Aug. 11, 1869 ad says Marrison "improved these traps." Did he improve his traps or someone else's traps? Were the glass balls that were shot two years and four months earlier Marrison's glass balls?

Oooooh, this is exciting. (I need a real life.)

I updated Hargreaves on the above, and he excitedly replied: "This is great stuff! This does need to be tracked down; there must be more.

"I have been promising myself for years to visit the newspaper library at Colindale; there are several publications that cover this period, but Bell's is one I have seen little of, but I knew it could be a great source."

John later added: "... Colindale is, by coincidence, very near to where the famous Welsh Harp shooting ground was. It is in North London and holds all the newspaper records. "I would need to block out a whole week just to get started there, but I think it is time I did it. They have all the periodicals and this is one of the only places that we are likely to find new material."

I told John that maybe I could come visit in the summer and I could spend my days sequestered in the library. (Whatever happened to wine, women and song?)

Then, on April 15, 2008, Jerry Kuntz sent this very exciting note:

"The attached Bell's Life in London article from May 25, 1867 specifically credits J. (James) Harding of the Lea Brook Shooting Grounds in Wednesbury (northwest of Birmingham, England) as the inventor of glass target balls. It also describes them being thrown with a sling of india rubber. This predates the reference to Robert Marrison in Norwich."

Incredible! Exciting!

Bell's Life in London
May 25, 1867
Shooting at Glass Globes — At the Royal Oak Park, Manchester, on May 20, Mr J. Harding of the Lea Brook Grounds, Wednesbury, introduced his novel invention, by which small blue glass globes are fired at instead of pigeons, but it will be a long time, we imagine, before he causes experienced "shots" to prefer aiming at glass rather than at the feathered tribe. However, Mr Harding deserves credit for his ingenuity, the globes being cheaper than birds, and at the Royal Oak any gentleman may, it appears, at a few minutes' notice have the globes supplied at 1s 6d per dozen, this charge also including "ammunition." Mr Harding's invention somewhat resembles the machine used in the game of knur and spell, but the globes are, of course, by means of india-rubber bands, thrown much higher from the cup when the cord is pulled to loose the spring attached to the stand on the ground. Many gentlemen had "trials" on Monday, with 1 oz of shot, at the usual distance and eventually a small sweepstakes was entered into, the globes being required to be smashed, otherwise each was a "lost bird." As already stated, ingenuity has been exercised by Mr Harding and, as one gentleman on the ground jocularly remarked, "there will, at all events, be less bye shooting at Harding's blue Rocks."

Pigeon pie is a big slice of target ball history

On April 18, 2008 Jerry Kuntz sent another interesting note, detailing an item from the Birmingham (England) Daily, dated March 14, 1864, that mentions James H. Harding. "I found it interesting for several reasons," Jerry wrote. "It's a report of a cruelty complaint lodged by the SPCA against an assistant at the local shooting grounds. He was accused of twisting or biting pigeons' legs off prior to releasing them from the trap — apparently a way to make the birds fly slowly to make them easy targets. This trick could be used to give a competitive edge to one shooter over another — or to make a bad shooter think he's better than he really is. The accusation rings true.

"Note that the story contains the *Dickensian detail that says that the poor would lie in wait in the out-of-bounds area to gather missed, fallen birds for a free pigeon pie. Harding appears as a witness to defend the assistant. Harding says that he (Harding) was the shooter, but that the man handling the trap was not the accused.

"Also note the profession of the accused man — he was a glazier, i.e. a glass worker.

"The penalty seems pretty stiff — a month of hard labor for cruelty to pigeons. None of this is a direct link to Harding's use of glass targets in 1867, but the mention of the SPCA and of a glazier may be hints at what Harding was doing three years later," Jerry concluded.

This controversy seems similar to Paine's involvement with the SPCA that is noted early on in this report.

So, for now, the honors for first target ball goes to James H. Harding; that is, until I get another e-mail from Jerry Kuntz. But that totally leaves unanswered: Who was Charles Portlock? I have searched way more than 990 million web pages, and ... zip.

* FYI: The great Charles Dickens wrote for Bell's Life around 1834-36.