A leather football from the 20th century, comprising 12 sections of leather stitched together that would have encased an inflatable rubber inner.

The first footballs were made from inflated pigs’ bladders with leather stitched around them, until the introduction of rubber inners just before the English Football Association was formed in 1863.

Richard Lindon (30 June 1816-10 June 1887) was a leather worker based in Rugby, Warwickshire, opposite the famous public school, and he invented an inflatable India rubber bladder and the first pump inflator, which he was prompted to do following the sad loss of his wife, who had inflated multiple pigs’ bladders for his business by mouth and died, he believed, from disease acquired during this process.  Lindon’s invention led to the production of the first round-shaped football for association football (soccer), the design of which has changed since to the perfectly spherical ball used today.  Over time there have been changes to the number and shape of the panels, the stitching, the colour, number and shape of panels, the introduction of a cushioning layer, and in the 20th century, the use of stronger, galvanised rubber (invented by Charles Goodyear of Goodyear Tyres) became commonplace.

This particular ball has the same appearance as one pictured from 1948 (Bush, 2014, ‘The Aerodynamics of the Beautiful Game), which differs from earlier types as it lacks a laced panel to draw the leather outer skin together. This panel was reportedly painful for players if they made contact with it when heading the ball.

Key theme(s):


More information:

Date 1940s, 1950s
Material(s) LeatherRubber
Item number MBPO42

User Stories

Mr Peter West, of Midhurst, West Sussex, recalls: “We played with the old footballs. They were made of leather with a rubber bladder inside and laced up with a leather lace (were the bladder was pushed inside). These balls were heavier than the modern ones and when playing in wet conditions they got very heavy.

I have enclosed a photo of Midhurst And Easebourne Utd at the end of the 1955/56 season.  The lads in the front were part of The Midhurst Minors team, who were the under 18s side, I was 16 at the time [fourth from left in bottom row].”

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