Whether you’re a fan of golf or sports activities usually, you’re in all probability aware that Tiger Woods just lately gained the Masters. His influence on golf historical past has been super, but the newest chapter in his saga has been inspirational for several reasons: by way of prolonged, rigorous effort, he overcame bodily obstacles that may have ended most sports careers; as an previous man, he defeated all the perfect young gamers on the planet (he’s only 43, however athletes of their forties seldom win the most important events); and general, it was a rare comeback effort that the majority specialists dismissed as inconceivable because of the elements just cited — and we do love comeback stories.
But this isn’t about Tiger Woods and it isn’t a comeback story. It’s a few exceptional North Country man who affected in a constructive means untold hundreds of thousands of people around the globe by means of his innovations, including certainly one of his lesser creations — a brand new and improved golf ball that was the business normal for many years.
First, a quick define of his life. William Chauncey Geer was born in June 1876 in Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, the place his father, Charles, was a well-liked and well-known agent of “the American and United States and Canada Express companies,” in line with the town’s Every day Journal. He built a big, snug residence and employed two domestics, reflecting a profitable enterprise life, however for causes uncertain — speculation blamed it on financial troubles resulting from failed mining investments — Charles took his personal life in July 1882. His spouse, Lucy, determined their four youngsters can be greatest educated within the State Regular Faculty at Potsdam, so the Ogdensburg house was bought to settle Charles’s debts. By the next spring, with the help of an insurance-policy payout, the family pulled up stakes and settled in at Potsdam.
Younger Billie’s childhood was common: he turned wonderful at capturing a gun, joined groups in church and at college, and held numerous jobs, together with one summer time each selling newspapers, hiring on at a drug store, and dealing for the submit office. Lucy’s emphasis on morals, duty, and a robust work ethic have been key in guiding the youngsters to success in class.
Underneath Professor Warren Mann, Billie’s rising interest in chemistry typically led to unintended consequences. Years later, the Potsdam Herald-Recorder reported on class reunions where references have been made to his previous hi-jinks. At one event, Geer was “introduced by Mr. Mann as famous in school days for his hot-air balloons and devilish ink eradicators.” A yr later, the paper talked about that “he lived in Potsdam, and tried to set fire to the Normal School by his zeal and earnestness in the performance of chemistry problems.”
After graduating from Potsdam in 1897, he adopted in big-brother Herbert’s footsteps and attended Cornell. Herb, seven years older, was a fantastic success at Johns Hopkins as professor of electrical and mechanical engineering. William, the youngest in the household, was joined in Ithaca by his mom, who lived with him there. After his freshman yr, she moved with him to Nyack (on the Hudson River, a few dozen miles north of New York City) when he accepted a job educating high-school science. He resigned a yr later they usually returned to Cornell, the place he resumed what turned a stellar faculty career. He was an assistant within the Mineralogy Department (as a junior); was a pacesetter of the talk membership; completed his diploma requirements ahead of schedule in both chemistry and physics; was revealed in the Journal of Physical Chemistry (a 25-page article titled “Thermostats and Thermo Regulators”), and early in his senior yr was awarded a full assistantship in the Chemistry Department.
A yr later (1903), he achieved Fellow standing in chemistry in recognition of excessive accomplishments in the subject. He also taught at Cornell, earned his PhD in 1905, worked as a wood-distillation skilled for the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and in 1907 was hired as chief chemist by B. F. Goodrich of Akron, Ohio. The next yr, he married Effie Work, whose older brother, Bertram, was the Goodrich firm president. In 1913 he was named supervisor of the Improvement Division and led analysis efforts, particularly in the properties of rubber, working on tasks for each the company and the federal government. In 1920 he turned vice-president in control of research, and retired from the company in 1925, at which point he moved to Ithaca, constructed a house, set up a laboratory close by, and continued engaged on research, a lot of it for B. F. Goodrich. He was, in any case, simply 49 years previous and one of the premier specialists on working with rubber.
Whereas a few of his innovations had large effects on businesses and industries worldwide, the main target right here is on two of his lesser-known innovations, one among which did not achieve mainstream acceptance and died on the patent degree. The appliance, filed in 1917, went proper to the purpose: “Be it known that I, William C. Geer … have invented a certain new and useful improvement in Writing Implements or Devices, of which the following is a specification. My present invention pertains to an improved writing implement or device, and is designed to take the place of the implements or devices now commonly in use, such as pens (both ordinary and fountain), pencils, crayons, and the like.” A summarized description followed: “A writing implement, consisting of a body composed of a mixture of carnauba wax and finely-ground pumice-stone, the body having a series of small cells distributed throughout the same, said cells being filled with writing fluid.”
An invention’s success hinges on many elements, including want for the product and quality of the competition. Whereas Geer’s new writing implement might have labored completely, who wanted it? And more specifically, we all know who didn’t want it: the powerful mixture of corporations that already provided the nation with numerous hundreds of thousands of pens, pencils, and crayons. His creation was publicized in newspapers and in monthlies like In style Science, however beyond that, it attracted little attention.
The same can’t be stated of his work on the golf ball, which was very profitable. In February 1924, he filed a patent enhancing on the ball presently in use. The opening paragraph outlined Geer’s objectives: “The chief objects of my invention are to produce a golf ball having improved union of the cover material with the wound structure, and to provide a simple and effective method for making the same, whereby I obtain a superior ball capable of longer flight and having increased durability. A further object is to provide a golf ball having a tough outer layer of covering material adapted to withstand rough usage….”
Many tweaks and enhancements followed, however the largest impression by far of his golf-related patents gained approval in the 1930s. Each Dr. Geer (working for B. F. Goodrich) and Sidney Cadwell (working for U. S. Rubber) independently developed a course of that toughened the covers of golf balls. James Healey, a St. Louis golf historian, says, “Some of the balls of this era had the words ‘Cadwell Cover’ or ‘Geer Patent Cover’ stamped on them, while others used the ‘Cadwell-Geer Cover’ name. This became the standard cover used on balls until the 1960s, when Surlyn was first used.”
On the Titleist website, historic research and story feedback concur. “In the mid 1930s, there was a great deal of development going on regarding ball and cover construction. Hundreds of patents were filed at the time, but two in particular are relevant here. There was the Geer Patent Cover and the Cadwell Patent Cover. These two patents were so similar that there was a lawsuit in either 1937 or 1939 … that resulted in the two patents being combined. The earliest Titleist balls had the Geer Patent Cover. Titleist balls made after the patents were combined had the Cadwell-Geer Cover.”
And so it was that, for more than 20 years, many prime golfers used balls bearing the Geer imprint, together with female celebrity Babe Didrikson and two male luminaries, Sam Snead and Walter Hagen, who had signature golf balls that bore their names along with Geer and Cadwell. The brand new ball, carried by Wilson, Titleist, and Spaulding, the sport’s largest suppliers, endured as an ordinary for more than 20 years, when technological advances with new materials led to new covers. In 1961, a patent authorised for “Methods of Covering Golf Balls” noted that, “The method of the Geer patent has been widely used in the manufacture of golf balls for many years.” His time had passed, but little Billie Geer from far upstate New York had left his mark on the game.
When Tiger Woods rolled within the profitable putt on the 2019 Masters, it was an ideal moment for him and for tens of millions of fans, however it was one thing else as properly. In athletics, fantastic achievements mirror the current state of a sport’s evolution, which is guided by various factors: coaching strategies, eating regimen, medical care, and ongoing enhancements to gear. (As an example, we wouldn’t see at the moment’s degree of tennis if picket rackets hadn’t been replaced by trendy compounds.)
On the planet of golf, we will rightly declare that one of many North Country’s biggest inventors, William C. Geer, performed a considerable position in that course of.
Coming soon: Geer’s biggest works.
Photographs: William C. Geer (India Rubber World magazine, 1919); headlines (Potsdam Herald-Recorder, 1924); Geer Patent Cowl golf ball (eBay); Wilson golf balls with Cadwell-Geer covers (eBay); advertisement (Life magazine, 1951); U.S. Royal golf balls with Cadwell-Geer covers (eBay)