I bought this enveloped at a recent International Stamp show in Hartford, CT and found it interesting as this was posted during WWII. All mail was opened/examined as you can see in the picture and also that it was from a Cricket ball manufacturer who may have sent an invoice for goods shipped to this once famous landmark. An article I found on the web (copied from a newspaper) is given below in full, makes for interesting reading.
Alex Taylor, of Alex Taylor & Co., the sporting-goods store at 22 East 42nd Street, is just entering his 50th year on that deplorable thoroughfare, and we paid him a visit the other day. He is a small-boned, gentle-faced man of 71 and, despite the contamination to which he has been exposed for so long, has the benign air of a golfing country parson. Naturally, we asked him what changes he’d noted during a half century in his surroundings and, naturally, he replied that he’d noted a good many. As far as sports equipment is concerned, we gathered that he considers every change an improvement, but as for 42nd Street he feels that a steady and woeful deterioration has taken place, much more than enough to discount the building of the present Grand Central Station.
“Back in ‘97, I started as a clerk at a sporting-goods store called
Johnson & Stoughtenburgh,” Mr. Taylor said. “The shop was at 55
West 42nd, near the corner of Sixth, where Stern’s is now. Jim Wakeley’s saloon was right next door. John L. Sullivan spent most of his time at Jim’s in those days. He was a bloated, bad-tempered, heavy-jowled man, and he never got tired of talking of his prowess. When he was sober, which was seldom, he’d praise Corbett, but when he was drunk, he’d say Corbett had given him a dirty deal. In 1901, I bought a half interest in the firm, making it Johnson & Taylor, and in 1908 I bought out Johnson and moved to 16 E. 42nd. After the old Hotel Belmont was torn down, the eastern wall of my shop was exposed, and I had a big sign painted on it, urging people to say “Zzunk!” instead of swearing when they got mad. It caught on for a while, too. We’d watch people come up out of the subway, trip on the top step, and say, “Oh, zzunk!” We moved to this building in 1921, and we like it here, but the neighborhood is not what it was. All the hotels are gone - the Belmont, the Grand Union, the Bristol, the Manhattan - and a lot of cheap little stores have opened up on a
month-to-month basis. It’s brassy, it’s noisy, and over by Times Square -“
Mr. Taylor shook his head.
In 1897, Mr. Taylor told us, the best sporting goods invariably
came from England, but for the past 25 years, American-made golf clubs, tennis rackets and so on have been considered as good as anybody else’s. “Different sports tend to rise and fall in popularity,” Mr. Taylor
said. “Back in ‘97, basketball was just beginning to catch on, lacrosse
and fencing were very popular, and golf and tennis, which had been rich men’s games, were beginning to be played by everybody. Now lacrosse and fencing are fairly unimportant, while skiing, to which nobody paid very much attention in the old days, is one of our major sports. Styles in equipment change, too. Tennis rackets used to be more rectangular in shape, and footballs were dumpy.
Since 1912, when their measurements were first standardized, they have lost a bit more than an inch around the waist. Shoe skates were practically unknown in 1897 and golfing irons were all hand-forged, with wooden shafts. The rubber-wound golf ball hadn’t been invented, so we used “gutty” balls, made of gutta percha. The gutta was easier to putt with, being heavy and dead and consequently more true on the green than a modern ball, but you couldn’t get much distance with it. Baseballs were also dead. They got a cork center in 1909, which speeded them up a trifle. It was the switch from American to Australian yarn in 1920 that made them really fast. Baseball bats, on the other hand, haven’t changed at all. I have a new magnesium bat in my office here, but I doubt if it’ll ever take the place of wood. Just doesn’t feel right.”
The cost of sporting goods has, in general, gone up about 300 percent
since Mr. Taylor went into business. The number of people participating in sports has gone up even more strikingly. The percentage on that would run into four figures. The peculiar and, in some cases, dangerously successful marriage of women to sports has had much to do with this, though by around 1900 the weaker sex was already tentatively fondling Indian clubs, and going for a brisk spin on a bicycle. As we were leaving, Mr. Taylor showed us one of his old catalogues, in which a Ladies’ Standard Bicyle Suit was advertised - “constructed of good weight Navy blue twill flannel goods, blouse and divided skirt with diamond center-piece, or blouse with knickers and short skirt, complete, $6.” A rather racy item.
Some of the local ball makers Duke & Son, Stuart Surridge, John Wisden, Gray Nicholls, Twort & Sons and Ives all eventually merged to become Tonbridge sports industries. Situated along the river next to the bridge.