ADA – Over the past few months leading up to the village’s signature Wilson Football Festival, the focus has been on the Wilson factory itself and what an asset it has been to the community. And he, indeed, has. But, frankly, if it hadn’t been for the pig bladders and that guy from Kentucky, it’s a safe bet the Wilson football factory might never have been located in Ada, Ohio…
First, pork bladders.
These hermetic membranes were used as the first sports balls. They were inflated using lung power and tied at the end.
The size of the ball was determined by the size of the pig’s bladder. Also, these babies were far from perfectly spherical, so their bounce was far from true.
After a while it was found that if you put a light leather wrap over the bladder the ball would last longer and bounce a bit fairer. Especially in sports like football.
Eventually, the pig’s bladder was replaced with what was essentially a rubber bladder. And then enter the guy from Kentucky.
William Sonnet sold sports equipment in his barn in Canyton, Kentucky in the early 1900s. He sold baseball mitts, punching bags, sports balls…
When ball interiors switched to rubber, he came up with one idea, among many at the time, on how to inflate these balls. This involved inserting a small rubber tube into the bladder as a conduit for air to be pumped through a needle.
Mr. Sonnet got a patent for it, started making a lot more money, and moved his business, the “OK Company”, out of the barn and to Cincinnati, Ohio.
He had moved his business to a street in Cincinnati adjacent to the Ohio River. And the Ohio River overflowed that year, big. Its warehouse was badly damaged.
He looked further north. There you go, Ada, Ohio. A quaint and bustling village, an airport, beautiful rural scenery – and no river to speak of.
Historian Ada Leland Crouse’s museum records show that Mr. Sonnet purchased the McCurdy factory building from Ada in 1938. And for the next 15 years, the company continued to manufacture all kinds of wares. sport.
Then, in December 1954, the Wilson Sporting Goods Company bought out OK Manufacturing. And the rest is “Made in Ada” history.