Sports & Leisure
The nation's passion for sports is obvious every day—at NASCAR races, kiddie soccer matches, and countless other contests. From a handball used by Abraham Lincoln to Chris Evert's tennis racket to a baseball signed by Jackie Robinson, the roughly 6.000 objects in the Museum's sports collections bear witness to the vital place of sports in the nation's history. Paper sports objects in the collections, such as souvenir programs and baseball cards, number in the hundreds of thousands.
Leisure collections encompass a different range of objects, including camping vehicles and gear, video games, playing cards, sportswear, exercise equipment, and Currier and Ives prints of fishing, hunting, and horseracing. Some 4,000 toys dating from the colonial period to the present are a special strength of the collections.
"Sports & Leisure - Overview" showing 1 items.
- This 1953 Glasspar is an example of fiberglass-body sports cars made in small quantities after World War II. Some American motorists, particularly veterans returning from overseas duty, wanted European-style sports cars. Several American companies began small-scale production of sports cars with molded fiberglass bodies. This type of body could be made in small quantities without the expensive tooling, dies, and presses needed to make steel bodies. William Tritt, a California fiberglass-boat builder, introduced the Jaguar-like Glasspar in 1951 and sold several hundred bodies. The Glasspar body fit on a used automobile chassis that the owner obtained and customized by shortening the wheelbase. A fiberglass body was not only simpler to make; it was lightweight, rustproof, dent-resistant, and easy to repair. And it was inexpensive; a Glasspar body sold for only $950, one-fourth the price of a Jaguar and less than half the price of a Ford convertible. Tritt improved the technique of making fiberglass bodies and made more bodies of this type than his competitors. He understood the importance of casting an automobile body in one piece, and he developed techniques to avoid shrinkage, tearing at metal joints, and mismatched parts. Dale L. Dutton, a Glasspar enthusiast, donated this car to the Smithsonian in 1996.
- Major auto manufacturers dismissed plastic bodies following an unsuccessful Ford experiment in the early 1940s, but William Tritt demonstrated that a body made of polyester resin and glass strands was practical, economical to produce, and superior to steel in many ways. Tritt introduced the Glasspar in 1951 and made about 300 sports car bodies by hand over a period of several years. Despite its advantages, the plastic car seemed destined to remain a low-volume vehicle because of slow production and limited capital investment; only one Glasspar body was made per day. But in 1953, General Motors decided to make Corvette bodies of fiberglass and consulted with Tritt
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- Glasspar Company
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center