As Halloween approaches, The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum opens up about the Demons lurking in their storeroom...
In the late nineteenth century Slazenger sought to dazzle people with a scarily good racket – The Demon. The racket’s grooved handle and fishtail butt proved a success at the time, with the handle design geared towards assisting with grip. The success of the racket continued into the Edwardian period, with The Field endorsing the product in c.1913, saying ‘A Demon Racket so strung has more drive than any we have tried or seen tried’.
To show that the racket was genuine, a demon’s head was etched into the throat of all Demon rackets and powerful advertising campaigns featuring a fiery demon holding a lawn tennis racket emerged. Tennis balls also came to be manufactured under the brand name.
We have 15 Demon rackets, dating from circa 1880 to 1965 and three sets of balls in our collection, along with numerous advertisements and tennis equipment catalogues. A favourite object of mine is this large tin advertising sign from the Edwardian period, which is currently being displayed in our special exhibition; Reinventing the Racket.
The rackets in our collection show how The Demon evolved from its rather plain early incarnation, with an elongated head and fishtail handle, to the more colourful and sleek version of the 1950s and 60s. The fishtail handle was eventually replaced with an octagonal shaped one, with a leather handle covering for extra grip.
The brand was hugely popular up until the 1980s, when advancements in racket-making technology meant that graphite rackets became more widely used than wooden ones. This led to The Demon being vanquished, as Slazenger moved onto manufacturing newer models of rackets and balls.