Golf during the Victorian era had different traditions and implements than today’s game: It was played with hickory shafted clubs, wearing long pants and a jacket, with child caddies, bogey as the standard measure of a score and tees built by the player who piled up sand.
Fore! Life’s Book for Golfers was published in 1900 by Life magazine (Murdoch 453, D & M 3880, D & J L11770) to highlight the emerging pastime of golf. The book is 11 1/2 inches by 9 1/2 inches and is unpaginated, but contains 64 pages of illustrations. Illustrations were a prominent part of newspapers and magazines during the pre-radio and –television era and Life attracted some of the best graphic artists who were working in New York: Frederick Strothmann, Charles Allan Gilbert, Harry B. Neilson, Otho Cushing, and Bayard Jones all have illustrations in the book.
The Charles Dana Gibson cover illustration of Fore! featuring a “Gibson Girl”
The most well-known illustrator at the time was Charles Dana Gibson, who drew the image featured on the book’s cover. Gibson is responsible for the creation of the “Gibson Girl,” a popular depiction of a stylish idealized women with an hourglass figure.
Life magazine’s contents at the turn of the century featured a lot of humor and Fore! contains much of it in its illustrations. Other prevalent themes featured in the book are how men are distracted from golf by women and the role of church and god, specifically of observing a day of rest.
Golf in the United States in 1900 was still in its nascent stages, the USGA having been formed only six years prior. Fore! would have been one of the first twenty or so golf books published in the country.
Well-dress period golfers distracted from their search for balls by the fairer sex
One of the founders and publishers of Life, John Mitchell, was anti-Semitic and was known to commission cartoons depicting Jews with large noses, making fun of them. Unfortunately, Fore! was not immune from this treatment and the book contains one sketch that pokes fun at a crooked-nosed golfer named “Goldstein.”
An illustration from the book showing a sand tee box, a sand tee and child caddie
The images in the book were originally from items that appeared in the magazine, some of which date back to 1896. The book was printed on “heavy paper,” which has stood the test of time and held the images well.