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Portland ME Bans "Playing at Bat and Ball in the Streets" in 1805, Retains Ban in 1824

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Bans
Location New England
City/State/Country: Portland, ME, United States
Game Bat and Ball
Immediacy of Report Contemporary

[A] "[N]o person shall play at the game of bat and ball or shall strike any ball with a bat or other machine in the streets, lanes, or squares of the town on penalty of fifty cents."

[B] "It is ordered by the town, That no person shall play at the game of bat and ball, or shall strike any ball with a bat or other machine, or throw any stones, brickbats, clubs or snow balls, in the streets, lanes, or squares of the town, on penalty of fifty cents for each offence [sic]."


[A] By Laws of the Town of Portland, in the County of Cumberland, 2nd Edition (John McKown, Portland, 1805), p. 15.  Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball" (2000), reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It, see p. 244 and note #70.

[B] By-Laws of the Town of Portland, (Adams and Paine, printers, 1824).


It seems plausible that the fuller language also appeared in the 1805 printing, but was not reported in Tom's 2000 account.

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Can we imagine what "other machines" were employed to propel balls in the streets of Portland?  Note:  Additional origins researchers' comments on the meaning or "other machines" is shown in Supplemental Text, below.

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Submitted by John Thorn (1824 cite)
Submission Note Email of 11/3/2020


<comments voting="Plus" />


On the term "other machines":


[] John Thorn, 11/4/2020:  Might "machine" may be in the linguistic family of "mechanic," and thus "manual" ... and thus the hand?


[] Bill Lyons, 11/4/2020: perhaps one possibility is the "trap" used in "trap ball":https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_and_trap 

[] Brian Turner, 11/4/220: That [trap ball] was my first thought, that the "machine" would be a "trap," except that the bylaw specifies that the "machine" is used to "strike" the ball, whereas a trap ejects the ball into the air to be struck. Either the bylaw authors didn't quite know what they were saying, or they meant some other device for striking the ball? That left me uncertain.

[] Bill Lyons, 11/4/2020: I have the same question, so here's a possible alternative way to interpret the phrase "other machine".. Although the game of bat and trap was popular when the Bylaw was written, perhaps the authors of the Bylaw were not thinking about games involving the "trap" device. In classical physics terminology, a baseball bat is a simple machine (a form of lever), so perhaps the authors of the Bylaw thought of a bat or paddle as a form of lever - a "machine".  As a lawyer and law professor, I could read the phrase "strike any ball with a bat or other machine" to mean that any "other machine" must be like a bat (the "rule of  interpretation" often called "ejusdem generis").  In other words, perhaps the authors meant "strike any ball with a bat or anything similar to a bat".  

[] David Block, 11/8/2020: I agree with Bill’s interpretation that “other machines” almost certainly refers to alternate striking implements such as rackets and paddles. It’s very doubtful the Portland ordinance writers would have been alluding to trap-ball traps. I’ve seen little evidence of the game’s presence in North America and am aware of only two or three documented instances of it being played here.


[] Richard Hershberger, 11/5/2020:  My guess is that this is merely a matter of legal draftsmanship, designed to avoid arguments over what is and is not a bat.  This is akin to how these ordinances often give a list of ball games they are regulating, then add something on the lines of "or any other game of ball."  The English major in me wonders why the list was necessary, while the legal writer in me would probably do the same thing.
[] Larry McCray, 11/7/2020: As of November 2020, Protoball has 5 entries for trap ball in the US from 1713 to 1811.  However, the game was not generally depicted as a baserunning game, and may thus be under-represented on this website.
[Bruce Allardice, 11/8/2020] Webster's 1828 dictionary has the following in its definition of "machine":

"An artificial work, simple or complicated, that serves to apply or regulate moving power, or to produce motion, so as to save time or force. ...

1. An engine; an instrument of force."

It would seem that under a loose definition, a bat would be an "instrument of force" that would "produce motion."