The Tottenham Mysteries where we look at stories that don't seem complete or the various accounts don't tally. This time, a much lighter tale than the last mystery, as we wonder about the origins of the design for our own cockerel.
Over the years it has even been suggested that it may even have 'hatched' in America.
We look at the rumours and what evidence we could uncover.
We all know the origins of the cockerel as Tottenham’s emblem, its links to Harry Hotspur, his use of his riding spurs and the love of cockfighting. You will also be aware our bird was made in 1908 to grace the new West Stand as we entered the first division of the Football League; it’s retold at the link below, (1). Did you ever wonder however where the design of the bird came from?
There is a story that has raised its head several times over the years which is that the inspiration behind the cockerel was brought back to England from the America’s at the start of the twentieth century. To be honest I’ve never really given it too much credence or attention but this top picture made me pause.
One of the tales is that a similar crest belonging to a baseball team, possibly in the Boston area, was the catalyst that had been admired. First stop then was to check out the baseball clubs currently operating with a ‘rooster’ style design. This drew a blank so a deeper search of now defunct crests and the same result. The Investigation then took us to the ‘The Historical Kits’ website (2) which informs us a chap called John Lovett had suggested that the cockerel came from the St Louis Cardinals. To this point I have been unable to discover John Lovett ‘s original research.
They do have two Cardinal birds as a crest. As we can see from this picture from July 1922.
However when I contacted their historian he informed me that the badge was only adopted in 1921 and not worn in their season until after the 1921 Cup Final here in England.
Which as you will be aware is when the Spurs are first thought to have worn the cockerel on their own shirts (3). Thus we can discount the St. Louis link, (4).
Next, add in the fact that Tottenham did not visit the United States as a club until 1952, however just too muddy the waters a little more; we do know that Charles Roberts visited the country, but at this point we are uncertain of the date. It would have been as a young man. Charles Roberts was born in 1863 became the Tottenham chairman in 1898 and there is evidence he had returned to the North London area about 1882 or soon after.
Now without wandering off the track too far we also know that Charles did play baseball while he was in the USA. Some sources erroneously claim he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and we will debunk that myth in the next series. He clearly enjoyed the game and was one of the key movers behind trying to get the game established in this country. The story of how Tottenham became the national baseball champions is told at (5).
Returning to the American link, just because it wasn’t the Cardinals doesn’t of course totally rule out an American origin. Another suggestion and the Baltimore Orioles were touted as a possible source for the inspiration. A quick trip to their website and they have used an Oriole bird (mostly cartoon style) in various guises from 1954. Sorry not being a baseball follower I was then forced to delve further to discover what their logo was before that date and in 1953 the St Louis Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Oriole’s. I feel fairly safe that this therefore didn’t influence our own design.
Reverting back to a Boston link a moment and isn’t as easily dismissed as the other suggestions. If we look back at the top image; it certainly seems similar to our own dear bird. It was manufactured at some point between 1875 and 1890 by Cushing and White and they were based in Waltham, Massachusetts. This cockerel was described when it came up for auction ‘as a wonderful rare example of a game cock having cast spur feet perched on a ball. It is full copper with cast Zinc head and feet. It stands two foot tall,’ (note the use of the word rare).
This second creature also originates from Massachusetts also in 1875, possibly then from the same workshop. How common was that design, on both sides of the Atlantic at that time? The description of the first American version does say rare. Cockerels would have been commonly made in the UK during this period. An earlier pope having decreed they should be used to remind us of the story of St Peter and the cock’s crow. That is way they are so common on church roofs. Not so common I would suggest is that they are standing on a ball shaped object.
The ‘other’ element of this mystery is that it is often suggested Tottenham’s bird is the oldest animal crest for a sporting club in England. Therefore again making us wonder exactly what the designs inspiration was. Is it the oldest? I have to say that if I was asked about any sporting club I would have guessed Warwickshire Cricket and their bear. As for football there are a number of teams that use animals and birds. Tottenham’s cockerel is certainly older than the majority. However again if I had been asked to guess I would have gone with Aston Villa’s heraldic Lion rampant.
As so often the case remains open, what was going through William Scott's mind when he set out to create the cockerel? Let’s not forget that newspaper reports from Spurs’ early years would often refer to the team as ‘Cockspur.’
Did he therefore simply design what was obvious, a fighting cock standing on a football, even if it turned out to be a masterstroke?
Right - How she appears in Romance of Football from 1921.
Would he have been influenced by another source which started life over the oceans or was the ball added just to give the structure a solid base?
If you have any thoughts or indeed evidence then please let us know. The Tottenham Mysteries will return next season in the meantime catch up with the previous mysteries
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Notes – 1- The cockerel 50. http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-50-the-cockerel
2 – HFK is certainly worth a visit (warning don’t visit unless you have plenty of time). http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/
3 – Tony Sealey's series of The History of Spurs kits can be found at -
4 - This link will help debunk the Orioles link.
5 - Baseball and more http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-35
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