On April 3, 1903, Benjamin
Purnell, an itinerate preacher,
along with his wife Mary, created
the Israelite House of David, a
religious colony, in Benton
Harbor, Michigan, with land
donated by devout followers.
Within a few years, the colony
had close to five hundred
members living on the colony
The Hose of David members
were strong contributors to the
agricultural community around
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|1. The House of David Baseball Team
2. The group was first in a lot of areas, including:
First to preserve jellies in jars
First to give women universal suffrage and the right to hold office
Invented the automatic pinsetter for bowling alleys
Had a Disneyland-like amusement part with miniature trains
Developed a generator for lighting night baseball games
Played the first night baseball game (Independence KS, 1930)
First to break the color barrier in baseball
Team included Charles (Chief) Bender, the first Native American player to be
inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame
Hired Jackie Mitchell, first woman to sign a professional baseball contract (1933)
Invented the pepper game
First cold storage facilities in the U.S.
Invented the sugar cone, later introduced at the 1904 St. Louis's Worlds Fair
Invented the first cross propeller system for cruise ships to prevent capsizing
Developed a way to can grape juice still used by the Welch Grape Juice Co.
Worked with NASA to produce astronaut food
Invented hydrostone, a mad-made stone used for artificial teeth
The House of David had a zoo and an aviary at its amusement park, an
amphitheatre for its orchestra and jazz band, a restaurant where they served
original recipe vegetarian meals, and a hotel.
A House of David team also defeated the major
league St. Louis Cardinals in 1933, the year before the Cardinals won the
World Series. The starting pitcher for the House of David in that game
was Jackie Mitchell, professional baseball's first female performer.
|1. What is the name of this group?
2. Name two "firsts" they are associated with.
|Thanks to Evan Hindman for suggesting this quiz.
|The names of seven members of the 1928 House of
David home team shown in this week's quiz photos are
from left to right: kneeling, Clay "Mud" Williams, Horace
Hannaford, and George Anderson; standing, Dave
"Eggs" Harrison, Percy Walker, Tom Dewhirst and Bob
Dewhirst. There were 13 total members on this team
and a photo of the whole team is in The House of David
Baseball Team book by Joel Hawkins and Terry
Bertolino, published by Arcadia. Over 200 historic
images of teams and players are contained in this very
interesting book. In 2007, Arcadia published an in-depth
H of D history with dozens of rare photos. Author,
Christopher Siriano, is H of D Museum director.
|How Mike Solved the Puzzle
them. It is thought that they developed one of the first cold storage facilities in the
country and were the first to preserve jellies in jars. As early as 1908, they established a
pre-Disney type amusement park, complete with miniature trains. A zoo and aviary
were soon added to the park. They were also credited with inventing the automatic
pinsetter used in their bowling alley. One of the tenets of their faith was vegetarianism,
and the colony restaurant, serving original-recipe vegetarian meals, was credited with
producing the first "sugar cone." They built a three-story hotel in downtown Benton
Harbor and an elaborate motor lodge, "The Grand Vista," south of town. They built
tourist cabins, bottled water from their own natural springs, erected a synagogue for
their Jewish friends, and for a brief period of time even had an "on-site" hospital. They
constructed a large amphitheater to accommodate their accomplished orchestra and
world- renowned jazz band. They had a complete logging operation on High Island in
northern Michigan. Another tenet of their faith was that they must neither shave nor cut
their hair. When a few of the colony members were refused employment with a local
streetcar company because of their appearance, the House of David bought controlling
interest in the firm and soon all conductors were seen with long hair and beards!
David teams from 1931 through 1935. Chief
Bender was also a member of the 1933 eastern
traveling team, along with Jackie Mitchell, the
first woman to ever sign a professional
baseball contract. In 1934, Babe Didrikson
Zaharais joined the Eastern traveling team.
That same year also saw one of the first
integrated teams take the field when Satchel
Paige and Cy Perkins, his catcher, signed on to
play with the Davids in the Denver Post
tournament. As late as the mid-1950s, the City
of David was still barnstorming with Paige,
now with the Harlem Globetrotters.
|My first impression was that of long hair hippies
who played baseball somewhere back east. But----
follow the clues: baseball bats, H on uniforms, H of
D on scoreboard. This group looks like it could
play baseball. In sports, these "groups" are called
teams. I then googled "H of D" "baseball team" for
the answer: House of David baseball team: They are
credited with competing in the first night game
ever played on a permanently lit field in 1930. They
are credited with staging the first pepper game or a
warmup game between batters and pitchers.
Pittsburgh Crawfords, the Bacharach Giants, the Newark Eagles, and the Homestead
Grays. Later in the 1930s, both the House of David and the City of David would
barnstorm across the country with the Kansas City Monarchs. In 1939, the City of
David hooked up with Satchel Paige's All Stars for over two months, playing 60 games
Grover Cleveland Alexander would serve as manager/pitcher for one of the House of
The feature for which the House
of David is perhaps best
remembered, however, is the
talented teams of bearded
barnstorming baseball players
that traveled to nearly every state
in the Union, Mexico, and most
of the Canadian Provinces. Early
in the team's history, when their
travels took them primarily to the
east, their competition would
often consist of the formidable
Negro League teams: the
endeavor, by 1915 the team was playing a more grueling schedule. By 1920, the team
was "barnstorming" around the country, earning money for the colony, and using the
team as a way to preach to potential members. While the team was on the road, the
colony established a home team, a girl's team, and a junior boys team. The players were
led by its manager, Francis Thorpe and the team was originally comprised of members
of the colony. The team was always an attraction by their long hair and beards, a
doctrine of the religion, and would draw substantial crowds wherever they played. By
the early 20's, in need of participate with better playing abilities and by the lack of
colony member participation, were in the business of hiring players not of the faith.
These "Players for Hire" were required to grow a beard, and some played for the team
for many years.
By the late 1920's the House of David was under scrutiny
for alleged indiscretions by it's leader Benjamin Purnell. A
long court case was waged by the State of Michigan
against the religious leader. Eventually Purnell, in poor
health, lost the court battle and was sentenced to be
banished from the colony. After the court battle was
waged, Benjamin Purnell's health weakened even more. He
died in December, 1927. After the death of Benjamin, an
internal power struggle for the colony ensued. After this
struggle, the colony divided into two separate factions, and
eventually two separate colonies. One was the Israelite
House of David, whose members believed that Benjamin
was the one and only leader, which was led by colony pillar
Judge H. T. Dewhirst. This colony went by the moniker of
"The House of David". The other colony, whose members
believed that Mary shared the leadership with Benjamin,
was led by Mary Purnell herself. This colony was located
across the street from original colony and was called the
Israelite House of David, as Re-Organized by Mary Purnell.
This group went by the name of "The City of David". For
promotional purposes both teams utilized the House of
David name. The House of David continued to sponsor
barnstorming teams until the late 30's, then sponsored
teams in weekend semi-pro leagues well into the late 40's.
At one time the House of David had up to 3 teams
barnstorming around the country. The City of David sent
teams out barnstorming from 1930 to 1940, then again
from 1946 to 1955.
|The first night baseball game, April
17, 1930. The Davids were beat by
the Kansas City Producers 9-1.
The Israelite House of David, a
religious community, was
established in Benton Harbor,
Michigan, in 1903 by Benjamin
Purnell, along with his wife
Mary. The purpose of this
colony was to gather the 12 lost
tribes of Israel for the
"Ingathering", to await the
Millennium. Benjamin Purnell, a
sports enthusiast, encouraged the
playing of sports. The House of
David started playing baseball
around 1913 as a weekend
|The House of David
by Joel Hawkins and
Click here to order.
|Comments from Our Readers
|This bunch must have clogged up many a sewer drain in their day. The name of this
group is "The House of David." There were several spin-offs that had similar names
and but I guess that title covers them all. They were ahead of the other more
"professional" baseball teams in many ways. However, for some reason or other, they
never seemed to secure a Gillette Company sponsorship! Bob McKenna
Note: They never snagged anything from Gillette, but I bet they did pretty good
endorsing Liquid Plumber. Colleen
This was great fun to do. I knew immediately what the team was because in the early
50's my father took me to see the team play the London Majors in Labatt Park, London,
ON. The only things I remember are their strange long-haired, bearded appearance and
the game of pepper. My friends and I often tried to copy this as a game of "hot potato".
I read that the team(s) of that era were really the "City of David", a label attached after
a split in the Benton Harbor colony. I remember,however, the game being promoted as
the Majors versus the H. of D. As a matter of interest, Labatt Park is the oldest
continually operating baseball diamond in the world (est. May 1877). Fuller Field in
Clinton, Mass. makes that claim as well but they opened in 1878. Don Draper
And add to that waffle cones?! Bowling pinsetters?! Grape juice in a can and space
meals??!! Who were these people?! ;) I had never heard about this group -
fascinating as always! :) Beth Long
This is an interesting one. I sort of cheated in finding the answer since when I clicked
to get the larger image the name of the image was long hair baseball team - which was
a clue for what to search for. Milene Rawlinson
[They were] the first team to use a dog as a shortstop (notice it was a long-haired dog).
I knew right away who the quiz was about..my dad was a manager of a ball club and
when I was young...that's the only place he would take the family, was to a ball game..
in fact my younger brother and I had to be the "bat boys" for his team. It was a B
league so nothing big. But every weekend when we were told we were going to the
park, we knew it meant the baseball park. To this day, all my brothers hate baseball and
would rather chew nails than have to watch a game. ha ha.
But you are right...the House of David was really something....they were really way
ahead of their time. Of course you do realize that the time period that they were doing
all this was when I was younger...so I use to hear my dad talking about them and the
baseball stuff. I was surprised to hear they did so much else though....really interesting.
Based upon what I read/found, I REALLY, REALLY like these people [well, not so
“into” the vegetarian stuff, or their laws on celibacy], but they never met a problem
they couldn’t solve. And they had fun doing it. Karen Petrus
Some memories: I remember softball games under the lights during the early 50's, in
specially built park facilities. Games under the lights would not have been played in the
US during WWII. I have seen pepper games between batters and players lined up in a
row. ie for fielding of basehits by basemen, pitchers and catchers and short stops. For
ball hits to the outfield, a ball throwing machine, has been in use since at least the 40s.
Dave and I have been reading about this group for years. It is interesting that there is
now a museum to visit and not all that far from where we live. Judy Pfaff
I mistakenly thought the HD was for House of Detention and I spent a lot of time
looking for Prison Baseball teams. Actually ran across them accidentally by looking for
long haired baseball players.LoL An Odd lot they were and apparently way ahead of
their time. My personal favorite is that they developed Hydrostone used by many
dentists including myself. Ok, I'm done. Jim Kiser, D.D.S.
This is pretty cool - didn't know they existed! Debbie Sterbinsky
Thanks! Most of my life I've said an outstanding something is "the greatest thing since
night baseball!" I'm not sure where I picked it up. I like it better than "sliced bread."
Interesting that sliced bread and night baseball are both late-20s things. There's a fun
bull-session on MetaFilter about the sliced bread version at <http://ask.metafilter.
Maybe-even-better> I really like "since the graphite pencil," although "Brillo" and "Easy
Cheese" might be contenders in a brand-name sort of way. You are so right... If it
weren't for all the cool stuff to learn I wouldn't bother to get up every day.
I know it's the House of David, and have seen them play! My dad was a semi-pro
baseball player back in the late 20s to mid 40s. He was born in Mattoon, Illinois in
1907, but the family moved to Michigan in 1931, and I was born in 1936. The House
of David was about 25-30 miles north (I think) and a favorite place to go on a Sunday.
They had a mini-carnival - I don't quite know how to explain it, and I was never there
after 15 or so; but I still have pictures of me sitting in one of those rides. I know that
we watched some baseball games, and it's possible that my dad actually played for
them, I guess. I'm sorry that I didn't have time to really 'dig-in' and find more info on
HoD, but it still brought back memories. Now, I have to dig out those pictures and take
another look! Jinny Collins
I'm from Kalamazoo where there was much mention of the House of David as I was
growing up. I really don't know much about them, just a hazy memory.
This seems to be my week for fringe religious groups from Michigan. I have been at
the Library of Michigan rare book room this week studying the records of the
"Strangite" Mormon group on Beaver Island, Michigan. Good puzzle. Mary Osmar
When I was growing up in Southern California in the 40's and 50's, I remember that the
H of D also had a semi-pro basketball team that played in a now defunct countrywide
league. There is a wealth of information on the internet regarding this organization
which originated in Benton Harbor, MI. I found my information at:<www.
houseofdavidmuseum.org>. It is interesting (from the picture) that although this photo
was taken at their home field, the scoreboard shows thatthey allowed the visiting team
to bat last. Bob Wilson
I was very surprised I hadn't heard of them as I am a lifelong baseball fan. I was also
surprised that Babe Didrickson pitched for them. You're right about there being a lot of
cool stuff out there to learn. Carolyn Cornelius
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|MYTH: Babe Ruth
played for the House of
David, or that he was
offered a contract.
TRUTH: Babe Ruth
never played for the
House of David Team.
An offer was submitted
by the House of David,
and was never
responded to. Photos
also show "The Babe"
posing with bearded
playerswere from Louis
Murphy's Spring Valley
House of David Team.
No record has ever been
found to show that the
Yankees ever played a
House of David Team
from Benton Harbor, or
visited the colony in
Michigan. Many people
claim that a House of
David pitcher struck
out Babe Ruth in an
However, the House of
David Baseball Team
Research Project has
never found any
support this claim.