I just finished watching a History Channel show called “The Worst Jobs In History,” which takes a particular time period, and details some of the smelliest, most dangerous, unsanitary jobs of the day. This time, the episode detailed the early 19th century, with positions such as paint maker (all that lead is really unhealthy), steeplejack (repairing church steeples sans safety equipment) and … golf ball maker.
The featherie of yore was composed of several pieces of leather, stitched together and stuffed with boiled chicken feathers. Aside from the finger numbing work of sewing tiny stitches on small strips of leather, the worst part of the job apparently was the smell of boiled feathers. The host demonstrated that a top hat full of feathers, once boiled, could be stuffed into the ball. Once the surface was dry, the ball then would be rolled by hand in (presumably) lead based paint.
The supply of the balls apparently never met demand.
I played a few shots with a featherie once, and thought it wasn’t that bad a ball, at least for chipping and wedge shots. I didn’t get to try a full swing, but I’m sure that it wouldn’t go very far.