Permanent and Temporary Exhibitions
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHF&M) has numerous permanent displays and temporary exhibits that take visitors on a journey through the rich and dynamic history of the game of tennis. Visitors also learn about and appreciate the stunning architecture of the Newport Casino, an 1880 McKim, Mead & White masterpiece and a National Historic Landmark.
Beginning on the ground floor at the Admissions Desk and Museum Gift Shop, visitors begin to appreciate the wonder that is the ITHF&M. Here, you can acquire the Museum Visitor Guide, rent an Audio Guide tour featuring several of our distinguished Hall of Famers, or pick-up the Family Scavenger Hunt to work on while you peruse the Museum.
Proceed up the Grand Staircase to begin your journey through the 18 galleries within the Museum. If you prefer to not climb stairs, ask an Admissions Staff member to direct you to our elevator so you can access our galleries.
Rosalind P. & Henry G. Walter Grand Staircase and Credentials Gallery
The mahogany display cases leading visitors up the Grand Staircase into the Museum showcase several stunning pieces from the Museum’s collection. All the gleaming trophies on display here have been won by Hall of Famers, with several related to early American tournament tennis when it began here at the Newport Casino site in 1881.
At the top of the Grand Staircase is the Credentials Gallery, which recognizes all those individuals who continue to serve and support the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. This area was originally an open porch when the Newport Casino was built in 1880. Through the windows framing the north wall, visitors can take in a stunning view of Stanford White’s exquisite Victorian Shingle-Style architecture and gain a peek at the grounds beyond. Two stereoscopes present scenes of the building and grounds from around 1900. Showcased in this room is the original patent for the game of lawn tennis, granted by Queen Victoria to British Cavalry officer, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield in 1874.
The Woolard Family Enshrinement Gallery
Following a complete renovation in 2007 and early 2008, the Woolard Family Enshrinement Gallery opened to rave reviews in July 2008. Located within the original billiards room of the Newport Casino, this special space pays tribute to the 200+ Hall of Famers from 18 countries. Featuring dynamic touch-screen monitors with photographs, statistics, and video of these great champions and ambassadors of the sport, this space allows visitors to interact with the history of the game. Also featured in this space is a display dedicated to the founder of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Jimmy Van Alen and his wife Candy, and includes the Van Alen Cup—the perpetual trophy that is presented to the winner of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.
Upon exiting the Woolard Family Enshrinement Gallery, the Museum takes visitors on a journey through the deep and rich history of the sport. Beginning with Tennis Origins and the Court Tennis Gallery, visitors learn about the ancient game played by kings and clergy and how it was interpreted by commoners to mass appeal. Be sure to view the earliest known painting of tennis: the Lucas Gassel masterpiece from 1538 that depicts a Renaissance palace scene featuring the game of Court Tennis.
The main corridor that transects the early galleries of the Museum is known as the Timeline Pre-Open Era (1880s-1968) and provides visitors with an overview of the history of tennis from its beginnings in the late 19th Century through the advent of the Open Era in 1968. Leading off of this main corridor are several galleries that feature artifacts, artworks, photographs, and memorabilia that more fully document the historic Newport Casino in addition to the history of the sport prior to the advent of the Open Era in 1968. These galleries consist of:
The Birth of Lawn Tennis (1874-1900), The Newport Casino, and Tennis from 1900-1919
These galleries allow visitors to see first-hand the beginnings of the game of lawn tennis in England and its spread to other parts of the world, including the United States.
In 1881, the Newport Casino—a sporting club built in 1880 by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead, & White for the publisher of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett—was chosen by the newly formed United States National Lawn Tennis Association (now known as the USTA) as the site for the first U.S. National Tennis Championships in 1881 (now known as the US Open).
Rare pieces of tennis equipment are displayed with exquisite early tennis trophies—including the trophy racquet won by Mary Gray in Bermuda in 1876 (in a tournament that predates the first Wimbledon championships in 1877)—and numerous pieces of art and decorative art objects. Within this space, visitors can take in two stunning one-of-a-kind stained glass windows and gain an appreciation for the social history of the Newport Casino. Visitors are introduced to the exquisite Stanford White architecture via the original blueprints of the main building and photographs.
The glass-enclosed vignette highlights original Newport Casino furnishings and artifacts alongside original interior details. The early years of the 20th Century document the growth and development in addition to the growing appeal of the game. The advent of the Davis Cup competition in 1900—initially between the British Isles and the United States—gave the game a boost; by 1903 other countries began to join the competition. In 1916, the American Tennis Association (ATA) was founded to provide tennis opportunities to the African American population and is still going strong as the oldest African American sports organization in existence. Advances in technology in regards to equipment were made; the racquet bending machine used by the Kent Racquet Company (Seekonk, Massachusetts) and on display in this gallery is a unique piece of equipment. The various prizes awarded to the early champions such as Molla Mallory, showcase not only artistic craftsmanship but also the pride placed on success at the sport. The outbreak of World War I influenced the sport, as tennis in Europe and Australia came to almost a standstill, while the United States put a patriotic twist on the sport.
The 1920s – Tennis' Golden Age
The ten years following World War I brought welcome leisure time and tennis’ popularity increased tremendously. The sport became a larger part of the world stage, with more players from more countries taking part in tournaments around the globe. The French National Championships opened their doors to the world in 1925, allowing non-French citizens and residents to compete for this fourth major title, alongside the Australian Nationals, Wimbledon, and U.S. Nationals.
Players took on celebrity status, and many of tennis’ most charismatic players from this time were admired not only for their athleticism, but also their style. This gallery explores many of these important figures. The graceful Suzanne Lenglen of France and her American rival Helen Wills Moody are featured, as are France’s Four Musketeers—Jacques Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, and René Lacoste—who dominated the men’s game. The athleticism and showmanship of American William “Big Bill” Tilden in his matches against William “Little Bill” Johnston rival the excitement of modern champions Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
The 1930s and 1940s – Tennis through the end of WWII
Some of the greatest players to play the game emerged in the years leading up to WWII. England’s Fred Perry won three straight Wimbledon Gentlemen’s titles, while American Don Budge became the first person to win the “Grand Slam” by taking the titles at the four major championships around the world. This gallery showcases how European and American tournament play was affected by war and visitors gain a greater understanding of the style of the era. A video presentation highlights the most dramatic international Davis Cup matches, the historic 1937 championship final between Don Budge and Germany’s Gottfried von Cramm.
1950s and 1960s – Advent of the Open Era
Following the end of the WWII, tennis continued to grow in popularity and it reached more and more people around the world. This time period in tennis history is characterized by many different aspects—from the role of television, to the rise of the Civil Rights Era, to the development and impact of the professional game.
Early television played an essential role in popularizing the game and bringing the sport to the masses. More and more tournaments were broadcast on international airwaves, entering the private home. A vintage television showcases eight match segments featuring the top international players interspersed with tennis-themed commercials from the 1950s and 1960s.
The exclusion of segments of the American population by mainstream tennis organizations such as the USLTA (now known as the USTA) came to the forefront of the public conscious at the dawn of the Civil Rights Era. Champions Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, and their mentor Dr. Robert Johnson (among many others), successfully petitioned to play the game they loved on equal footing with other players. Althea Gibson first competed at the U.S. Nationals in 1950 and won there and at Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958. Arthur Ashe won the inaugural US Open in 1968.
From the mid-1920s until 1968, nearly all the best players eventually turned professional in order to make a living at the game they loved. However, all the major tournaments (such as the Grand Slams and Davis Cup) remained open only to amateurs. For players to earn a living, they had to hit the road; illustrated by the 1950s Ford panel truck on display in this gallery—similar to the one used by Jack Kramer when touring the country with other professional players. Players and spectators were outraged that the division kept top players from competing against one another, and this ushered in the Open Era.
At the mid-point of your tour through the Museum (following the 1950s and 1960s Gallery where the vintage television is), is the Atrium Gallery. This gallery space changes on a yearly basis and most often features a tribute to the current class of Hall of Fame inductees. You can see many of the trophies, awards, sportswear, and other memorabilia from our newest Hall of Famers.
As visitors move out of the Atrium Gallery, on the right is the Peggy Woolard Library. This restored space provides visitors with a “snapshot” of a portion of the original reading room of the historic Newport Casino. This exhibit features the Stanford White designed library table and other original Newport Casino furnishings. The coal-burning fireplace is a central showpiece and was brought back to its 1880s elegance by Newport artisans.
The corridor that leads out of the Atrium Gallery is known as the Timeline Open Era, which chronicles the history of the game and its figures from the advent of the Open Era in 1968 to the current day. This corridor bisects the Grand Slam Gallery, which serves up video, artifacts, photographs and memorabilia on the four major championships—the Australian Open, Roland Garros (French Open), Wimbledon, and the US Open—and the champions that triumphed in these prestigious tournaments.
Leading off of the Timeline Open Era corridor are exhibits devoted to the ATP World Tour, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and the International Tennis Federation. The ATP World Tour Gallery and the Billie Jean King WTA Gallery highlight the development of the professional game in the men’s and women’s tours through video footage, artifacts, memorabilia and imagery. Also featured within the WTA Gallery is a display devoted to women’s tennis fashion and the noted and flashy fashion designer Ted Tinling.
Across the hall is the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Gallery, which provides the visitor with an overview of the role of the governing body of tennis through video, artifacts, imagery and memorabilia. Visitors can learn about tennis in the Olympics, the Davis and Fed Cup competitions, junior tennis development, wheelchair tennis, the technology of the sport, and the growth and appeal of the sport on an international level.
At the end of the corridor is the USTA Wing, which houses the perpetual US Open Trophies that are presented to the winners of this prestigious title in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. This space also has a theatre area where visitors can watch films on the history of tennis, or even live action from tournaments around the world. From the wall of windows in this room, visitors gain a fantastic view of the stunning building and grounds that make up the Newport Casino.
Upon completing your tour through the Museum, visitors are encouraged to visit the grounds and other buildings on property, such as the Court Tennis court. Please retrace your steps to the Admissions Desk and access the grounds from that space.