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Lot # 1007: Significant Archive of Civil War Baseball Letters (1860-1863)

Starting Bid: $500.00

Bids: 14 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Spring Classic 2022",
which ran from 5/20/2022 7:00 PM to
6/11/2022 10:00 PM

This important archive of ten baseball letters flashes back and forth between two purely American subjects: The Civil War and Baseball. All the letters are written by William Richmond to his friend Harry Style. Ultimately, the blood and guts of brother-on-brother bloodshed comes to affect the escapist baseball paradise. The letters were written over a three-year period, beginning in 1860, when Richmond was fourteen, and ending in 1863, as he enters adulthood. The general content of the early letters is light in tone, focusing on baseball games and even including a diagram of his 1860 baseball cap. The later letters are more serious and include a description of Lincoln’s Inauguration, the war, the disbanding of his baseball team, and the loss of his vision. All measure 5x8” except for one (5x6.5”). Two are single page, and the rest are multipage (on a single fold-over sheet). All are in Excellent to Mint condition.

The following is a brief synopsis of each letter:

1) LIBERTY BASE BALL CHALLENGE – MARCH 5, 1860: William Richmond (WR) writes to Harry Syles (HS) challenging him to join his Liberty B.B.C. at the “Liberty Base Ball Club Grounds.” Advises him not to bother to bring his “cricket bat.” Although this was a baseball game they were still transitioning from cricket, making clear the evolutionary path between the two sports.

2) LIBERTY BASE BALL “UNCHALLENGE” LETTER – March 9, 1860: WR is obviously unhappy that club president Ethan Allen has cancelled the game. HS should come anyway and now he SHOULD bring his cricket bat as “we will straightaway seize and compel them to play with us.”

3) BASE BALL & TOM BROWN’S SCHOOL DAYS – July 14, 1860: Baseball detail is tremendous: Ethan Allen elected club president “for the third time,” invitation fee for games has been “raised to 25 cents,” they have “twenty members,” with “two splendid player,s” The Poughkeepsie club’s “First Nine is going to play a match with Unions (Newburgh) First Nine and Poughkeepsie Second Nine with Olympics First Nine …” He starts and ends with his enthusiasm over the most popular book series of the day: “Tom Browns’ School Days.”

4) EARLIEST UNFORM DESCRIPTION & SKETCH – August 28, 1860: WR describes their new uniforms: “White duck caps with a dark flannel band at the bottom and red cord over the top…” “Oh!!! And black straps in front with the initials ‘PJBBC (Poughkeepsie Junior Baseball Ball Club). And some have dark blue flannel trousers” and “a shield on our shirts.” Richmond even includes a small drawing of the cap. This is the earliest written description of a baseball uniform and illustration of a cap that we know of.

5) BASE BALL & LINCOLN INAUGURATION – February 24, 1861: Dated the day after President Lincoln first arrived in Washington from Springfield, IL: “When Mr. Lincoln passed down the river, I of course went to see the ‘Big Thing.’ I was so lucky as to be near enough to get a very good view of him. I think him a very fine-looking man. WR goes on to baseball. PJBBC has the “best catcher in Poughkeepsie and the best pitcher” and talks of selling their “old balls.”

6) HECKLER PARADE – March 30, 1861: Wants to change the name from the juvenile sounding “Poughkeepsie Juniors” after being heckled as “Poughkeepsie Baby Base Ball Club“ in pre-game parade. Muses, what happens when they are “30 years old”?  Interestingly he hyphenates “Base-Ball” which is rarely seen.

7) BASE BALL & CONFEDERACY – September 9, 1861: Teammates desert the club for the War: “Our Base-Ball club disbanded with spring because a great number of the members had left (for the War)."

8) DEATH & BASE BALL - January 8, 1862: WR scored a run in 63-22 win against "Eastman's Commercial College" club. "You can find the score in the New York Clipper." HS' brother was killed, presumably in the war. 

9) GODS & GENERALS - August 21, 1862: The tone is more serious. He is critical of General McClellan and prefers General Burnside. He looks to the church as a "Holy Comforter." 

10) HARVARD & BLINDNESS - July 11, 1863: His sight is failing, and he is unable to attend Harvard. This is the final letter and we do not know his fate.

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