Original carte de visite (CDV), issued by the J. A. Pierce Company of Chicago, Illinois, capturing ten members of the 1871 Forest City Base Ball Club (Cleveland, Ohio), including future Hall of Fame catcher Deacon White. To the best of our knowledge, this is the only surviving example of this rare team CDV, as we have never seen or heard of another.
The composite CDV features portrait images of each player in uniform. Both the team and each individual player are identified in print along the base. The Forest Citys of Cleveland were one of the weaker entries in the newly formed National Association. However, they do hold the distinction of playing the first game in league history on May 4, 1871, against the Kekionga Base Ball Club of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The club's debut in front of its home crowd was less than auspicious, as they were held scoreless in the 2-0 defeat. While the most notable player on the team was Deacon White, the top hitter on the club was twenty-one-year-old shortstop Ezra Sutton. Sutton led the club in average (.352), home runs (3) and RBI (23). He also holds the distinction of hitting the first home run in National Association history.
As noted by the text on the reverse, this CDV was issued by the Chicago sporting goods company J. A. Pierce, with the photographs supplied by O. F. Weaver. The street number of the J. A. Pierce Company has been crossed out in ink and a new street number is written to the left of it (presumably because the company had to move after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871). The J. A. Piece Company issued team-composite CDVs for each of the nine founding members of the National Association in 1871, seven of which are offered in this sale.
This CDV originates from an extraordinary unprecedented find of early baseball photographs recently discovered in a nineteenth-century photo album, all of which are offered in this auction. Included in the album were team-composite CDVs for seven of the nine founding members of the 1871 National Association, plus individual portrait images of many of the game's earliest stars. Original baseball photos dating from the 1870s are exceedingly rare and for many of the players represented in this collection their offered CDV is not only the first such example we have handled, but in many cases, the only one we have ever seen.
All the CDVs in the collection have been slightly trimmed by the original owner so that they could fit properly within the predesigned album sleeves (a common practice at the time). However, for most, the trim affects the mount only and the photos remain in outstanding condition overall. The history of the album is unknown (our consignor purchased it from an antique dealer), but since nearly all the photos found in the album are of ball clubs or ballplayers from the early 1870s, it most likely belonged to a former player or perhaps a National Association team executive.
As previously noted, the CDV (2.5x3.875 inches) has been slightly trimmed to its current dimensions. Encapsulated and certified "Authentic" by SGC.