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 (Rockford, Illinois), including Cap Anson. 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. Its rarity notwithstanding, this CDV also features the earliest image of Cap Anson as a professional player, making it one of the most historically significant baseball photos we have ever offered. The composite CDV features portrait images of each player in formal attire. Both the team and each individual player are identified in print along the base.
The Forest Citys of Rockford, Illinois, played only one season in the National Association and it was hardly memorable. The team won just four of its 25 games and finished in last place. Despite the club's lowly standing, the talent of its nineteen-year-old starting third baseman, Adrian Anson, was hard to ignore. Anson, who had not yet earned the nickname "Cap, (he was called "Baby" Anson at the time), led the club in batting with a .325 average. He also led the league in doubles with eleven. Considered by many historians to be the most important player in nineteenth-century baseball history, Anson batted over .300 in twenty-four of his twenty-seven seasons and is generally considered to be the first player to amass 3,000 hits. As a manager, he won five pennants with the Chicago White Stockings, and is credited with a number of coaching innovations, including the hit-and-run play, platooning, and a pitching rotation.
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, baseball's first professional league, 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 (2.5x4 inches) has been slightly trimmed to its current dimensions. Encapsulated and certified "Authentic" by SGC.