Original carte de visite (CDV), issued by the J. A. Pierce Company of Chicago, Illinois, capturing eleven members of the 1871 Boston Red Stockings, a founding member of the National Association, baseball's first professional league. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of only three surviving examples of this rare team CDV (one resides in the permanent collection of the Chicago Historical Society, while the other first appeared at auction in 2006 and has remained in private hands since that time).
The composite CDV features portrait images of each player in uniform, including Hall of Famers George Wright, Harry Wright, and Al Spalding. Both the team and each individual player are identified in print along the base. The Boston Red Stockings boasted the league’s most star-studded lineup in 1871. In addition to featuring four former members of the legendary 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings (George Wright, Harry Wright, Cal McVey, and Charlie Gould), the roster also included Ross Barnes, who batted .401 that year, Al Spalding, one of the top pitchers of the era, and Dave Birdsall. Although they finished in second place that year, that nucleus of players helped lead the club to four straight pennants from 1872 to 1875.
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 (2.5 x 4 inches) has been slightly trimmed to its current dimensions. There is also a small ink smudge in the lower right corner of the photo that does not affect any of the player images. Encapsulated and certified "Authentic" by SGC.