Original carte de visite (CDV), issued by the J. A. Pierce Company of Chicago, Illinois, capturing ten members of the 1871 Philadelphia Athletics, inaugural champions 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 Al Reach. Both the team and each individual player are identified in print along the base.
The Philadelphia Athletics were champions of the National Association in 1871, in large part due to a powerful lineup that batted .320 overall and the pitching of Dick McBride, who won 18 games. One of the top contributors on offense that season was left-handed second baseman Al Reach, who hit a career high .352. Reach's professional career was brief, but he remains a major figure in the sport due to his later business dealings. As the founder of the Reach Sporting Goods Company, he grew incredibly wealthy, which later allowed him to purchase the Philadelphia Phillies in 1883. Reach ran the club for twenty years and even managed the club in 1890. Dick McBride was one of the most successful pitchers in National Association history, winning 149 games during the league's five-year existence.
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.