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Lot # 22: Circa 1870s Albert Spalding CDV (SGC)

Starting Bid: $2,000.00

Bids: 50 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

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Item was in Auction "2023 Fall Classic",
which ran from 10/29/2023 7:00 PM to
11/18/2023 10:00 PM

Original carte de visite (CDV) capturing Hall of Fame pitcher Albert Spalding. Produced by the renowned Warren Studio of Boston. This is one of only two examples of this CDV we have ever seen, with the other originating directly from George Wright's estate. It should be noted that the offered example is the finer of the two, as the other had a clipped left corner and oval toning to the photo from its manner of mounting. It is also one of only three known CDVs of Spalding (the third, a different portrait image also by produced by Warren Studios, also just recently surfaced and realized $108,000 at auction in 2022). This photo was most likely taken in 1873 because this very image appears on an 1873 Red Sox team cabinet card, of which we have seen several examples. 

Albert Goodwill Spalding is one of the most important figures in baseball history because of his contributions both on and off the field. Spalding entered the professional ranks in 1871, joining the Boston Red Stockings in the newly formed National Association. For the next five seasons Spalding reigned supreme as the top pitcher in baseball, leading the league in wins each year, including 52 in 1874 and a career-high 54 in 1875. Not surprisingly, Boston was the league champion in four of those five seasons. In 1876, after the demise of the National Association, Spalding remained with Boston's entry in the National League, where he continued his mound dominance, winning a league-leading 47 games that season.

After Spalding's playing career ended in 1878 he became an important league owner (Chicago White Stockings) and formed the largest Sporting Goods company in the country: A. G. Spalding Bros. Publisher of the annual "Spalding's Guide," Spalding had his hand in almost every aspect of the game, both at the amateur and professional levels. One of his last contributions was the formation of the Mills Commission in 1905 to establish the origins of baseball. In 1909 the Commission delivered its verdict that baseball was invented in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839 by Abner Doubleday. Although historians have since shown that the Commission was in error in that pronouncement, the "Doubleday Myth" was accepted for decades afterwards. Spalding was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939. 

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. While the history of the album is unknown (our consignor purchased it from an antique dealer), 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. 

A "Warren's" credit stamp appears on the reverse that includes the studio's address ("289 Washington Street, Boston, Mass.") and the notice "Under the Supervision of Mr. S. B. Heald." Based upon that information, this CDV was produced between the years 1872 and 1874 (the studio moved to 289 Washington Street in 1872 and Heald left the company in 1874). As previously noted, the CDV (2.5x3.875") has been slightly trimmed to its current dimensions. Encapsulated and certified "Authentic" by SGC.

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