Original cabinet-card photograph capturing star catcher Charlie Bennett in a formal studio setting. Graded EX 5 by SGC. Produced by the Tomlinson Photography Studio of Detroit, Michigan, as noted on both the front base and reverse. This is the only example of this Charlie Bennett cabinet photo we have ever seen and it may be the lone survivor. Although no year is listed, Bennett played with the Detroit Wolverines from 1881 to 1888, and the cabinet almost certainly dates to that eight-year span.
This piece 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 photo is not only the first such example we have handled, but in many cases, the only one we have ever seen. 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.
Charlie Bennett was considered one of the finest defensive catchers of the nineteenth century and is said to have been the first Major League player to wear a chest protector. His greatest years were spent with the Detroit Wolverines during the 1880s, and he helped lead the club to its first World Championship in 1888. The following year he joined the Boston Beaneaters and was a key member of both the 1891 and 1892 pennant winning clubs. In 1894 Bennett's career was tragically cut short after a freak accident while boarding a train. The injuries he suffered resulted in the amputation of his left foot and right leg. In 1896 the Detroit Tigers named their new ballpark Bennett Park in his honor and in each succeeding year the club invited him to catch the ceremonial first pitch of the season, which he did annually through 1926 (he died in 1927).
The cabinet (4.25x6.5") displays a few tiny age spots along the top and is otherwise in basically the same condition as when it was issued some 135 years ago. Encapsulated and graded EX 5 by SGC.