Original carte de visite (CDV) capturing eleven members of the 1871 Chicago White Stockings, members of the National Association, in a formal studio pose. 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. The printing on the reverse of the mount lists the photographer, "O. F. Weaver," of Chicago, Illinois, below which is a red overprint stamp of Chicago Sporting Goods dealer "J. A. Pierce." (All the other 1871 team CDVs in this auction were distributed by J. A. Pierce, with photos provided by O. F. Weaver.)
Its rarity notwithstanding, this is also the most unusual of the 1871 team CDVs offered in this auction. At first glance this looks like a rag-tag bunch of players because the players are wearing several different uniform styles. The explanation for that fact has to do with Mrs. O'Leary's cow, which started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The fire, which destroyed most of the city, also burned down the White Stockings' home field and clubhouse, which housed all its equipment, including uniforms. As a result, the team had to finish the season on the road, borrowing uniforms from other clubs as they traveled. It should be noted that this very image of the 1871 White Stockings was later used on a real-photo postcard issued in 1910 by John Fleming, which identified both the team and all the players. The postcard also states that this image captures the club after their first game following the fire. Despite the displacement by the fire, the club remained a strong contender and lost the pennant to Philadelphia on the final day of the season.
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 (4x2.5") has been neatly trimmed along the left border. Encapsulated and certified "Authentic" by SGC.