Original carte de visite (CDV) capturing former Major League pitcher Al Pratt. Produced by E. Decker Photography Studio of Cleveland, Ohio. We have never seen another example of this CDV of Pratt, a player for whom very few original portrait photos exist, and it may be unique. (Pratt is pictured in the Forest City team CDV offered in this auction, but the image is different.) Pratt played only two seasons of Major League baseball, both with the Forest Citys of Cleveland in 1871 and 1872. He was the ace of the staff for Forest City in 1871, starting 28 of the club's 29 games, but the quality of the team was reflected in his record of 10-17. He fared no better in his second season, finishing the year with just two wins in fifteen starts. The Forest Citys club folded after the 1872 season, and Pratt's Major League career followed suit, as no mention of him can be found in the baseball annals afterwards.
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.
An "E. Decker" credit stamp appears on the reverse that includes the studio's address ("243 Superior Street, Cleveland, O."). As previously noted, the CDV (2.25x4 inches) has been slightly trimmed to its current dimensions. Encapsulated and certified "Authentic" by SGC.