Original carte de visite (CDV) capturing former Major League catcher Bill Craver, one of the first players banned from the National League for gambling in 1877. Produced by the famed Bachrach photography studio of Baltimore. The studio photo captures Craver in formal attire as he stares to the left of the camera. We have never seen another example of this CDV of Bill Craver, a player for whom very few original portrait photos exist, and it may be unique. (Craver is pictured in the 1871 Troy Haymakers team CDV featured in this auction, but it is a different image.) Craver played with the Baltimore Canaries of the National Association in 1872 and 1873. Given that the CDV was produced by the Bachrach studio, it is reasonable to assume that it dates from that two-year time period.
Bill Craver was one of the top catchers of his day, but he is best remembered today as being one of the infamous "Louisville Four," the name given to the group of Louisville Grays players who were all ultimately banished from the National League in 1877 for conspiring with gamblers to "fix" games. Craver's Major League career began in 1871 as a member of the Troy Haymakers in the newly formed National Association. Even at that early point in is career, his reputation for consorting with gamblers was well known. In 1870, the Chicago White Stockings expelled him from the club for gambling and other violations of team policy. Despite his many character flaws, his prowess on the field caused many teams to tolerate his behavior, but usually not for long. Craver played for eight clubs in seven years between the years 1871 and 1877 before being officially expelled from the league along with Louisville teammates Jim Devlin, George Hall, and Al Nichols.
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 "Bachrach" credit stamp appears on the reverse. The Bachrach studio, which is still in existence today, was founded by David Bachrach in 1868 and quickly became one of the premier photography studios in the country. Known for its portraits of famous individuals, a Bachrach family member has photographed every United States President from Abraham Lincoln to George H. W. Bush. In 1881 the studio changed its name to Bachrach Bros., therefore the offered CDV dates prior to that name change. As previously noted, the CDV (2.5x4 inches) has been slightly trimmed to its current dimensions. Encapsulated and certified "Authentic" by SGC.