Original carte de visite (CDV) capturing catcher Bill Craver, one of the first players in National League history to be banned for conspiring to "fix" games. Produced by the famed Bachrach photography studio of Baltimore. 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 also featured on the 1871 Troy Haymakers team CDV offered in this auction, but it is a different image.) Bill Craver was a member of the Baltimore Canaries of the National Association in both 1872 and 1873 and 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 for being one of the "Louisville Four," a name given to the main conspirators in baseball's first major gambling scandal in 1877. Craver had a reputation for fraternizing with gamblers and in 1870 the Chicago White stockings expelled him from its roster for actions detrimental to the team. Craver's ability on the field, however, earned him leeway with his future clubs, but usually not for long. Craver played with eight teams in seven years from 1871 to 1877. Late in 1877, as a member of the Louisville Grays, Craver conspired with teammates George Hall, Jim Devlin, and Albert Nichols to "throw" several games down the stretch, which cost Louisville the pennant. For their actions, all were unanimously banned by the National League Board, thereby effectively ending their professional careers.
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.