Original cabinet photo of catcher "Honest John" Morrill, circa 1884. The studio image pictures Morrill in formal attire as he poses for the camera. We have never seen another example of this cabinet photo of Morrill, a player for whom very few original portrait photos exist, and it may be unique. Although no year or photographer's credit appears on the cabinet, it can be dated to circa 1884 because this very image of Morrill was used on the front cover of an 1884 Boston Red Stockings program. Morrill began his Major League career with the Boston Red Stockings of the newly formed National League in 1876. In 1882 he became player/manager of the club and he remained in that capacity, either for full or partial seasons, through the 1888 season. His final Major League season was spent with Boston of the Player's League in 1890. He retired with a .260 lifetime batting average, and 335 managerial wins.
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.
The cabinet card (4.25x6.5 inches) bears no photographer's credit and is blank backed, with gilt edges. Excellent to Mint condition overall. Please note: This cabinet photo was submitted to SGC for encapsulation but the company would not authenticate it because SGC generally will not evaluate nineteenth-century cabinet photos that do not feature a photographer's stamp.