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Lot # 1177 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1863 Civil War Baseball Albumen Photo of a Game-in-Progress at Fort Pulaski

Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $1,528

Taken at Fort Pulaski, Georgia, in 1863, this remarkable albumen photo captures one of the earliest-known images of a baseball game in progress. While the focal point of the photo was meant to be the troops in formation at the foreground, it is the background image of a group of soldiers playing baseball that commands our attention today. The printed lettering at the base of the mount reads "Co. K, 48th Reg't N. Y. S. Vols./Capt. Fred Hurst./Fort Pulaski, GA." Despite the fact that the photo is undated, it can be conclusively pinpointed to the year 1863. Research indicates that Fred Hurst was made Captain of the 48th N.Y. Infantry Regiment in January of 1863 and he died later that year during the Battle of Fort Wagner on July 19th. The association between baseball and the Civil War is well documented, but is has never been conveyed more explicitly than here in this extraordinary photo. The soldiers pictured here are clearly engaged in a game of baseball, albeit an early variant of the time, and one can even make out a bat held by the gentleman in the white shirt standing in the center. The occasion of this photo signaled a short break from the game, as all of the players are either fully turned towards, or are looking in the direction of, the camera. The Civil War played an integral role in popularizing the game of baseball across the country. Ballplayers who served in the war introduced the game to fellow soldiers, and soon the game was an organized pastime enjoyed by soldiers as a welcome diversion. After the war, the popularity of the game literally spread to the four corners of the country as soldiers returned to their homes, bringing with them a love of the game of baseball, which they were anxious to share. In a very short time following the war, baseball was officially America's National Pastime. We have found some scholarly works that claim this is the oldest known photo of a baseball game in progress, and we have also found reference that the first known baseball game in Georgia was played in 1863 by Union troops occupying Fort Pulaski. (The 48th New York defeated the 47th New York by a score of 20-7 according to the digital library of the University of Georgia.) We do not know for certain when the earliest photo of a baseball game in progress was taken, but we do know that very few examples exist that could possibly predate this historic piece. The photo (8 x 6 inches) is lightly toned and displays minor wear in three of the four corners. The left portion of the photo displays lighter contrast than that of the right. In Excellent condition overall. The mount (9.75 x 8 inches) has been irregularly trimmed along all four borders and displays minor toning. This is a phenomenal, museum-quality original Civil War image (not surprisingly, consigned from the collection of a gentleman who specializes not in baseball, but in original Civil War photography) documenting the evolution and growth of America's national game. This is a fascinating rarity. Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,528

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