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Lot # 1181 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Circa 1930s Cooperstown Bank "Chalkboard" Advertising Display

Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $411

Vintage double-sided hanging display sign for The First National Bank of Cooperstown. The metal sign, encased in a wood frame, features a white top portion that is lettered "The First National Bank/Cooperstown, N.Y./Capital $150,000/Surplus $300,000/Resources $3,400,000/1830." The bottom half of the sign is black and was intended for use as a chalkboard. Each side of the sign is identical in its design. Two metal hooks are attached to the top of the frame so the sign can be hung for display. We are not sure exactly when this sign dates from, but the fact that it displays the bank's financial numbers from 1830 might offer a clue. Our research shows that The First National Bank of Cooperstown was founded in 1830 as the Otsego County Bank; therefore this sign might have been produced as a commemorative piece in 1930; a date that would be consistent with both the materials used in its construction and its evident wear. Regardless of its exact date of manufacture, the piece also has a very special provenance: This sign originates from the legendary collection of Frank and Peggy Steele, and Frank's sense of humor transformed this magnificent early Cooperstown advertising display into an even more extraordinary display piece. After acquiring the sign and noting the 1830 date on it, he could not resist in making light of one of baseball's long-held, but erroneous, tenants. With chalk in hand, Frank posted an impossible and whimsical tribute to the Abner Doubleday myth: "Base Ball will be invented here on June 12, 1839 - Abner Doubleday/First Annual Base Ball Card & Memorabilia Show will be held here on June 13, 1839 - Abner Graves." As most historians are aware, the findings of The Mills Commission in 1908 established Abner Doubleday as the inventor of baseball and it did so based solely on the testimony of Abner Graves, who claimed, as a child, he witnessed Doubleday invent the game in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. While it made for a good story, most historians have since generally agreed that Doubleday had absolutely no connection to the game of baseball (he wasn't even in Cooperstown in the summer of 1839) and that baseball evolved from earlier ball-and-bat games. As for Abner Graves, his final years were spent in an insane asylum. Obviously, the chalk writing can easily be erased if so desired, but given its authorship, humor, and the fact that it has been an integral part of the Frank Steele Collection for so many years (on display in the foyer of Frank and Peggy Steele's home for decades, eliciting double-takes from all who understood), we can't imagine anyone wanting to remove this amusing and defining aspect of its provenance. The sign (24 x 36 inches) displays heavy wear (much more so on the side opposite the chalk inscription) and is in overall Very Good condition. From the Collection of Frank and Peggy Steele. Reserve $300. Estimate (open).


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