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Lot # 972 (of 1641)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Extraordinary Circa 1867 Large-Format Baseball Photograph

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $2,252

Rare original large-format albumen photo (13.25 x 9.5 inches), circa 1867, capturing nine members of an unidentified baseball team posing together in a formal studio setting. This is both a remarkable and highly intriguing photo that was just recently discovered during the liquidation of an estate. The only clues we have regarding its origin are found on the reverse in the form of a handwritten pencil notation that reads "About 1867/Grandfather's base ball team/He was about 20 yrs of age/Albert Steiner - 3rd from left - outfielder + manager/Gentleman's baseball team in Brooklyn before the game became a national affair." What makes this photo so interesting is that it is very similar, in both style and composition, to another circa 1867 large-format albumen photo that appeared as Lot 1151 in our May 2010 auction (sold for $2,644). In fact, our consignor contacted us because he found that earlier image on our website while he was researching this piece. The two photos are uncannily similar with regard to size, foreground illustration, player uniforms, and even the distinctive caps. Most important, although we cannot be certain, we believe that at least two of the players in the offered photo are also present in the previous photo we sold. If so, then the two photos obviously depict the same team, only in different years. The photo sold in May 2010 had the photographer's name and year ("A Berger/photos/1867") printed along the base. We originally postulated that perhaps the photographer was Anthony Berger, a prominent photographer based in Washington, D.C., at the time. If the information on the reverse of the offered photo is correct (we assume it is), and this is a Brooklyn ball club, then that theory might need to be revised. Regardless of who produced the photo or what club it represents, it still remains an exceptionally rare and attractive baseball photo dating from the earliest days of our national pastime. Baseball images dating from the 1860s are exceedingly rare, especially large-format examples such as this. This one of the earliest baseball photos we have ever offered, and unlike its earlier counterpart, displays no signs of restoration. The photo is mounted onto a cardboard backing, with a thin layer of tape bordering it on three of the four sides. A few very small, minor abrasions affect the central image area, and a number of small tears are evident along the right border not lined with tape. Exceptional clarity and contrast are displayed throughout. This is an extraordinary early baseball photo and one that is totally new to the collecting world, having only been recently discovered in the past few months. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $2,252

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