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Lot # 848 (of 1137)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1888-1906 A. J. Reach Company Executive Minutes Book - Signed by Ben Shibe Sixty-Nine Times as Secretary!

Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $7,703

Hard-bound ledger, constituting the handwritten minutes of the A. J. Reach Company between the years 1888 and 1906, signed sixty-nine times by Ben Shibe in his capacity as secretary. This business ledger, which is comprised of 129 pages, provides a treasure trove of information about the A. J. Reach Company during its earliest years and includes the company's preamble and resolutions, its by-laws, record of stock ownership, real estate and property purchases, and its eventual sale to A. G. Spalding & Bros. At the time of its formation, and for the duration of the company's existence as recorded in this ledger, Ben Shibe served as secretary. In that capacity, he has officially closed the minutes of each meeting by signing the ledger (all of the handwritten text in the ledger is that of a company scribe). A total of sixty-nine Ben Shibe signature examples are featured in this book, which, to the best of our knowledge, constitutes the largest offering of Ben Shibe autographs at public auction. All of the Shibe signature examples are scripted in black fountain pen and grade "9" or "10," with the exception of five (moderate brushing to the ink; "6/7" on average). The vast majority of the signature examples are signed "B. F. Shibe," but a few "Benjamin F. Shibe" signatures are also present.

Ben Shibe was one of the most important figures in baseball at the turn of the century. He, along with his brother John, founded John D. Shibe & Co. just after the Civil War. Originally a hardware store, the company quickly evolved into a manufacturer of sporting goods. In 1882, Shibe left his original company and joined with his friend A. J. Reach to form a new sporting-goods company, named Reach and Shibe. However, his brother John believed the name of the new company related too much to his former affiliation, and the name was soon changed to A. J. Reach and Company. During that same period, Shibe was also active in local baseball, both at the amateur and professional levels. He not only sponsored the Shibe Semiprofessional Team, but also acquired stock in Philadelphia's entry in the American Association. Later, in 1901, he helped in the formation of the American League by providing the working capital needed to found the Philadelphia Athletics. During his tenure with both the sporting-goods firm and the A's, Shibe continued to wield his influence on the game. On the manufacturing side, he is credited with the design of the 116-stitch baseball still in use today. Even more important, his company was responsible for the invention of the cork-centered baseball, which, of course, helped to usher in the era of the "live ball." As an owner, Shibe was the first to construct a steel-and-concrete stadium for his club, which was known as Shibe Park. At the time of its construction in 1909 it was universally regarded as the finest ballpark in existence and provided the inspiration for the many larger stadiums that soon followed. Shibe died in 1922 at the age of eight-four. Following his death, American League president Ban Johnson paid tribute to him: "Ben Shibe was one of the founders of the American League and its greatest pillar. During his period of active participation the organization profited by his wise counsel, and his sterling integrity helped to a large degree to maintaining the game's highest standard. There never was a man identified with baseball who commanded a greater respect. He has left an indelible stamp for good on baseball."

This ledger documents the formation of the A. J. Reach Company in 1888, which was incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania. As noted in the company's preamble, the new company was formed to succeed the company known as A. J. Reach Company Limited, with the majority of shares issued to A. J. Reach and Ben Shibe. In just two years, however, as one can see in the dated entries, both Reach and Shibe had lost their controlling interest in the company to A. G. Spalding & Brothers, which, by 1890, owned 500 of the 977 issued shares. By 1992 that controlling interest for Spalding had grown to 995 shares (out of 999), leaving both Reach and Shibe with just one share each. Despite the takeover by Spalding, the Reach brand name continued to be used on all manner of sporting-goods products for many years afterwards, including on the official American League baseball, all the way up until 1973. Also, both Reach and Shibe continued to hold the titles of president and secretary, respectively, during the years recorded in this ledger. This a fascinating historical volume and one that will surely provide historians with a wealth of information regarding the A. J. Reach Company, which was one of the most important early sporting-goods companies in history and a major supplier of baseball equipment.

The ledger (8.5 x 13.5 inches), titled Minute Book/A. J. Reach Company in gilt-stamped lettering on the cover, displays heavy wear to the boards, including the deterioration of much of the spine. The front flyleaf is detached from the spine, but present; otherwise all of the remaining pages are securely bound. The pages are all clean and bright. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA.Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $7,703

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