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1904 New York Giants Team-Cabinet Photo by Charles Conlon - PSA/DNA Type 1
Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $7,703
Original team-cabinet photo of the 1904 National League Champion New York Giants taken by noted sports photographer Charles Conlon. Accompanied by an LOA from PSA/DNA certifying it as an "Original Type 1 Cabinet Photograph." This is one of the most extraordinary Charles Conlon photos we have ever seen, let alone offered, for reasons of its composition, subject matter, date, and provenance. In fact, due to its extremely early date, we believe it is one of the most extraordinary Charles Conlon photos that could possibly exist. The photograph is accompanied by a highly informative one-page typed-signed letter to our consignor from Neal McCabe, who is one of the foremost experts on the life and work of Charles Conlon, and the co-author of the now legendary baseball book Baseball's Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon (Abrams, 1983). McCabe was quite taken with this photo, and he begins his letter by stating, "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is a genuine vintage Conlon print." He concludes enthusiastically: "Thanks for letting me have a look at this treasure. It is a real find." Of course, in between he says much more, which will be revealed shortly.
The most obvious feature of this photo (9.5 x 7 inches), and which sets it apart from nearly all other Conlon photos we have seen, is that it is affixed to a heavy cardboard mount; therefore making its presentation more akin to that of an Imperial cabinet photo than a standard working press photo. The crystal-clear photo captures seventeen members of the National League Champion 1904 New York Giants as they pose together in front of the grandstand wall at the Polo Grounds. Included here are manager John McGraw, "Iron Man" Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan, Art Devlin, Dummy Taylor, Hooks Wiltse, Sam Mertes, Dan McGann, George Browne, Billy Gilbert, Jack Warner, and Frank Bowerman. The only two notable omissions are Christy Mathewson and starting shortstop Bill Dahlen. Written in painted white letters along the base of the mount is "Joe McGinnity 2nd left J. McGraw 5th - 1905 Giants."
It is interesting to note that the date is actually in error. According to McCabe's letter, this photo first appeared in print in the September 22, 1904, issue of the New York Evening Telegram. (This Conlon photo actually appears on the front page of the paper. We have located an image of the front page of the September 22, 1904 edition of The Evening Telegram which is presented online.) The date is important because Conlon only first began taking baseball photos in the summer of 1904, making this one of the earliest original Conlon photos extant. In addition to its 1904 publication in the Evening Telegram, it is our understanding that this particular image was also one of the first Conlon images to ever be published by The Sporting News.. While we have not yet located the edition to illustrate online, even in Baseball's Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon, the authors specifically note, "By the summer of 1904, Conlon's first uncredited photographs were appearing occasionally in the New York Telegram. His uncredited team photo of the Giants was printed in The Sporting News that fall". Also of note: it is a virtual certainty that this is Conlon's first published team photo ever.
Amazingly, McCabe notes that the original 5 x 7-inch negative to this photo still exists, but it is in "terrible" condition, which serves as further assurance that this photo was developed at the time it was taken, when the negative was still in pristine condition. The Giants easily won the National League pennant in 1904, with the club's 106 wins representing the most ever in franchise history. Incredibly, 64 percent of those 106 victories can be directly attributed to pitchers Joe McGinnity, who won a league-high 35 games, and Christy Mathewson, who chipped in with 33 wins. Unfortunately, neither McGinnity nor Mathewson would have the opportunity to shine in the postseason because team owner John Brush refused to allow his club to meet the Boston Red Sox in the World Series (Brush and American League president Ban Johnson had a long-standing feud). As a result of that decision, the greatest team in Giants franchise history could never lay claim to any title other than that of National League Champions.
Further distinguishing this photo is the fact that it appears to have very possibly at one point belonged to Joe McGinnity. That information is inferred by the numerous vintage pencil notations on the reverse, specifically the one that reads "Return to J. J. McGinnity/Newark Baseball and Amusement Co./Newark, New Jersey." McGinnity's major league career ended after the 1908 season. The following year he assumed the duties of player/manager with the Newark Indians of the International League, a position he held through the 1912 season. Other notations include a listing of all of the players pictured on the front, as well as two other "return" notices. One reads "Return to ________ (word illegible) Brooklyn Eagle Office" and the other "Return to S. Crane/Journal American." (Sam Crane was one of New York's most prominent sportswriters in the early 1900s and a very close friend of John McGraw.) A "New York Herald Tribune" label also appears on the reverse. McCabe notes in his letter that Conlon often made gifts of his photos to players: "It is highly likely that your print was once in the possession of Joe McGinnity, as the markings on the back suggest. I have first-hand knowledge that several original signed Conlon prints were in Walter Johnson's personal photo album, so it wouldn't surprise me in the least that Conlon made an especially beautiful print for his old pal."
The photo, which offers exceptional clarity and contrast, displays a moderate vertical crease extending from the top border through the image of pitcher Jack Dunn. A few light scratches are also evident (only visible when viewed at certain angles). None of those minor flaws, however, detracts in the least from its overall Excellent appearance. The mount (10 x 8 inches) displays moderate wear along the edges, including a tiny chip in the upper right corner, and a small tear along the top border. As McCabe attests, this photo truly is a "treasure" and one of the finest Conlon photos one could ever hope to obtain. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $7,703
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