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1899 Boston Red Stockings Imperial Team Cabinet Photo
Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $4,200
Imperial cabinet photo, taken by renowned Boston photographer Elmer Chickering, capturing sixteen members of the 1899 Boston Beaneaters in a studio setting. Each player is pictured in uniform with the exception of manager Frank Selee, who is seated in the center. Also pictured here are future Hall of Famers Hugh Duffy, Jimmy Collins, Vic Willis, Billy Hamilton, and Kid Nichols, as well as Bobby Lowe, Fred Tenney, Chick Stahl, and Marty Bergen. "The Boston Champions '99" is lettered in script along the base of the photo, just to the right of Chickering's copyright notice. It should be noted that Boston won the National League pennant in 1898, but finished second in 1899. However, it was common at the time for pennant-winning clubs to be referred as "champions" for the following season until they were dethroned. This is not only an exceptional nineteenth-century baseball image, but a unique one as well. We have only seen one other example of a Chickering 1899 Boston Beaneaters imperial cabinet photo at auction (which realized $6,462 in 2007), but the poses of the players varied slightly (specifically the positioning of Bobby Lowe and Chick Stahl, who are seen here lying on the floor in the front). Both photos were obviously taken at the same sitting, but why Chickering printed each of them, and in what quantities is unknown. Normally, these types of large-format display photos (which were expensive to produce) were only issued to team members and club executives, which explains their extreme rarity today. One interesting side note is that two of the players pictured here later committed suicide. As noted by a small piece of white paper affixed to the photo along the base, Stahl took his own life in 1907. The suicide of star catcher Marty Bergen (standing; third from the right) is more lurid. Bergin had been showing signs of mental instability for a number of years, but his condition drastically worsened in 1899. He missed time during the season on account of a nervous breakdown and after the season, his demons finally overtook him. On January 19, 1900, he killed his wife and two kids with an ax before taking his own life by slitting his throat with a razor. The photo (16.5 x 13.25 inches) is lightly toned and displays a few small black marks (possibly ink) in the upper right corner (not affecting any of the player images), as well as the aforementioned affixed piece of paper in the lower right. In Excellent condition overall. The mount (20 x 16 inches) displays evidence of water staining along the borders, minor chips, and large diagonal tear in the lower left corner (not affecting the photo) that can most likely be professionally repaired.
Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $4,200
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