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Lot # 1450 (1450 of 1911)   « Previous Lot | Next Lot »

Extraordinary Correspondence Archive Relating to Alexander Cartwright's Induction to the Hall of Fame

Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $3,000

This remarkable collection of over 100 letters, original carbon-copies of letters, and documents chronicles the efforts of Bruce Cartwright Jr., the grandson of Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr., to have his grandfather properly credited by the Baseball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game of baseball. While Alexander Cartwright's role in the development of organized baseball is duly recognized today, his name in the early 1930s was known only by devout historians of the game, and might have remained so, if not for Bruce's efforts. The lobbying for recognition of Cartwright's contributions is fully documented in this archive, which was compiled and saved by the Cartwright family. The whole affair unfolds here in this collection beginning with a letter from Bruce (who was then living in Honolulu), dated November 4, 1935, to the Baseball Memorial Committee, Cooperstown, New York. He writes in full:

Gentleman I have recently read that it is the intention to erect a Baseball Memorial Museum at Cooperstown, N. Y. I am the grandson of Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr., who formed and managed the Knickerbocker Baseball Club in New York City between 1840 and 1845 and who is often called "The Father of Baseball." It is quite possible that you may care to have some relic of his, such as photographs, etc. If so, I will be pleased to help when the time comes.

Cartwright received a favorable response, but as he learned more about the museum and why it was in Cooperstown he became upset. Instead of his grandfather, the Hall of Fame was honoring Abner Doubleday as the inventor of baseball. Outraged at the slight, he embarked upon a letter-writing campaign to Hall of Fame officials in order to "set the record straight." The archive presented here is the body of that correspondence written between the years 1935 and 1939, which, ultimately, culminated in Alexander Joy Cartwright being elected to the Hall of Fame as "The Father of Modern Baseball."

It should be noted that the collection not only includes letters to and from Bruce Cartwright, but those written to and from other concerned parties as well. One of the most important documents in this collection is Bruce Cartwright's transcription of Alexander Cartwright's journal kept during his trip from New York to San Francisco in the spring of 1849. Bruce was so intent on having his grandfather recognized as the founding father of baseball that, as has been cited by historians since, he took certain liberties in the transcription of this document. Frustrated that his efforts to have his grandfather recognized for spreading the growth and popularity of baseball across the country seemed ineffectual, Bruce Cartwright actually fabricated certain passages of the journal, including those referencing "Mountain men and Indians playing the new game." Bruce's embellishments to the journal were not known at the time and it was only years later that his addition of a number of baseball-related passages was discovered. This is no way diminishes Cartwright's significant contributions to the game, but adds yet another dimension of intrigue and controversy relating to the origins of the game. While it is impossible, in the space provided here, to provide an adequate description of the remarkable content contained herein, we will attempt to convey some sense of its significance by making note of a few memorable passages.

In a letter dated 4/16/36 Bruce writes to Alexander Cleeland, secretary of the National Baseball Museum: "I enclose herewith a photostat of a letter written by my grandfather...addressed to Charles S. Debost, together with my translation of same. This letter will show you who introduced baseball west as far as Hawaii. . . .I believe that my grandfather did more than any other man to popularize and spread the great American game throughout the United States. . . ." Bruce closes the letter by posing a loaded question to the secretary: "Is it true that Major General Abner Doubleday entered West Point in 1838?" (Doubleday, as young boy, was said to have invented baseball in Cooperstown in 1839, but as Bruce and other historians have pointed out, he was a cadet at West Point at that time.) Eventually, Bruce and his many allies, including government officials in Hawaii, were successful in their campaign and the Hall of Fame raised the "white flag" in this amazing conciliatory letter dated 6/23/38. In it Secretary of The Hall of Fame Alexander Cleeland writes to John Hamilton, Manager, Chamber of Commerce of Honolulu:

Let me say at the outset that our conception of the Centennial observance is not only one that will commemorate the birth but also the growth and worth of the national game. It is to be nation-wide in scope and every village and city in the country can participate. The fact that the celebration will center in Cooperstown will be allowed in no way to minimize the importance of any of the great personalities connected with its history, much less that of Alexander J. Cartwright, Jr. It is universally conceded that Mr. Cartwright organized the Knickerbocker Club in 1845; that this was the world's first organized baseball club, and that Mr. Cartwright was the 'Father of Organized Baseball.' Quite aside from the claim that the game was originated by Major-General Abner Doubleday while a school boy in Cooperstown, this village has a position today in the general picture which makes it the logical site to be chosen as the focal point of the celebration. . . .Your letter has forced our hands to some extent but we feel that you have a right to advanced information and are willing to say, in strict confidence, that we expect to hold a special Cartwright Day as one of the principal features of the celebration, commemorating the organization of the Knickerbockers, and Mr. Cartwright's part in the development of the game. On this day it is planned to unveil a bronze plaque in memory of Mr. Cartwright in the Hall of Fame, and produce a pageant delineating his journey across the continent, organizing clubs as he went.

Included within this vast collection of correspondence are numerous letters relating to the design of the 1939 Centennial of Baseball Stamp (and the possibility of having Cartwright's image on a stamp), a copy of Bruce Cartwright's transcription of Alexander Cartwright's cross-country journal, and letters regarding the creation of Cartwright's Hall of Fame plaque. All of Bruce Cartwright's letters are his personal file copies of his original correspondence. This collection originates directly from the Cartwright family and was once part of the fabled Barry Halper Collection. Nearly all of the documents display two notebook holes along the top border and are in overall Very Good to Excellent condition. Total: approximately 120 documents. Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $3,000

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