Lot # 2024: Circa 1874 Joe Battin Tintype Photo - One of the Earliest Tintypes of a Major League Ballplayer

Starting Bid: $500.00

Bids: 1 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "REA Spring 2018",
which ran from 4/13/2018 12:00 PM to
5/6/2018 12:00 PM

Rare, almost certainly unique, circa 1874 tintype picturing former Major League player Joe Battin. The professional studio photo captures Battin in a bust-length pose dressed in formal attire. The tintype remains housed in its original paper mount that includes the name of the photographer printed on the reverse: "Vine Street Galleries/Cor. Vine and Eighth Sts./No Other Galleries in Philadelphia/J. R. Applegate." A handwritten pencil notation on the reverse reads "Joe Battan/ball player/2nd base." This is one of, if not the earliest tintype picturing a Major League player, as we cannot recall having seen any that predate it. The date we have assigned it, circa 1874, is directly related to its provenance. This tintype was discovered at an estate sale in Philadelphia nearly 50 years ago. The estate was that of the Starling family, and this tintype, along with those of former Major League players George Wright and Timothy Murnane, was discovered in the pages of an antiquarian book on the game of cricket. It is believed that a former member of the Starling family was once a member of the Philadelphia Cricket Club, where George Wright was the resident professional in 1864. If so, they most likely would have been either friends or at least acquainted with each other. Battin and Murnane played together with the Philadelphia Athletics of the National Association in 1873 and 1874, and both later played in the National League (Murnane and Wright were teammates with Boston for a number of years). Given the connections, it seems likely that the member of the Starling family was friends with all three players; hence the reason for his possession of the tintypes. Although provenance is important when attempting to identify nineteenth-century Major League player photos (especially those picturing the players in formal attire), it is equally important to have other verifiable images of the subject for comparison. Fortunately, there are a number of images of Battin, in uniform, available to historians for that purpose. This tintype of Battin (as well as that of the Murnane tintype) was the subject of an in-depth analysis by facial recognition expert Mark Fimoff in the June 2017 issue of Reflecting the Past, which is the official newsletter of the Society for American Baseball Research's (SABR) Pictorial History Committee (a copy of the issue accompanies the piece). The result of Fimoff's analysis confirmed that the player pictured in this tintype is indeed Joe Battin. Since both the Battin and Murnane tintypes were found together in the collection of a Philadelphia family and were produced by a Philadelphia photographer, it seems reasonable to assume that both date to the time they played together with Philadelphia in 1873 and 1874. If that assumption is correct, than each of those three tintypes found at the time, may have the rightful distinction of being the earliest tintype photo of a Major League player. Battin enjoyed an intermittent ten-year Major League career (1871-1890), during which time he played in the National Association, the National League, the American Association, and the Union Association. He was also, by his own account, at one time the highest-paid player in the game, and even received a single vote for the Hall of Fame in 1936. The tintype (1.75 x 3 inches) is in apparent Near Mint condition, but the paper mount (2.5 x 4 inches) displays a few small tears along the left border. Reserve $500. Estimate (open).

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