Addendum (4/14/18; 10 AM): This team has been identified as the 1878 Buffalo Bisons, champions of the International Association. Our thanks to Jay Miller.
Exceedingly rare imperial team cabinet photo capturing 11 members of the circa 1879 Buffalo Bisons posing together in a formal studio setting. Although there are no player names listed on either the photo or mount, our research has resulted in the identification of all 11 players. Top Row (L to R): Tom Dolan, Jack Allen, Bill McGunnigle, and Pud Galvin. Middle Row (L to R): Bill Crowley, Dave Eggler, Steve Libby, Chick Fulmer, and Denny Mack. First Row (L to R): Davey Force and Trick McSorely. All but two of the players (Dolan and Galvin) are pictured wearing an identical bib-front jersey lettered "Buffalo" across the front. Various equipment is prominently displayed, including a ball (held by Galvin), two bats, and a catcher's mask. The photographer's credit, "McMichael Buffalo," appears in the lower-right corner. Major League imperial team cabinet photos dating from the 1870s are practically non existent. This is one of only five we can recall having seen at auction in the past 20 years and the fact that includes a prominent Hall of Famer makes it especially significant. All of the players pictured here were members of Buffalo in 1879 with the exception of Mack (1880 only), Dolan (1882 only), McSorely (no record with Buffalo), and Allen (no record with Buffalo). However, according to the official records, Mack, Dolan, McSorely, and Allen were not members of any Major League club in 1879. While they might not have appeared in an official game, as this photo shows, they were obviously on the Buffalo roster at some point during the year. Buffalo finished in third place in 1879, with Pud Galvin's 37 wins accounting for all but 10 of the club's victories that year. The original albumen photograph (14.5 x 11 inches) displays a small amount of very light, scattered foxing and is otherwise in Excellent to Mint condition. The photo is housed in a vintage wood frame that is very likely original to the piece. Total dimensions 22 x 18.5 inches. This is an extraordinary nineteenth-century team photograph, the likes of which are seldom seen at public auction. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open).