Rare and significant nineteenth century team cabinet card featuring portrait images of ten members of the 1879 National League Champion Providence Grays. This is the ONLY example of this particular 1879 Providence team cabinet we have ever seen and it may be the lone survivor. It also has the special provenance of having once resided in the famed Copeland Collection. Each of the players is identified in print below his respective image (last name only), including player/manager George Wright, who is pictured in the center. The remaining players, all of whom represent starting members of the club, are Jim O'Rourke, John Ward, Paul Hines, Tom York, Bill Hague, Joe Start, Bobby Mathews, Lew Brown, and Mike McGeary. All the team members are pictured in uniform, in a bust-length pose. The team name, "Providence Grays," and the year, "1879," are printed, respectively, above and below, Wright's portrait. The photographer's credit stamp ("Jones - 357 Westminster Street, Providence, R. I.") appears on the reverse. A George Wright Sporting Goods label, bearing the address "49 Dorrance Street, Providence, R. I.," is affixed to the reverse, indicating, perhaps, that this cabinet was either sold or issued as a promotional give away by the company at the time.
Providence joined the National League in 1878 and just one year later, with a lineup that featured three future Hall of Fame players, won its first of an eventual two National League championships. Powered by league batting champion Paul Hines (.357) and runner up Jim O'Rourke (.348), Providence led the league in batting average (.296), runs (612), hits (1,003), on-base percentage (.314) and slugging percentage (.381). Backed by that offense, John Ward won a league-high 47 games in 60 starts, with Bobby Mathews accounting for the club's other 12 victories. 1879 also marked George Wright's final full season in baseball. Considered the greatest shortstop of his era, Wright batted .276 while also handling the managerial duties. Wishing to return to Boston to play for the Red Stockings in 1880, where he could better attend to his sporting goods business, Wright found himself unable leave the Grays due to the implementation of the newly created reserve clause. Instead of returning to Providence, Wright chose to sit out the season. In 1881, no longer under reserve to Providence, he did return to Boston, but played only sparingly the next two seasons before retiring in 1882.
The photo displays a slight diagonal crease in the lower right corner (most likely occurred during the mounting process) that touches upon McGeary's image; otherwise it remains in Excellent condition and offers exceptional clarity. The mount (4.25 x 6.25 inches) displays light toning and is in Excellent to Mint condition. This is an outstanding example of this rare cabinet issued in commemoration of Providence's first National League Championship season. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000++.