Lot # 20: 1866 Washington and Brooklyn Team Cabinet Photo with Henry Chadwick

Starting Bid: $10,000.00

Bids: 1 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
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Item was in Auction "REA Fall 2019",
which ran from 11/20/2019 12:30 PM to
12/8/2019 6:00 PM

Exceedingly rare cabinet photo capturing the Brooklyn Excelsiors and Washington Nationals posing together prior to a game on September 18, 1866. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of only two known examples of this historically significant photo. The other example, which has been removed from its mount, resides in the prestigious Spalding Collection at the New York Public Library. What makes this particular photo especially significant is that sportswriter Henry Chadwick, often referred to as the "Father of Baseball," is pictured sitting alongside members of the Excelsiors. Also pictured as a member of the Excelsiors is pitcher Asa Brainard, who three years later starred as the mound ace for Harry Wright's 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball's first all-professional team. Extensive information is recorded on the back of the mount in vintage red and black fountain pen. In part: "Taken at 3 p.m. Sept 18. 1866 on the White Lot./Nationals of Washington/Arthur P. Gorman/President/Excelsior of Brooklyn/Dr. Jones. Pres./Henry Chadwick sitting in front of Gorman. Sporting Editor N.Y. Mercury." Also listed on the reverse are the names of the players on each team, including Brainard for Brooklyn. Interestingly, George Fletcher, who is listed as the right fielder for Brooklyn, "jumped" the club the following spring to join the Nationals, indicating that he may have been actively recruited at the time of this meeting. Inexplicably, the original listed date of "1866" (which is still legible) was later gone over to read "1870"; however, the date of September 18, 1866, is easily confirmed. This game, as well as the Excelsior's entire trip to Washington, D.C., is dutifully chronicled in Charles Peverelly's fine historical work American Pastimes (self-published in 1866). The events were obviously fresh in Peverelly's mind since the trip took place shortly before the publication of his book that winter. Peverelly writes:

Tour to Washington, etc. September 15 to 22—On Saturday afternoon, September 15, 1866, between forty and fifty Excelsiors left for Washington. Near Baltimore they were met by a Committee of the National Club, and on their arrival at Washington a large delegation received them at the depot, and took them in carriages and stages to Willard's Hotel (on the morning of September 16), where choice rooms were provided for them. After breakfast, the entire party entered carriages and were taken by their guests to the Little Falls of the Potomac, and thence in the packet Minnesota to the Great Falls, where they were sumptuously feasted at the Pavilion Hotel. On Monday, September 17th, they were conveyed in carriages to the steamer Wawset for an excursion to Mount Vernon, the Lower Potomac, Indian Head, and Fort Washington. A select and fashionable assemblage of ladies accompanied them; also the Marine Band, led by Prof. Scala; a dirge was played by the band at the tomb of Washington, and at Fort Washington the commandant received them with military honors. Early in the evening they returned, and next they proceeded to Stagg's fine rooms, which were inaugurated on this occasion, and an elegant entertainment was provided for them. September 18 —Excelsior and National, of Washington, On the "President's Grounds." Excelsior, 33 runs; National, 28 runs; nine innings...

One thing Peverelly neglected to mention was the fact that the September 18, 1866, game between the Excelsiors and Nationals was witnessed briefly by President Andrew Johnson. The Nationals' home grounds were located on a field directly opposite the White House and hence were known as "the President's Grounds." Also, the Nationals club was made up almost entirely of government workers, the most prominent of whom was the club's president, Arthur Gorman. Gorman was the Senate postmaster and a close friend of President Johnson. On August 30, 1865, he arranged for the first audience between a baseball team and a President when the Nationals and Brooklyn Atlantics visited the White House to meet President Johnson. Two years later, in August 1867, Gorman arranged for President Johnson to be the special guest at the dedication of the Nationals' new park. The significance of the Excelsiors' trip to the nation's capital in 1866 is underscored by the fact that Henry Chadwick accompanied the club south. Chadwick was already at that time not only the most respected baseball writer in the country, but also one of the most prominent figures in the game by virtue of his position as chairman of the National Association of Base Ball Players' Committee on Rules. This is truly one of the most extraordinary cabinet photos we have ever seen dating from the 1860s, notable for the fact that it not only captures two of the most prominent clubs in their respective cities, but also Henry Chadwick, one of the most influential and significant figurers in the history of the game. Technically it might be most accurate to describe this piece as an original mounted albumen photograph as opposed to a cabinet card, according to early photography experts we consulted in researching this piece. It was also noted that capturing this quality image taken outdoors was extremely challenging for the photographer, far more so than an image captured in a formal indoor studio setting where the lighting could be controlled. The mount (6.5 x 4.25 inches) displays a few extremely minor creases in the corners, as well as a single tiny (barely visible) single extremely tiny tack hole on both the left and right border. The photo (5.375 x 3.5 inches) remains in Excellent condition. In our opinion, this is one of the most important nineteenth-century photographs Robert Edward Auctions has ever had the privilege of offering, and one of the most significant early baseball photographs in existence. Encapsulated and labeled "Authentic" by SGC. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open).

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