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1867 Union of Morrisania Team Presentation Photo from the Estate of George Wright
Starting Bid - $2,500.00, Sold For - $3,818.75
Presented is one of the most extraordinary nineteenth-century photographic pieces we have ever seen. This exceedingly rare team photograph of the 1867 Union Club of Morrisania (New York) originates from the estate of Hall of Fame shortstop George Wright, who was a former member of the club. This is one of only two examples known and the only one remaining in private hands. The other example resides in the permanent collection of the New York Public Library as part of the Albert Spalding Collection. The photograph appears to picture ten members of the club posing together; however, upon close inspection it becomes clearly evident that the image is a composite. Only the heads of the players represent photographic images. The ten uniformed bodies are instead finely rendered illustrations derived from a previous photo of the club. This was not an uncommon practice at the time and was probably done as a means of expediency for the photographer (especially if some of the players were either unavailable for a group photo, or had jumped to another club). Affixed along the top of the photo is an ornately printed section of paper reading “1867 Champions Union of Morrisania 1868.” The Union Club of Morrisania (based in the Bronx, N.Y.) was recognized as the champions of 1867 by virtue of their victory in match play against the previous year's champion, the Brooklyn Atlantics. This elaborately produced display photograph was obviously intended as a special presentation piece for team members the following spring. During that period, and for many years to follow, it was customary for the previous season’s champion to hold the title of “Champion” the following year as well, at least until they were dethroned. Therefore, the affixed header proclaiming them as Champions, while referencing both years, is proper and accurate for the time. Prior to his joining the fabled 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, George Wright was a key member of the Union Club of Morrisania in both 1866 and 1868. (Wright jumped to the Washington Nationals in 1867, therefore he doesn’t appear in this photo.) As a member of the team in 1868, he naturally received this special presentation photo in commemoration of the club’s triumphant championship season. It obviously meant a great deal to him, for he kept it throughout his life. This photograph was among a small number of George Wright's personal baseball items that surfaced in 2006. The offered photo represents one of the most significant items originating from that small find. The photo (8.75 x 6.5 inches) has been affixed to a cardboard mount that has been trimmed along all four sides. As a result, the top and bottom borders of the photo are now flush with the top and bottom borders of the mount. The trimming probably represents the original cuts made by the photographer or framer for matting and/or framing. Thus, the photo is likely in the very same state as when first presented to Wright over 140 years ago. The presentation of this photo is slightly different from that of the example in the Spalding Collection. The Spalding example is attached to a larger thin mount, and the section of paper that identifies the team on the offered example is actually part of the printed design on the the thin mount of the Spalding Collection example. Both the photo and mount display evidence of water staining, primarily along the bottom border, but this blends in well and does not significantly detract. (The water damage may explain why the matting and/or frame were removed.) Although technically in Good to Very Good condition, the central image area is free of any significant defects and the photo displays exceptionally well, as intended. It is very rare to find any photographic display pieces from this era, or of this size, let alone from such a prominent team as the Unions of Morrisania, who were, literally, The Champions of 1867. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $3,818.75
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