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Lot # 1152 (of 1673)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Original Knickerbocker Walter T. Avery Archive Including Signatures and CdVs

Starting Bid - $1,000.00 , Sold For - $5,287.50

This diverse collection of ledgers, letters, receipts and various documents, which belonged to Walter T. Avery, a member of the original Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, includes hundreds of Avery signature examples as well as two extremely rare CDVs. Avery was one of the nine Knickerbockers to take part in a game against the New York Ball Club on June 19, 1846, at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. That game, played under the new rules formulated by Alexander Cartwright and other members of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club (rules that now define the game) is generally considered to be the first baseball game in history. This extraordinary treasure trove of personal papers was just recently discovered, along with the spectacular Knickerbocker team photo offered in the preceding lot, in the attic of a house in which Avery formerly resided. Most of the information we have regarding the lives of the original Knickerbockers, Avery included, consists simply of general biographical data, making this collection a remarkable discovery for historians. Avery was born in 1814 and graduated from Columbia in 1836. According to his obituary (a copy of which is included with the lot) he was a civil engineer and was connected with the building of the original Croton Water Works. His first appearance with the Knickerbockers was on April 14, 1846, but his membership lasted only a few years. In 1850, he, along with a number of other Knickerbockers, headed west to seek their fortunes panning for gold. Unsuccessful on the gold front, he remained in California for a number of years as part owner of Avery and Hewlett, a wholesale firm specializing in groceries, dry goods, and produce, before returning to New York. Avery was interested in history, as evidenced by the genealogies included in this collection, and was a member of the New-York Historical Society. One of the ledgers in this collection also shows that he maintained an extensive private library. He passed away in 1904 at the age of ninety, at which time he was the last living member of the original Knickerbocker ball club. Although none of the papers or documents included here reference baseball or his time with the Knickerbockers, they do offer rare insight into Avery's later life. The collection is comprised of the following: 1) Two CDVs of Avery. Each formal studio photograph pictures Avery in a bust-length image and bears a handwritten date on the reverse. The earliest example, dated "1880" on the reverse, also includes his age at the time of the photo, "66 yrs, 1 mo./3 ds." The second photo bears the date, "Dec 30, 1890," as well as his age, "76. 11. 12ds." The name and address of the photographer, "Fredricks - 770 Broadway," appears along the bottom border of each photo. Both CDVs (2.5 x 4 inches) display light surface wear and are in Excellent condition overall. 2) Two $1,000 Gold Bonds issued by the Wallkill Valley Railway Company in 1870. Both are in Fair condition with complete separations along many of the fold lines. 3) Three hard-bound ledgers, each of which contains numerous genealogies of the Avery family. All of the ledgers are recorded in Avery's hand, and thus feature literally hundreds, if not thousands, of "Avery" autographs due to the numerous listings of "Avery" family members. Avery obviously spent a great deal of time compiling these histories and wanted them saved for posterity. Accordingly, he inscribed the cover of one of the ledgers, "This book to be given to the Dedham Historical Society - Dedham, Mass. - Oct 31/93." Each of the ledgers displays a broken spine, with many of the pages having detached. Good condition overall. Two of the ledgers measure 8 x 10 inches, the other measures 7 x 9 inches. 4) Leather-bound ledger (4 x 6 inches) listing the hundreds of books in Avery's private library. Each of the fifty-nine facing pages is headlined "Catalogue of Books of W. T. Avery" in Avery's hand, thus providing fifty-nine full black fountain-pen Avery autographs (grading "9/10" on average). Avery's name is printed in black fountain pen on the cover. 5) Large collection of receipts, documents and correspondence (letters to Avery), all of which appear to date between the years 1900 and 1904. Most are general in nature and include receipts from the New-York Historical Society for his annual dues, contracting receipts, and various sundry documents. Many display various flaws associated with their age, fragile nature, and less-than-ideal storage conditions, including tears and light staining. Good to Very Good condition overall. 6) Decorative metal letter opener (8.25 inches) bearing Avery's initials, "WTA" written on the reverse in black ink. 7) Unusual celluloid "notebook" measuring 1.5 x 2.75 inches. The piece consists of six thin celluloid "slates" that fan out and each bears handwritten notes recording business transactions, names, and addresses. Vg. This is an incredible archive of personal effects from Walter T. Avery, the last surviving original New York Knickerbockers. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $5,287.50


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