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Lot # 1212 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1891 Portland Base Ball Club Imperial Cabinet Photo

Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $940

Rare, possibly unique, example of what can only be described as one of the most artistic and beautifully designed team cabinets ever produced. This glorious imperial team cabinet card, measuring an incredible 9.5 x 13.75 inches (which is approximately five times larger than a standard 4.25 x 6.5-inch cabinet card), features composite images of thirteen members of the 1891 Portland Base Ball Club, champions of the New England League. While neither the team nor any of its members is likely to be remembered today, this cabinet card will not soon be forgotten by anyone who gazes upon it. Designed in a manner unlike anything we have ever seen before, the image utilizes the equipment of the day, arranged in a novel manner, as the setting upon which the player photos are mounted. Two tripods, constructed of baseball bats, support another bat from which hangs a catcher's chest protector. Attached to the chest protector are oval portrait photos of the following thirteen team members, each pictured in uniform: Manager Frank Leonard (formal attire), team captain Barney McLaughlin, Bob Westlake, Michael Shine, Forest Keay, Ed Webster, John O'Brien, Charles Willis, William Collins, George Darby, Ed Slater, John Newell, and Sun Daly. (Although the names are faint, each player is identified in print below his respective image.) A catcher's mask, a glove, a ball and base, pictured on the ground beneath the chest protector, complete the layout. A copyright date of "1891" appears on the photo, while the team name and year ("Portland Base Ball Club, '91") and photographer's credit ("Jackson - Portland") appear in print at the base of the mount. Adding to the stunning visual appeal of this photo is its exceptional clarity, especially with regard to the equipment. All of the bats used here, each of which features a thick band of dark paint at the end of the barrel, appear brand new, and one can easily read the center-brand stampings on the front two: "D. S. & K.," and "Regulation," respectively. Also, on the "Regulation" bats, one can also make out the circle painted within the dark band on the barrel that we know, from having seen and handled actual examples in the past, features the word "Strike" in red letters. This particular cabinet, which is the first example we have ever seen, originates directly from the family of catcher Bob Westlake, who is pictured here. A handwritten pencil notation on the reverse reads "Robert L. Westlake/Portland, Maine/1891/Championship." Although Westlake enjoyed a fine minor league career, he never reached the Major Leagues, but a few of his teammates did, including six pictured here: McLaughlin, Daly, Darby, Newell, and O'Brien. Given the size of this piece, and what must have been its considerable cost at the time, we can only speculate that this display cabinet was specially commissioned by the club and presented to each team member as a memento of the club's championship season. This is, purely in terms of aesthetics, the finest imperial cabinet card we have ever seen, and is far superior, artistically, to anything ever issued by the more famous Carl Horner or Joseph Hall photography studios. The cabinet card, which features a heavy cardboard mount, appears to be slightly trimmed along both the left and right borders. A nail hole is present at the center of both the top and bottom borders, with the top hole affecting the photo as well. Also located along the top border are two chips: one appears directly above the nail hole, while the other, which is smaller, affects the right corner. The photo displays light toning and minor surface wear, including a few tiny abrasions. While technically in Good condition, none of the flaws detracts in the least from the photo's remarkable visual appeal and it remains a stunning example of nineteenth-century photographic skill and artwork. Reserve $300. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $940


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