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1863 "Union Prisoners at Salisbury" Civil War Baseball Lithograph
Starting Bid - $2,500.00, Sold For - $15,405.00
This magnificent full-color print (41 x 24 inches) is universally recognized as the premier 1860s baseball lithograph as well as being one of the earliest color renditions featuring baseball as a subject. The striking illustration depicts Union prisoners playing baseball under Confederate guard in Salisbury, North Carolina. The print was published in 1863 by Goupil & Co., New York, from a lithograph by Sarony, Major & Knapp (449 Broadway, N. York). This is one of the most impressive and historically important of all baseball display pieces. It is also one of the rarest. There are probably no more than a dozen "Union Prisoners" prints known to exist. The offered example was only discovered in 2007. For over fifty years prior to that time it had been part of a privately owned Civil War museum in the state of Ohio. Not surprisingly, it was the only baseball-related piece in the collection and so remained hidden from the hobby. Robert Edward Auctions is very familiar with the history of this particular piece because it was first introduced to the collecting community as Lot 803 in REA's May 2007 sale, where it realized a final selling price of $18,800. It has been consigned to this auction by the original purchaser from the 2007 auction. As such, it remains a relatively new discovery (the only new example that we know of to have surfaced during the past 10+ years) of what most advanced collectors consider to be the most significant of all nineteenth-century baseball lithographs.
The print is of special historical importance in that the Civil War was largely responsible for the game of baseball spreading throughout the country. Thousands of soldiers learned to play baseball during the Civil War, and upon returning home, they introduced the game to friends and neighbors in their hometowns. In a very short period of time, the sport was played in every town in the land, soon earning the title "The National Pastime." A period notation on the reverse of the print, written in pencil, reads “2 Gen. R. X. Sutt [?] – Picture to be varnished with Mrs. Stockwell 30 Cts Pr.” As the notation states, a protective layer of varnish was applied to the front of the lithograph many years ago. As a result, the colors are somewhat muted and the lithograph appears slightly toned. The application of varnish has obscured the printed title of the lithograph ("Union Prisoners at Salisbury, N.C."), which is normally found along the bottom white border. A few minor surface abrasions and/or scratches are evident throughout. In Good condition overall. We have been informed by restorers that the protective varnish could be removed by a professional restorer if desired but the print displays beautifully exactly as it is, just as it has been prominently displayed as a Civil War item for decades. The 1863 "Union Prisoners at Salisbury" print is one of baseball's most spectacular display pieces, and one of the few with a significance that transcends the world of sports collecting, being equally highly prized by collectors of Americana, Civil War memorabilia, and nineteenth-century lithography. Framed to total dimensions of 45 x 28 inches. The substantial size/weight of this item requires that there will be a shipping charge for this lot (which will vary depending upon where it is being shipped). The shipping charge will be billed separately from the auction invoice. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $10,000+. SOLD FOR $15,405.00
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