Exceedingly rare imperial cabinet photo of the 1895 World Champion Cleveland Spiders. This is only the third example of an 1895 Cleveland Spiders team photo that we have ever seen, in any format, and just the second imperial cabinet. The formal studio photograph captures seventeen members of the club posing together, with all of the uniformed players identified in print along the base: Cy Young, Jesse Burkett, Bobby Wallace, Chief Zimmer, Chippy McGarr, Harry Blake, Cupid Childs, George Cuppy, Jimmy McAleer, Ed McKean, Patsy Tebeau, Eddie O'Meara, Phil Knell, Jack O'Connor, and George Tebeau. The two other gentlemen pictured in formal attire are team owners Frank D. Robison and his brother Stanley Robison. The photographer's credit and copyright notice appear in print along the base of the mount: "Copyright 1895 by John H. Ryder of Cleveland, Ohio."
All original imperial cabinet display photos of Major League teams from the 1890s are extremely rare, but one featuring the 1895 World Champion Cleveland Spiders is especially significant. The only other 1895 Cleveland Spiders imperial cabinet photo we have ever seen or heard of appeared as Lot 1175 in our May 2013 auction, where it realized $14,220. However, it must be noted that the prior example was originally found torn in half, and was professionally restored. Even then, it still displayed a number of other flaws, including chips, small tears, and staining. The offered piece is remarkable with regard to condition. With the exception of a moderate diagonal crease in the bottom left corner (only the image of Cuppy is affected) that extends downward through the mount into the player identifications, the photo is otherwise in apparent Near Mint condition, offering perfect clarity and contrast. This piece has been in our consignor's possession for over sixty-five years and was originally presented to him as a gift by his uncle, who was a salesman at a prominent clothing store in the Baltimore area that was frequently visited by ballplayers. While the exact circumstances of how his uncle obtained this piece are not known for certain, the family always assumed that he obtained it from a former player. Regardless of its exact history, it remains one of the most remarkable and significant nineteenth-century imperial baseball cabinets we have ever seen.
The Cleveland Spiders finished in second place to the Baltimore Orioles in 1895. As was the custom at the time, the first-place and second-place teams in the National League agreed to meet in a best-of-seven series to determine the league champion. From 1894 through 1897 that postseason series was referred to as the Temple Cup Series due to the presentation of an elegant trophy cup to the winning team donated by Pittsburgh sportsman William C. Temple. Only three games separated the two clubs at the end of the season, but during the postseason there was no doubt as to which club was tops in the league. Behind the strong pitching of Cy Young, who won three games, the Spiders easily bested the Orioles in five games, thereby capturing their only World Championship in franchise history.
The imperial cabinet has been matted in such a way that only the photo and player identifications are visible, with the frame measuring 25.5 x 22.25 inches. The visible portion of the photo measures 18 x 12 inches. The printed identification panel measures 18 x 2 inches. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).
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