1890 Cleveland Spiders Imperial Team-Cabinet Photo with George Davis

Sold For: $6,600

Auction Year: 2016 fall

Lot: 1452

Item Year: 1890

Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Addendum: Subsequent to the printing of the catalog we learned that the player seated on the ground, far left, is Hall of Famer George Davis. Davis, who was just nineteen years old at the time, made his major league debut in 1890. The Spiders signed him that spring to help fill their roster after a losing a number of players to the upstart Player's League. An infielder for most of his career, Davis played center field for the club during his rookie campaign, finishing the year with 6 home runs, 73 RBI, and a .264 average. In 1893 he was traded to the Giants for another future Hall of Famer, catcher Buck Ewing. It was during his nine seasons with the Giants that Davis enjoyed his greatest success, batting over .300 each year, including a career-high .355 in 1893. He retired in 1909 with a .295 career average and 1,440 RBI, but wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame until 1998.  


Rare imperial cabinet photo capturing seventeen members of the 1890 National League Cleveland Spiders. The crystal-clear image pictures each player in uniform, with the exception of the formally attired manager, as they pose together in a studio setting. Handwritten identifications, in black ink, appear along the base of the mount for all but three of the players. The year, "1890," is also handwritten in pencil at the base of the mount. According to the vintage identifications, the players pictured here are as follows: Back Row (L to R): Stockwill, Gilks, Veach, Daily, Lincoln, Wadsworth, Smalley, and Parsons; Middle Row (L to R): Ardner, McKean, Sommers, Schmeltz, Zimmer, and Beatin. (The names of the three team members seated on the floor are probably hidden by the matting; the piece has not been examined out of frame.) No photographer's credit is visible. This photo was obviously taken early in the season because manager Gus Schmelz was fired on July 22nd, and Cy Young, who made his major league debut with the Spiders on August 6, 1890, is not pictured here. Imperial team cabinets of major league clubs from this era are exceedingly rare and this photo is no exception. This is not only the first example of an 1890 Cleveland Spiders imperial cabinet we have seen, but the first 1890 Cleveland Spiders team photo in any form! In addition to its rarity, the piece is also notable for its remarkable state of preservation. The photo (16.5 x 12.5 inches; visible dimensions) displays only a few extremely tiny surface blemishes and is otherwise in apparent Near Mint condition. The visible portion of the mount below (16.5 x 2 inches) displays a few large stains and a vertical tear in the center. Matted and framed to total dimensions of 24 x 22 inches. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open).

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