By Charles Doran
One of the rewarding aspects of working in libraries is discovering the hidden gems that lie buried waiting to be found again. Recently, while preparing materials for a class, I came across one of these little “diamonds” in a scrapbook dating back to 1870.
The manuscript titled, “Scrapbook concerning railroad accidents and other events, 1870-1871” was compiled by Melancthon Williams Jacobus II, Class of 1877, who played baseball at Princeton and later became a trustee of the University. The scrapbook contains baseball-related newspaper clippings and a handwritten account of a game between the Enterprise Jr. Club of Allegheny and the Washington Club of Lawrenceville, for which Jacobus served as Secretary. The hidden gem of the scrapbook: a Peck and Snyder baseball card of the 1870 Mutual Green Stockings of New York.
This card is one of a series of extremely rare trade cards issued by Peck & Snyder Sporting Goods Emporium featuring a formal studio photograph of the baseball team on the front affixed to a trade card with advertising for Peck & Snyder on the back. Unfortunately, the graphic on the back is not visible as the card has been pasted into the scrapbook, which was a common practice for the period.
An additional condition issue common to these trade cards was trimming of the edges; fortunately, this card has not been trimmed. Trimming was common, given that the cards were larger than a carte de visite (CDV) photograph but often stored in CDV albums.
The Mutuals are one of five teams featured on Peck & Snyder trade cards between the years 1868 and 1870. The full list includes:
- 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics
- 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings
- 1870 Chicago White Stockings
- 1870 New York Mutuals
- 1870 Philadelphia Athletics
While the 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics card was offered first, it is the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings card that is considered the first true baseball card by many, as they are considered the first professional baseball team.
The discovery of this card, coupled with my childhood hobby of collecting baseball cards, has converged with the never-ending zeal for my hometown Philadelphia Phillies to search for that holy grail of a card I never knew existed… That 1870 Peck and Snyder Philadelphia Athletics card.
Historical Photograph Collection, Alumni Photographs Series (AC058).
Jacobus, Melancthon Williams. “Scrapbook concerning railroad accidents and other events, 1870-1871.” C0938 (No. 66).