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1854 Alexander Cartwright Presentation Fire Horn and Cabinet Photo
Starting Bid - $2,000.00, Sold For - $8,812.50
Alexander Cartwright is best known today for formulating the modern rules of baseball in 1845 as a member of the New York Knickerbockers. Unbeknownst to many, however, Cartwright was also instrumental in founding the first fire department in Honolulu, Hawaii, and later served as fire chief for ten years. This is all the more significant in light of the extremely close connection between many early baseball clubs, including the New York Knickerbockers, and the institution of the local fire department. The Knickerbockers were originally organized as a local fire department, and, like many early ball clubs, in their earliest days of play in the 1840s and 1850s their fire department uniforms and belts also served as their ball-playing uniforms. Offered here are two rare and extremely significant relics relating to Cartwright's role as Honolulu fire chief. The first is an original imperial cabinet photo of Cartwright picturing him holding a fire horn. This is a very famous and much-reproduced image. In the famous 1999 Halper auction, almost all of Barry's Cartwright-related material was sold, but several very knowledgeable collectors asked what happened to this famous cabinet-style photo, which was not included in the sale. The answer: Barry kept it. The formal studio photo captures Cartwright seated in a chair, with a fire horn held in his right hand. A fire department badge is clearly visible on the lapel of his jacket. Most hobby enthusiasts are probably familiar with this particular image as it has been widely reproduced in so many books over the years. This, of course, is the original photograph which long ago was acquired directly from the Cartwright estate. The photographer’s name, “J. J. Williams – Honolulu, H.I.,” is stamped along the base of the mount. The mount (6.74 x 9.75 inches) has some surface abrasions along the top and bottom. The photo (5.75 x 8.25 inches) presents with exceptional clarity and contrast, but displays light foxing throughout. Very Good condition overall. The second item is an extraordinary decorative presentation fire horn (very similar to the one Cartwright is holding in the photo) that bears the engraved inscription “Presented by the Merchants of Honolulu to Mechanic Engine Co. No. 1 – July 4th 1854.” Like the photo, this piece also originates directly from Cartwright’s estate and was a treasured keepsake of Alexander Cartwright. Barry actually had two Cartwright presentation horns (representing the only two examples in existence). He sold the other example at auction in 1999 and kept this one for his personal collection for display. The horn is a very substantial and elaborately designed presentation piece. It measures 22.75 inches in length and, aside from moderate tarnishing, is in Excellent condition. Cartwright, like many other Easterners, left New York and traveled to California in 1849 to stake his claim during the Gold Rush. After failing to strike it rich, he continued on to Hawaii, arriving there in the early 1850s. He eventually became one of Honolulu’s leading merchants and bankers as well as an advisor to Hawaii’s royal family. Cartwright’s civic duties included the founding of the city’s first fire department as well as the introduction of baseball to the island. He remained in Hawaii for the rest of his life, eventually passing away in 1892. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1938. From the Barry Halper Collection. Total: 2 items (photo and horn). Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $8,812.50
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