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Gigantic 1888 New York Giants Joseph Hall Imperial Cabinet Photo - Newly Discovered!
Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $12,925
Please Note: This lot appears in the online catalog only. It does not appear in the printed catalog. It was consigned to the auction after the catalog already printed, and we are presenting it online as an addendum lot at the special request of the consignor. This happens to be a spectacular piece!
This extremely large, never-before-seen Joseph Hall imperial display photograph of the 1888 National League Champion New York Giants is noteworthy not only for its enormous size, extreme rarity, the prominence of the team and players pictured, and its extraordinary display value, but also for the fact that it is the only Joseph Hall display photo of this size (25 x 20 inches) that we have seen in which the players are identified on the mount exactly as found on a traditional Joseph Hall team cabinet card. In that regard it is nearly identical in design to the standard-size (4.25 x 6.5 inches) 1888 Giants team cabinet card issued by Joseph Hall. Only much larger! To put the size in proper perspective, we have provided an image online with traditional Joseph Hall cabinet card (the St. Louis team card that is as Lot 71 in this auction). It is eighteen times larger than a traditional Joseph Hall team cabinet. The photograph alone on this large display piece measures 22.5 x 17.5 inches. The team photo captures the Giants posing together in front of the grandstand, including all six Hall of Fame players on the club: Tim Keefe, Roger Connor, John Montgomery Ward, Buck Ewing, Jim O'Rourke, and Mickey Welch. Also pictured seated in the center is manager Jim Mutrie. The remaining players featured here are Stump Weidman, Bill George, Ed Crane, Pat Murphy, Cannonball Titcomb, Elmer Foster, Danny Richardson, Willard Brown, Mike Tiernan, Gil Hatfield, George, Gore, Elmer Cleveland, and Mike Slattery.
Joseph Hall was the preeminent baseball photographer of the late 1880s and collectors have long revered Joseph Hall team cabinets as among the most highly prized of all nineteenth-century cabinet issues. The unprecedented size and display value of this example makes it certainly among the most striking of all Joseph Hall photos. It is interesting to note the unusual perspective of the Giants team photo in this image. The players are looking to the right rather than forward toward the camera. It is likely that two cameras were set up at the same time and this shot was taken when the players were posing for the second camera. The 1888 New York Giants photos by Joseph Hall are the only nineteenth-century team images we have seen taken in this unorthodox style. This is one of several photos of the Giants taken by Hall on that day, each obviously taken minutes or possibly seconds apart, with numerous subtle (and in some cases easily found) pose variations (for example, Mutrie standing versus Mutrie sitting, etc). We have seen three standard-sized Joseph Hall team cabinets of the Giants with similar, but very slightly different, photographs. This imperial photograph of the Giants features a fourth image from that day that we have not previously seen.
Both the team name, ‘The 'New York' Ball Club 1888,’ and the players are identified in black lettering along the base. Hall's photo credit appears on the photo and along the base of the mount.
An additional fascinating aspect of this newly discovered rarity is the story of its place of origin: This piece was one among the thousands of eclectic and bizarre items housed in the legendary Million Dollar Museum, located in White's City, New Mexico, just outside the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The Million Dollar Museum was a famed tourist attraction and noted for its many oddities, including what it claimed where mummified remains of alien visitors. (one can read about the museum and its many attractions at this link: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10656.) It was certainly the last place one would expect to find an incredibly rare nineteenth-century baseball display piece. In the summer of 2008 the museum (which was privately owned) finally closed its doors after ninety plus years of operation and its entire contents were sold at public auction. Our consignor purchased this hidden gem at that time. After reading about the other items housed in the museum, we can state with great confidence that this was the prized piece in the museum's vast holdings (at least as far as baseball collectors would be concerned). While it is possible that this style of imperial photograph may have been offered for sale to the public by Joseph Hall Studios, given the size, quality, and rarity of this display piece, it is also very possible that they were specially produced as keepsakes for members of the team. How this piece ended up in New Mexico many years ago is anyone's guess. In our research, we found that every member of the 1888 New York Giants resided, and later passed away, on the east coast with the exception of Willard Brown, whose final resting spot is in San Francisco, California. While purely speculation, it is possible that this piece made its way out west with Brown's family and after his passing somehow ended up in the museum. The mystery of its past is fascinating to us, but regardless of its history, it remains one of the most impressive nineteenth-century photographic displays we have ever seen and we are pleased that it will now take its rightful place as the centerpiece of either a private or public baseball collection.
Both the photo and mount (25 x 20 inches) have very minor water staining along all four border areas. There are also a few areas of moderate surface paper loss along the edges, primarily along the lower border of the mount, affecting, but not obscuring, a few letters of text (the word "Club" has been repaired). The central image area displays two vertical areas of very light staining and is otherwise free of any significant defects, presenting as Excellent. The quality of the photograph is outstanding, with the print exhibiting exceptional clarity and contrast. One truly has to view this piece in person to fully appreciate its remarkable aesthetic appeal. This is one of the most visually impressive nineteenth-century baseball team display photos we have ever seen. The fact that it features the 1888 New York Giants, the top team of the era, makes this an all the more exceptional nineteenth-century display piece. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $12,925
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