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1888/1889 World Tour Cabinet Photo
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $8,813
Exceedingly rare and to the best of our knowledge previously unknown cabinet card capturing the participating ballplayers on Albert Spalding's celebrated 1888/89 World Tour posing together on the Sphinx in Egypt. This is the first cabinet card of this image we have ever seen or heard of. The only other known period photos of this image, of which only a few have survived, are the large-format display photographs (10.5 x 14 inches) originating from the World Tour photo albums given to each participating player. Miraculously, this piece originates from a noncollector, who just recently discovered it among a collection of mostly family-related photos left to her by her grandmother. In the field of nineteenth-century baseball, this is a fascinating and noteworthy find. This photograph is the most celebrated image from the tour, and one of the finest and most famous of all nineteenth-century baseball photographs, having been reproduced in countless books and periodicals over the years. The caption, printed in white lettering in the lower left corner, reads " Spalding American Base Ball Party. Chicago vs. All America at the Sphinx. Feb. 9 1889. " A portion of the photographer's credit ("P. Se") appears faintly in the lower right. From our prior handling of the original album photo of this image (Lot 645 in Robert Edward Auctions May 2006 auction; final sales price of $19,720), we know that the photographer's name is "P. Sebah." (The offered cabinet photo shows a slightly different placement and size of the photographer's name than on its larger cousin, thereby resulting in the photographer's name being truncated.)
The 1888/89 World Tour was the idea of sporting-goods magnate Albert Spalding, who sought to introduce and popularize the American game of baseball to the four corners of the world. The Tourists, who were comprised of members of the Chicago White Stockings and an all-star group of players from both the National League and American Association, traveled to five different continents and visited fourteen different countries during their five-month journey. Among the notables who participated in the tour were Cap Anson, John Ward, George Wright, Ed Hanlon, Ned Williamson, George Van Haltren, and James Ryan. In World Tourist James Ryan's journal of the Tour, his entry for February 9, 1889, reads in part: Today is a gala day for us for a visit has been arranged to the Sphinx and Pyramids...We then had our photographs taken sitting upon the face and shoulders of the Sphinx and descending to the plain introduced the game of baseball to the Sheiks and children of Israel upon the desert sands of Egypt. Five innings satisfied us for the fine sand blowing into our eyes made them sore so we mounted our camels and donkeys and rode home to Cairo. This, of course, is the photograph to which Ryan refers.
The photo (3.875 x 5.25 inches) is slightly toned, but displays exceptional clarity. A moderate two-inch diagonal crease, extending from the center of the top border, affects both the mount and photograph. The mount has been trimmed along all four borders (the photo is unaffected) to its current dimensions (4 x 6 inches). Surface paper loss is evident on the reverse from its having once been mounted, and then subsequently removed from an album. Technically in Good condition due to the trim and crease; however, the photo displays at a much higher level and retains all of its visual appeal. This is an exceptional and possibly unique cabinet card from the most famous international tour in baseball history. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $8,813
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