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The 1862 Knickerbockers Reunion Team Photograph

  • Sold For: $58,750
  • Year: 1862
  • Auction: 2008 spring
  • Lot #: 1151
  • Auction Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

Original artist-enhanced solar-enlarged salt print display photograph taken in December 1862. Pictured is literally an All-Star team of the great early Knickerbockers, all key members of the club from 1845 to 1850. This is one of the most important baseball photographs in existence, as it is one of only three photographs known that can lay claim in any way to being a team photo of the Knickerbockers (the others being the famous circa 1848 daguerreotype picturing six players, and the 1859 on-the-field photograph, which is from a later era), and represents the only known images of many of the early Knickerbockers players. The style of photograph, a solar-enlarged salt print, is a very rare and expensive early photographic process that allows for the production of a large-format print intended for display. The photograph has been enhanced by the photographer/artist to remedy the loss of detail from the enlargement process. This is one of only several sports-related salt print photographs of any type known to exist, and the only Knickerbockers photograph featuring so many members from this important team. These pioneers are universally recognized as one of the original developers of modern baseball, and are universally credited with formally adopting and publishing the earliest rules of the game. The Knickerbockers are widely recognized as the first baseball team, and played in the first recorded organized matches with other clubs. This recently discovered photograph is a true museum piece worthy of the Hall of Fame. As the only image of the original Knickerbockers of its type, we believe it will forever hereafter be used in books and historical journals as one of the few surviving photographs of the Knickerbockers. The identification of players is as follows:Left to right standing: 1. Duncan Curry; 2. Walter T. Avery; 3. Henry T. (Tiebout) Anthony; 4. Charles H. Birney; 5. William H. Tucker. Seated: 6. Charles Schuyler DeBost; 7. Daniel Lucius "Doc" Adams; 8. James W. Davis; 9. Ebenezer R. Dupignac, Jr.; 10. Fraley C. Niebuhr. Here is the story of the discovery of this extraordinary photograph: On Sunday, October 30, 2007, we received a call that for us will always be remembered as one of the most remarkable ever fielded at REA. It was from a gentleman who had just bought and moved into an old house in East Moriches, New York. In addition to the house, on the property was a second small structure that he referred to as a "cottage." It was very old and didn't have any running water, but came with the property. The previous day he was checking out the cottage, when he happened to notice that it had an attic that was only accessible from the outside. So he got a ladder and went up to check it out. Inside he found all kinds of items, mostly junk, stored there long ago by a previous resident, a Mr. Walter T. Avery, and based on what he could tell from looking over the items, and doing some quick research, it appeared that Mr. Avery had been a member of the original New York Knickerbockers in 1846. This, indeed, was the case. In fact, Walter T. Avery played for the Knickerbockers in the very first baseball game between two different teams on June 19, 1846, at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken. The idea of being called with items from the old home of an original Knickerbocker from 1846 sounded preposterous! It was simply too good to be true. To some extent it was too good to be true right off the bat, as we were told that the only item which was baseball related was a framed photograph of some Knickerbocker team members. But even a single team photograph of the Knickerbockers would be an incredible find. The following day the owner and his wife brought the framed photograph, along with various miscellaneous paper items and correspondences relating to Walter Avery, to our offices. What they had was truly remarkable. The photograph, still housed in its original frame measuring 22 x 27 inches, is an original large format salt print display photo taken in December 1862. Pictured (with all players identified on the reverse) is literally an all-star team of great early Knickerbockers, all key members of the club from 1845 to 1850. (Note: The Knickerbockers were formed in 1845.) When this photograph was taken, most but not all of these players were past their playing days. This is truly a photograph of the "Old Guard" of the original New York Knickerbockers: the earliest, most respected, and most important members of the team that were able to pose for this momentous occasion, including Knickerbocker legends such as Doc Adams and Duncan Curry. Perhaps most incredible of all is the fact that this photograph includes the only known images of some of the most important early Knickerbockers. Renowned baseball historian John Thorn has suggested that this photograph may have been taken in honor of Knickerbockers president Doc Adams' departure from the club. Late in 1862 the recently married Adams announced his plans to leave the Knickerbockers, to move to New York and eventually to Connecticut, to devote his time to his marriage and medical practice. This is, in fact, exactly what he did. It is very likely that this historic assemblage of early original Knickerbockers was gathered to pay tribute to founding member Doc Adams, and that the photograph (a very rare artist-enhanced solar-enlarged salt print) was taken to create a special keepsake for Adams and the other key early team members pictured. We will never know with certainty, but that is a very likely explanation for this historic gathering, and the production of this very expensively -produced photographic display. Two important Knick founders, William R. Wheaten and Alexander Cartwright, were not present in the photo because in 1862 Wheaten lived in San Francisco and Cartwright lived in Hawaii, thus understandably accounting for their absence. One last additional fascinating note: There is an extremely strong connection between firemen and the earliest baseball teams. Most early social clubs were extensions of each neighborhood or town's local fire company and the New York Knickerbockers were no exception. The early connection between fire companies and baseball, in fact, is the reason early baseball uniforms were designed in the style of fire uniforms, often displaying a shield design on the front of the jersey, and utilizing fire uniform belts. We mention this because of what we think is an amazing and most appropriate coincidence regarding the Knickerbockers photo discovery: The gentleman who found this photograph could have been of any profession, but, incredibly, he is a fireman. The photograph (12 x 17 inches) is housed in its original matting and frame with original glass. The photograph has perfect contrast. It is in essentially flawless Near Mint condition. The dimensions of the original frame are 22 x 27 inches. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $58,750.00

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