See all Images | Search Collection:

"America's National Game:" The Albert G. Spalding Collection of Early Baseball Photographs

Over 500 photographs, prints, drawings, caricatures, and printed illustrations from the personal collection of materials related to baseball and other sports gathered by the early baseball player and sporting-goods tycoon A. G. Spalding. This collection includes 19th-century studio portraits of players and teams of the day, rare images, photographs, and original drawings.

Collection Contents  |  Related Subjects

C. Gross & Co. Dan Casey, Charlie Bastian and trainer. Albumen cabinet card photograph. Digital ID: 55688 C. Gross & Co. Dan Casey, Charlie Bastian and trainer. Albumen cabinet card photograph. Digital ID: 55688

Collection History

The personal collection of materials related to baseball and other sports gathered by the early baseball player and sporting-goods tycoon A.G. Spalding came to the Library in 1921 as a gift from his widow. During his lifetime, Spalding acquired the libraries of early Cincinnati Red Stockings center fielder Harry Wright and the early baseball journalist and inventor of the box score Henry Chadwick, two other notable figures in the history of baseball, and incorporated their materials with his own. The entire collection consists of more than 3,000 books and pamphlets; over 100 periodicals; numerous scrapbooks, scorebooks, and diaries; and other manuscript items that document the development of the sport from the mid-19th century to about 1914.

The Spalding Collection's visual materials (which make up this digital collection) consist mostly of photographs, primarily 19th-century studio portraits of players and teams of the day, plus Spalding himself and his associates, as well as several outdoor and action shots. The collection also includes rare images of "Town Ball" and "Old Cat," two types of stick and ball games that were Americanized variants of the English game of "Rounders," and are considered to be earlier versions of the game that eventually evolved into baseball. In addition to photographs, the visual materials in this digital collection include 30 original drawings (17 by the cartoonist and caricaturist Homer D. Davenport).

Background

Albert Goodwill Spalding (1850-1915) was a major figure in the early history of baseball. A star player for the Boston franchise in the National Association, he left in 1876 to join the Chicago White-Stockings, later known as the Cubs, in the newly formed National League. He was the team's leading pitcher, team captain, and manager. After his career on the field ended, he later became team president.

The charismatic Spalding also achieved fame as a publisher, an entrepreneur, and a promoter of the game of baseball. Spalding's Official Baseball Guide was an annual publication that contained league rules, records, and other information, as well as Spalding's own views on the game. After establishing his famous sporting goods company, he became involved with the manufacture and sale of all manner of baseball goods and sports equipment, including the supplying of the official game balls used for play in the National League.

Related Resources

Bartlett, Arthur Charles. Baseball and Mr. Spalding; The History and Romance of Baseball (c1951)

Levine, Peter. A.G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball: The Promise of American Sport (1985)

Spalding, A.G. America's National Game (1911)

Library Division(s)

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the vast collections of The New York Public Library, including drawings, illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.