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This is an extremely significant 1871 "Eagle Base Ball Club" advertising broadside that boasts incredible 28" x 42" dimensions. From an antique standpoint, in general, broadsides of this size are exceedingly rare. Its measurements would have demanded a press that was built to a grand scale—much larger than was typically available during the era—indicating that this extraordinary piece could only have been printed in a major city ... on a very big press! In terms of print sophistication, too, the item's extensive graphics are far superior to virtually all others seen from this period.
Driven by the pioneering efforts of Alexander Cartwright, Henry Chadwick and Daniel "Doc" Adams, organized baseball—with its evolving rules and structure—had begun to take a foothold in American culture by the mid-19th Century. The hub of this genesis was New York City, where the earliest established clubs such as the Knickerbockers and the New York Base Ball Club reigned as the flagship organizations beginning in the 1840s. In 1848, "Doc" Adams, as Knickerbocker president, headed a committee to revise the Constitution and By-Laws with Alexander Cartwright serving under him. This vital interest in the refinement of the rules of the game coincided directly with the formation of additional clubs, beginning with the Washington Base Ball Club in 1850, and the Eagle Club. Originally organized to play town ball in 1840, the Eagle Club later reconstituted itself as the Eagle Base Ball Club in 1853. The rules for playing baseball remained very crude up to this time but, in 1853, the Knickerbockers, WBBC, and the Eagle Base Ball Club united in a revision of the rules and regulations. By the close of 1856, nine more clubs were formed, and it was decided to hold a convention of delegates from all twelve clubs for the purpose of establishing a permanent code of rules by which all should be governed. A call was issued, signed by the officers of the Knickerbockers Club as the senior organization, and the result was the first convention of base ball players in May 1857. "Doc" Adams was elected presiding officer. Among the ratifications determined at this meeting was that the winner of a base ball game was defined as the team with the highest score at the conclusion of nine innings, rather than the first team to score twenty-one runs. In March of the following year, the second convention was held, and at this meeting the annual convention was declared a permanent organization, and with the requisite constitution and by-laws became the "National Association of [Base] Ball Players."
This is one of the most visually impressive and historically important 19th Century advertising pieces that has ever emerged to the view of the collecting industry. Representing one of the first New York clubs, the 1871 broadside poster celebrates the 18th Anniversary of the Eagle Base Ball Club. The delicate paper display piece features a printed proclamation, "E.B.B.C. 18th Anniversary of Eagle Base Ball Club," around a large, exquisitely engraved scene of a game in progress. Event details presented include the location, "Landman's Hamilton Park at 69th St. & Third Ave.," and the date "Friday, August 25, '71," along with details regarding a Dance that was scheduled to follow the game. The printer of the poster is identified at the bottom as "Palmer & Corse, Printers, No. 80 Vesey Street NY." A "Committee of Arrangements" at the bottom lists several dozen names of individuals involved in the organization of the event, including Eagle Base Ball Club treasurer Henry M. Bellows. This poster was originally obtained by the descendents of Henry Bellows, who preserved it for the better part of 140 years.
The presentation quality of the piece is truly remarkable in consideration of its age, fragile composition, and intended purpose. The printing and artwork remain vibrant, and the aesthetic integrity of the poster is uncompromised. Expert professional linen-backing has succeeded in sealing a "C"-shaped tear just below dead center as well as a handful of other small tears/separations either located around the perimeter or along the 4 original fold lines. (All of which—three running horizontally, one vertically—remain barely perceptible now due to the linen-backing process.) There is also occasional and insignificant light foxing. Yet the showpiece's superior display quality can hardly be described as less than apparent Near Mint, and it boasts a miraculously bright white surface with dramatically dark print graphics. Its dimensions, subject matter and print quality are nothing less than phenomenal, and make for an "in person" viewing experience that can't be conveyed with a sample illustration or online image. Here's a peerless example of 19th Century baseball advertising, the magnitude of which has not previously been seen in the marketplace. Housed in a fittingly distinguished, matted-and-framed presentation measuring 38" x 52" in total dimensions.