Description1870 Rockford Forest City's Team Cabinet Photograph with Albert Spalding. Astonishing early find is a dream come true for collectors concentrating on the game's seminal artifacts, as few predate this extraordinarily rare photographic study of one of the sport's first professional squads. Though the Rockford Forest City's operated in 1870 as an amateur team, it has been well established that salaries were paid for top talent even before the move to the National Association in 1871, when the club was able to lure the rookie Adrian "Cap" Anson to its roster for what would prove to be the farewell campaign for Rockford, which then folded in bankruptcy.
Here we find the Forest City's in their third of four years in existence, ten players appearing in individual oval portrait vignettes on photographic paper affixed to a cardboard mount. Immediately drawing the eye is the gentleman second from the top at the center of the display, pioneering Baseball Hall of Famer Albert Spalding, whose name remains a household word to this day through the powerful sporting goods company he founded six years after this piece was produced. Also present is fellow Rockford star Ross Barnes, the three-time batting champion and owner of the distinction as the National League's first home run hitter on May 2, 1876.
The images are contained within a larger oval shape with "1870 Forest City's" and the players' names infused within the photographic print. Handwritten identifiers beneath each image recall the fielding positions, and "Rockford ILL" is penned at the bottom of the 6.5 x 9" mount. Further handwriting appears on mount verso and some moisture staining is apparent on both sides, mercifully remaining clear of the photographic portraits. As such, it provides little distraction. Expected edge and corner wear to the mount remains clear of the photograph itself.
At fourteen decades old, the image supplies one of the earliest views extant of professional baseball's genesis, and survives as one of just a tiny handful of period photos of Spalding as a player, and likely the oldest. The embodiment of such popular hobby terms of "rare" and "important."
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