Sunday, December 16, 2007

Important Early Baseball Find

My friend and colleague John Thorn writes about an important early baseball find in his blog. John is not only a gifted writer, but the leading authority on 19th century baseball, particularly in the era before the civil war. Several years ago, Thorn found written documentation of baseball being played in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1791. That was more than thirty years before the earliest known reference to the game, and the first solid evidence of baseball being played in the 18th century.

Recently, Thorn stumbled upon the item above in the catalog of Leland's auction house. The item was described as an invitation to a ball, but Thorn correctly surmised that it was actually a ticket. After pouring through newspaper archives, he was able to determine that it was for an event in February 1843. More significantly, it was an event for the New York Magnolia Ball Club, an organization that was unknown to modern historians. Even more significant than that, perhaps, this is the earliest known image of men playing baseball.