A surprise from @prewarcards

While my GiantsNOW has been my main customs card project, this past year has seen it morph into a GiantsTOTAL sort of thing* while my customs-making has expanded into new areas. It’s a fun exercise and I figured it would be especially fun to make cards for various Twitter friends. I don’t have a lot of trade bait so I figured that in addition to blogging, sending out a couple customs of favorite players would be a fun way to say thank you.

Anson over a @prewarcards is one such friend. He got sucked into two collecting black holes this past year. One is Dwight Gooden cards, the other are Ogden’s Cigarettes cards. I figured it would be fun to mash the two together so I created an Ogden’s Dwight Gooden card and sent it off in a plain white envelope.

*Just 70 cards of the guys who appeared for the team plus coaches.

I was not expecting my Cardsaver to be returned to me. I was especially not expecting it to be stuffed with a bunch of pre-war cards including a dozen real Ogdens. But it was and holy moly I can see how Anson got sucked into these. It’s not just that these are not my oldest cards—dating to 1901–1902 and passing up my Liebig set—there’s just something amazing about the variety. In this batch we’ve got sports, artists, actors, comedians, world leaders, and damaged warships.

Starting with the sports cards, we have a card of E.E.B. May who was a champion weight (shot) putter in England in 1901. Googling around pulls up some references to him competing in the hammer throw in  the US in 1902 and losing to a Harvard thrower. This card is especially interesting since it’s an action photo of a 1901 event.

Next we have a card of swimmer James Finney posing with all his medals. It’s noteworthy here that Finney’s accomplishments aren’t speed-based accomplishments but rather have to do with being able to swim the furthest underwater.

And finally we have an equestrian card of the winners of the Queens Prize at Kempton Park. Kempton Park is still a working racecourse but the website doesn’t mention the Queens Prize handicap. As for the jockey, it appears that his name is listed incorrectly on the front of the card.

The last card is of Vesta Tilley who has a wonderful Wikipedia writeup about her highly successful career as a male impersonator on stage. By the time this card was printed in 1901 she appears to have been a bona fide star for at least a decade. This may have been a pack hit back in the day.

Continuing on the performers theme, Sir Henry Irving was the first actor to be knighted and is noteworthy for being the inspiration for Count Dracula. This card came out right around the end of his management of the Lyceum Theatre and only a couple years before his death.

The card of Lily Brayton on the other hand captures her at the beginning of her career yet she’s already playing important roles like Viola in Twelfth Night.

R.G. Knowles doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry but appears to be a music hall comedian who billed himself as “The Peculiar American.” More intriguingly, googling around for “Richard George Knowles” turns up an 1896 book about American Baseball. At first I wasn’t sure if it was authored by the same guy but there’s a photo of him on page 65 and it looks awfully close to man in the Ogden’s card.

Rather than being just a musician card we’ve got a baseball writer. I’ve skimmed the book and enjoy a lot of it. The familiarity of explaining the appeal of the game (no draws, for thinking men) is great. I love the detailed instructions about how to lay out a baseball field through specifically knotted lengths of heavy cord. It’s fun to read rules written for an audience familiar with cricket.

The section on how to keep score is especially interesting since it’s not a method I’ve seen used before (also shortstop is position #5 and third base is #6) and there’s something about seeing different methods of keeping score that I particularly love.

Much of the rest of book is dedicated to describing the nature of baseball in England at the end of the 19th century. I did not skim this part except to note that the five teams appear to be vocational guilds and that one of the competitions was called the Music Hall Review Cup as well as an RG Knowles Trophy which went to the London champion.

Compared to Knowles, Gus Elen is merely a music hall performer. But he had a long career and made it into the age of sound in movies. As a result we can see him singing some his cockney songs on YouTube and really appreciate the way he performed.

Moving to politics. Mutsuhito now known as Emperor Meiji is probably the coolest card Anson sent me. The back text is a huge understatement for what happened to Japan during his era, although since this card predates the war with Russia the West wasn’t fully aware of what Japan had become yet either.

It’s cards like this that are why I collect. We know of him as Meiji and his era transformed almost everything about Japan.Having a card that dates from his era (even if it’s not a Japanese card) is a way of touching that history.

Baron Curzon eventually became the First Marquess Curzon of Kedleston. While he was Vicerory there was a massive famine in India. His “beautiful American” wife was Mary Leiter, daughter of one of the founders of Marshall Field’s who’s probably more relevant today as being part of the inspiration for Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey. Curzon’s hand meanwhile can still be seen on modern maps because the Curzon line he drew in 1919 to mark the border between Poland and the USSR is basically what Poland’s border with Belarus and Ukraine is today.

The HMS Salmon and HMS Dragon are two torpedo destroyers. Neither appears to have been destroyed by the results of what happened in the cards here and both made it to World War 1, during which they reached the end of their utility. It’s an interesting idea to have a set of cards depicting damaged vessels. It does make for more interesting stories but I also wonder if it’s also a bit of the tabloid “if it bleeds it leads” thing too.

All together this Ogdens batch is absolutely wonderful. I’ve seen cheap singles available but they’re kind of overwhelming. I love the variety and way each card is a potential rabbit hole into learning about the past.

General interest sets like this no longer exist. I don’t think it’s really even possible for them to exist now. We like our sets to be much more focused (something I completely understand) but seeing the potential for other directions the hobby could have gone 120 years ago is still enough to make me think about who would be in such a set today.

The dozen Ogdens would’ve been more than enough for a blogpost but they weren‘t the only cards in the envelope. Anson also included two 1932 Sanellas. These German cards are pretty big and printed on paper so thin it’s had to call them cards at all. But the size is otherwise correct and the artwork is all kinds of wonderful.

The shotputter is dynamically posed in the frame with a crisp and clear depiction of the Olympics badge on his uniform. The design of the badge also suggests USA to me. The crew image meanwhile is a nice tight crop and composition with the boat moving through the frame at an interesting angle and the oars balancing out the negative space perfectly.

The backs detail that both of these are from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. The shotputter is indeed American and is in fact gold-medal-winner Leo Sexton who won with a throw of 16 meters. The crew are the Gold-Medal-winning German Coxed Fours team. Every Sanella checklist lists them as Der Bierer des Berliner but the five men are Hans Eller, Horst Hoeck, Walter Meyer, Joachim Spremberg, and coxswain Carlheinz Neumann.

As I noted in a previous post, one of my favorite things about these cards is the Fraktur Blackletter writing and the way that these cards remind me of the Antiqua–Fraktur dispute.

I also found two soccer cards. George Mutch is from the 1935 Wills Association Footballers set. I already wrote a little about him so the only thing I’ll add here is that as much as I like these old soccer sets it’s always especially nice when they feature a team like Manchester United which is still in the top flight.

The Willie Hall is from the 1939 Wills Association Footballers set and shows a lot more uniform detail. The popped collar is a great way of doing the portrait and it’s pretty neat to see the much fatter cockerel in the Spurs badge. That bird loses weight the longer it balances on the ball.

This card makes a nice pair with the Stanley Matthews card Anson sent me last year as well. Hall’s bio is also kind of interesting  and he seems to very much still be somewhat of a local hero as the teams in Newark, his home town, still compete for the Willie Hall Memorial Trophy.

Moving to the last two cards. The first is from the 1923 Sarony Origin of Games set and is a card that is literally of cards. Am I a sucker for stupid things like this? Yes I am.

Beyond that though this card is the only one of the batch which isn’t printed via halftones. The colors are super vibrant and the artwork takes advantage of this perfectly. Anson has shown a few other samples from this set. The Rounders card is pretty neat for all of us Baseball guys but I love the Football card since it looks like it’s showing some sort of Calcio Storico.

The last card in the envelope was a Don Bradman from the 1935 Gallaher Champions set. I have the 1934 set and it’s beautiful. I’ve been considering getting the 1935 one but aside from Bradman (and Stanford graduate Pete Desjardins) the set just didn’t look as nice to me.

Bradman though is a great card to have and this card shows him doing what he does best. His excellence at batting is so far better than any other cricketers’ that it looks like a mistake. He also makes a nice partner to the Larwood and Jardine cards who inspired me to pick up the 1934 set to begin with.

Anyway, wow. This was a hell of a surprise and a ton of fun to go through. Thanks Anson!

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

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