1928 Cavander’s Peeps Into Many Lands

Another Monday, another pre-war set. This time I’m looking at my 1928 Cavander’s Peeps Into Many Lands. This is the second series of at least three that Cavender’s released. It’s yet another set like the Wonders of the Past which serves as a way of seeing the world back in an age when international travel was something most people couldn’t conceive of.

I grabbed these a couple months ago but haven’t gotten around to making a post since this is more than just a set of tobacco cards. For one, they’re actual photographic prints instead of lithographs. Second, this is a set of 36 stereo photos across 72 cards. Yup. These were intended to be viewed in a small stereoviewer.

While I wasn’t going to scan everything like I did with my Viewmaster,* I wanted to do a few in 3D. I limited myself to only four stereo images for this post to give a sense of the effect. The 3D is cool. But the photos themselves work pretty well by themselves.

*Unlike the Viewmaster these are prints I can see without needing a special tool so there’s less reason for me to convert them into a more-viewable format.

There are roughly three kinds of images in the set. The first are scenic views of places. This set is for British customers and it’s clear in this case that “Many Lands” is short for “non-Europe.” So we’ve got small scenic images from around the world. Some depict nature but most are architecture of some sort.

These are very nice and give a window into different architectural styles around the world. I can’t help but laugh at the way they put the United States’ neoclassical buildings and elevated subways in the same conversation as various pagodas and temples. The USA cards look incredibly mundane to me now but their inclusion shows how different the American buildings looked to Europe at this time.

There are also a handful of animal images. While they purport to be images of wild animals it’s clear that these are all photos of animals in captivity. As with the scenic images though these take us back to an era when the world was bigger and something super-common like a Sea Lion is exotic because it doesn’t live in the Atlantic Ocean.

About half of the set though is photos of people in a very National Geographic Human Zoo sort of way. We’ve got lots of people, most of them with dark skin, most of them in some sort of non-Western clothing. It’s very telling that where the United States is represented with city scenes, the only people depicted from here are American Indians.

We’ve got busy street scenes from around Asia. Many of these are cool because of the street details and how you can get a larger sense of place from them. That quite a few show people around the subject who happen to be in Western clothing is also interesting and says a lot about what these photos focus on and how they emphasize differences.

We’ve also got a lot of scenes around Oceania which replace the street with more natural settings. Palm trees and other tropical foliage. Beaches and boats with unfamiliar riggings.

Between the Asian and Oceania images there are a decent number of photos that veer into the pretty girl territory. Some could even be pin-ups. I didn’t scan them but they’re there and combine with the rest of the tropes to remind me about how damaging photography’s gaze can be.

Do I like this set? I do. Very much. But it’s selling a very colonial gaze that I have to acknowledge. That it’s from 1928 helps here since I can view these as historical documents of how the world was sold to the English back when they used to run it. Photography is still young at this point and the world was still large.

Ninety years later I can look at these as examples of what we should have matured away from. That so often in modern photography we see the same kinds of images and experience the same kind of use which exoticizes the subjects and forces it into a western-framed concept of “authenticity” is the problem.

New Zeenuts

Another small pre-war card pickup from Anson. Unlike the previous Calcio Storico card this time it’s actually baseball cards. Not just any baseball cards either but Zeenuts. I have a soft spot for these due to finding a pair of 1917 ones at my grandmothers’ but they’re not that easy to find.

Both cards I got were of San Francisco Seals. It’s of course tempting to just grab any card but focus is key to collecting. Collecting the Seals makes sense since I already collect the Giants. There’s no searchlist or anything—the idea of collecting all Seals cards is ludicrous. Instead it’s an informal type collection that I’m content to add a card or two to when I encounter them.

This one is a 1928 card of Seals manager Nick Williams. It’s beat up in what I refer to as “Zeenut condition.”* A bit rough but enough photo details are still visible that you can make out his face and see the uniform details. That Seals logo in particular is one that I’ve loved ever since I first saw photos of baseball before the Giants came to town.

*I’ve proposed changing the grading scale to be less like coins and more like the Mohs scale. In this scale a 1 would be represented by the typical Zeenut condition of multiple creases, a bite out of a least one corner, and some paper loss. No idea why Zeenuts, more than any other card, seem to get beat up so badly.

1928 was a good year for the Seals. They won the PCL with one of the best Minor League teams of all time. I’m not sure how much Williams had to do with how good the teams was—it was clearly stacked with players like Hall of Famer Earl Averill. But the manager is the manager and traditionally gets a decent amount of credit.

Googling around suggests that Williams lost his position in 1931 after getting into a fight with the team trainer. Whether he quit or was fired appears to still be a point of contention. Needless to say things did not end nicely despite the on-field success.

The second Zeenut is in fact a 1931 card of catcher Pop Penebsky. Yes it appears that Zeenut misspelled his name. Penebsky is one of 5 catchers the Seals used that season as they won another PCL title. I can’t find out much more about Penebsky as a player though.

This is actually a very good condition Zeenut. The rip at the bottom is fine since it just means that the coupon got removed sloppily. There’s nothing else really wrong wit the card aside from the mistrim. Photo quality is very nice. You can make out the same cool Seals logo and see that the caps are Super-simple.

Anson also tossed in a bonus card to go with the pair of Zeenuts. This is from the 1922 Will’s Cigarettes Do You Know set and is a kind of gorgeous example of chromolithography. At first the idea of a “Blue Sky” card is kind of silly—plenty of jokes on Twitter about this being especially exotic for England—but flipping it over shows that it’s much cooler than that.

In this case the card is really why the sky is blue. This is a set designed to teach people things. Typical pre-war wonderfulness in embracing the educational potential of trading cards. Wills even ran four series of these so you can get a couple hundred mini lessons if you collect them all.

A couple pre-war pickups

I guess I’m going to just be blogging every week about pre-war card pickups. No set this time just a couple I’ve grabbed that I had my eye on for a while.

The first pickup is a 1909–11 Murad T51 Stanford card. Aside from being relevant to my collecting interests, I’ve especially liked that it features forestry as its sport and depicts on its artwork what looks like a giant redwood forest.

This is like 65 years before the Stanford Tree masco. The fact that it depicts what would become the school mascot takes it from being cool just because it’s old (only 25 years after the university’s founding) to sort of predicting the future.

Also the artwork itself is pretty nice with its gold border ink and sense of scale in the giant redwoods and tiny horsemen. We don’t see any of forest canopy we’re just among the tree trunks. Which really is how it feels to be in those forests in California.

The second pickup is from Anson over at Prewarcards. He was clearing out some excess and one of the cards in his clear out was this Origin of Football card from the 1923 Sarony Origin of Games set. I’ve loved this card ever since Anson showed it off on twitter not just because I’m a soccer fan but because it appears to show a form of Calcio Storico.

While the backs don’t mention anything about the Italian version of calcio, the fact that a version of the sport which looks very much like this card is still being played in Florence is something I just can’t ignore.

Anyway because Anson is a great member of the community and has also been super generous with me in the past,* I jumped on his sale and was very happy to receive his extra version of this card.

*Including the card of cards from the Sarony set.

Anson included a second card in the envelope too. This is from the 1925 Turf Cigarettes Sports Records set and depicts sprinting and its record times. That the card is a British issue means it shows the 100 yard time instead of 100 meters so I can’t compare it to a historical record progression.

It is however an interesting comparison to the 1939 Churchman’s card of Jesse Owens which lists a speed of 9.4 seconds for the 100 yards—.4 seconds faster than the record of 9.8 seconds depicted on the 1925 card (Owens’s 220 yard speed is .9 seconds faster).

Will’s Cigarettes Wonders of the Past

I guess I’m going to spend this Covid lockdown blogging about my pre-war sets. In many ways this feels wholly appropriate. Much of the joy of the pre-war stuff comes in the way it functions as a way of showing the world to people who are unable to travel. these sets aren’t just about sports, they cover everything.

One such set I acquired a couple months ago is the aptly-named 1926 Will’s Cigarettes Wonders of the Past. We’ll start of with the big names which need no introduction. Even when I was a kid over six decades later I learned about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Can I still name them all from memory? No. But I sure can recognize them when I see them.

I don’t have a lot to say about the subject matter so I’ll comment on the artwork and how lush it is. There’s also a lot of three-point perspective going on which gives everything an extra sense of massiveness. These cards may only be around two and a half inches tall but the way the art is drawn makes it clear how huge the subjects actually are and give a sense of what it must’ve been like to see them.

As a photographer who often tries to avoid three-point perspectives and keep my verticals vertical, it’s good to be reminded that that impulse is not always the correct one.

The backs of the cards are the standard Will’s backs I’ve seen on other issues. I love reading them though since they manage to pack a lot of information into a nice concise space. They also frequently have a bit of an editorial view such as on the Colossus card and how it explicitly corrects the misperception that the legs were on both sides of the harbor.

I didn’t rotate the two horizontal ancient wonders cards because those seven cards are sort of the least interesting cards in the set. While at first glance this set seemed like the kind of thing that feature only the obvious subjects and its name made me think that it was recreating wonders that are long-gone, in fact it’s doing something much more marvelous.

Aside from the seven wonders cards this set takes you on a tour of the world and its architectural and archeological highlights as of 1926. I’ll start off with four horizontal cards, three of which show sites in Asia.

These come much closer to substituting for travel as the sites are described both in their physical appearance as well as their history and usage. They’re “Wonders of the Past” because they were used in the past and remain fantastically impressive structures today.

I really love the worldwide breadth of this set. Yes there are still missing spots. The Maya stele is the only North American card.* Easter Island is as close as we get to South America.** And while Egypt has a bunch of cards there’s nothing from sub-saharan Africa.***

*No Chichen Itza or Tenochtitlan. No Mesa Verde.

**No Machu Picchu. 

***No Timbuktu or Djenné. 

As much as the “missing” subjects would look fantastic, it’s great to see so many cards from so many different Asian countries. Multiple cards from Japan, China, Jordan, India, Cambodia, Iran, and more really give the set a lot of life and variety.

There are a bunch of Greek/Roman and Egyptian cards too. I didn’t scan a bunch of those but I do love the Forum card with the birds and the way it’s lit with half the image in shadow. The Tutankhamen card meanwhile is super-topical since his Howard Carter had only opened his tomb three years earlier.

I appreciate that the backs continue to focus on the objects and not the westerners who discovered them. It would’ve been easy to make the back to the Tutankhamen be all about Carter. I also like how they offer information about similar structures and explain that many of these highlights are not one-off artifacts.

The other fun part of a set like this is getting cards of places I’ve actually been to. I haven’t travelled as much as I’d like but here are three cards which cover three of the places I saw when I was in Spain. The Aqueduct in Segovia even has a bunch of people enjoying themselves just like they were when I was there.

The Mezquita and Alhambra meanwhile are much more empty than I experienced. All three cards are fun to look at and remind me of my trip.

I especially love the Mezquita back and how it talks about “Christian defacements” in turning it into a cathedral. Truth be told, the way that building is so many different things and manages to wear its history as part of its very structure is my favorite thing about it.

Wow. I ended up scanning more cards for this set than I planned to. There’s so much variety though that I kind of had to. Is it my favorite pre-war set? No that’s still the Romance of the Heavens. But this is pretty close both in terms of its artwork and how it captures a point in time in the world’s understanding of itself.

1934 Garbaty Moderne Schonheitsgalerie

Sometimes you see something so cool you can’t help but buy them. As I’ve gone a bit down the Hollywood rabbit hole, I’ve found a lot of other poeple on card twitter are in the same boat as me. While we all are interested in baseball cards, there’s a similar allure to classic Hollywood.

This shouldn’t be too surprising. Baseball fans are nostalgic traditionalists who enjoy comparing athletes from a century ago to current players and believe that learning about the game should include a hefty dose of learning about the history of the game. So of course we treat other forms of entertainment the same way. Movies, like baseball, are one of those American™ things which comes with a ton of cultural history.

Anyway as I’ve was showing off my Hollywood cards, one of the guys on card twitter responded by showing off his collection of Garbaty cards.

Holy crap.

Garbaty is a German Cigarette manufacturer who, from 1934 to 1937, released three amazingly beautiful sets of cards. The sets all have the same look of lushly printed photos of actresses and other famous women of the 1930s but what really distinguishes them are the borders and extensive use of gold ink.

Anyway I was smitten and while I said I was basically done with pre-war Hollywood cards I occasionally type “garbaty” into my eBay searches just in case something stupidly affordable pops up. A month ago I got lucky and found a lot of a couple dozen of them for roughly a buck a card. I haven’t been so excited about an eBay purchase/shipment in a long time.

One of the problems with the Garbaty cards is that a lot of the actresses are not names we know anymore so it’s possible that a lot can be a bunch of “commons” of the same actress. This wouldn’t have been a huge deterrent at the price I was looking at but when I saw these two cards in the preview I knew I had to act fast.

When it comes to 1930s film stars there aren’t many bigger names than Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. The Dietrich in particular is all kinds of amazing between the portrait and the lush border. I’m not sure any of the other cards in the set can look better than this one.

All the cards I got are from Garbaty’s first release of 300 cards in 1934. These all have backs that define the set as Moderne Schonheitsgalerie (Modern Beauty Gallery) and it’s clear that Garbaty drew from all around the world for its checklist.

It’s a lot of fun to have a Lupe Velez card to represent a certain amount of non-European (plus United States) diversity* plus I enjoy having reminders of how vibrant Mexico’s film industry was during this time.

*While I don’t plan on getting more Garbatys I can see myself being tempted by Anna May Wong or Dolores Del Rio for similar reasons.

The highlight here though is the 16-year-old Rita Hayworth featuring her original name. She looked familiar and the name sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place who she was for a long time. Her being in this batch means that three of Madonna’s Vogue name checks were in there.

Two more. No star power this time (though Lil Dagover was apparently one of Hitler’s favorites) but I’m including these to give a sense for how varied and wonderful the borders of this set are. I only scanned half of the lot for this post but besides the Garbo and Dietrich, the others all have distinct border designs. Some are gold-focused. Others are colorful with gold accents. They look fantastic together in a 12-pocket page.

A handful of the cards feature pairs of stars. Many of these are in horizontal orientation so as to better frame the couple. The Garbo card pairing her with John Gilbert is a still from Queen Christina. A Garbo/Gilbert card is highly appropriate given how their supposed romance was a big deal for movie fans at the time.

Clark Gable and Joan Crawford meanwhile are a fantastic pair who appeared together in eight movies and also supposedly had some romance as well. Each actor represents 1930s Hollywood stardom by themselves but together they’re even more iconic. This appears to be a still from Chained and doubles as an example of why everyone used to smoke so much.

The Garbaty set has multiple cards per actress. Most of my batch was distinct names but there were a bunch of Brigitte Helm cards. I’ve only selected four of them here. I love how different each card is from the others. Different border. Different pose. Different hair. Even if it’s the same women these look very nice together on a page.

I’m glad that I have multiples of her too. She’s not a household name but she has one iconic role—in many ways the most iconic role of any of the actresses in the batch. Helm is famous for playing both Maria and the Maschinenmensch in Metropolis. She’s pictured here basically at the end of her career since she gave up films and fled the Nazis right around 1934.

Am I searching for more of these or looking to complete a set? God no. But my oh my do I like looking at them in the album.

Grey Areas (and Mission Creep part 2)

While I’m writing about mission creep I may as well cover my Stanford Project and how it’s creeping into never-ending project territory. This isn’t an explicit expansion of the scope of the project—it remains focused on Stanford alumni who played in the Majors—but rather a reflection of how much grey the borders have and how I’m pushing into that greyness.

I’ve mentioned some of this before. Bobby Brown and Bill Wakefield are both examples of how even something as tightly-defined as my base project description has some grey. Bobby Brown didn’t graduate from Stanford but did play for the baseball team. Bill Wakefield meanwhile is the opposite. He graduated from Stanford but went pro before he could play for the team.

I initially ruled Brown out but I’ve come to accept that I should be more inclusive in general with my binder. Something tightly is nice but I found myself enjoying the random out-of-spec cards that I had also included.

Minor league cards of guys who played in the majors but never got major league cards are less of a grey area but one which pushed me out of my Major League cards only initial concept. I felt it was better to be inclusive here as well and enjoyed the resulting variety.

This of course pushed me into finding assorted cheap signed cards of alumni who didn’t make it to the majors. I’m probably also on the look out for minor league cards of these guys as well now. Not in the sense of have to get them but it’s cards like these that give a bit of variety to the binder and remind me of players I watched when I was kid.

This also meant that I started to look into cards of baseball players who went on to play football and never got a baseball card. With these cards I’ve tried to get cards that mention their baseball playing on the backs. I’m also happy just getting a card to two of each player rather than mapping a career.

Nevers is an interesting case in this group since he does have some baseball cards (I actually have his Conlon card) but they’re mostly unattainable Zeenuts. And his only vintage football card is one that’s out of my price range but it’s one I like since it shows him with Stanford.

There are also cards of non-baseball alumni that show up in baseball sets. This is mostly an Allen & Ginter phenomenon but the Tom Watson First Pitch insert shows that things aren’t limited to that. I don’t feel the need to get both regular or mini versions here, it’s really just a function of what I find.

I do however like this sort of organic creep. These are all technically baseball cards still, just not of baseball players. (Yes Jessica Mendoza counts as baseball now due to her stint as an advisor for the Mets). I don’t claim to have everyone in Ginter either since I haven’t gone over the whole checklist or insert sets with a fine toothed comb.

The Ginter cards also take us into Olympian territory. While I don’t feel any desire to get cards of players in the NBA or NFL, I do find myself liking the cards of Stanford Olympians.

Stanford’s rich Olympics history has been especially fun to research since Guys like Pete Desjardins show up in sets from the 1930s and Bob Mathias is in sets from the 1950s. While there are a lot of 1980s and 1990s Olympic history sets, it’s great to be able to throw some old cards into the binder too.

In the old card theme, sometimes I just can’t pass one up. I love Exhibits so Jack Palance was an obvious addition. There have been a bunch of Presidents sets but I like this 1956 Topps Herbert Hoover as one of the earlier ones.

And the Sportscaster Hank Luisetti was a nice solution to the “what Sportscaster should I get” question I was stuck on. With an old or weird set, finding something that fits in the grey area of my collection interests is how I choose my example card.

With more-modern weird sets, this sometimes manifests itself as a “what the hell I’m already doing this project” acquisition. Again, not something I actively seek out but fun to grab as I come across them. The non-sports ones are ones I’m more likely to grab too since they represent an interesting category of people who I don’t always expect to find on trading cards.

And finally there are the regular sports cards that I’ve just come across. Some of these have shown up in trade packages. Others just in piles of cards I’ve had access to. Again not anything I’m searching for or intentionally expanding the scope of the project to include. But they’re all fun additions which make the binder more interesting.

Vandal PWE

This week brought another plain white envelope in my mail from Jason. This one was both pretty stiff and mysteriously marked with a big “open carefully” on the side. I did my usual thing and snipped an end off as if this were a policy envelope and was immediately very glad I did so.

Inside I found two super-thin, almost bible-paper quality that sticks together with static electricity, sheets of paper that had been cut out of a book. They’re in great condition but still feel incredibly fragile. Jason claims to have purchased a batch of clippings and denies being a book vandal so I had to do some research based on the back side of these.

The fronts are obviously John McGraw. On the left, a younger-looking McGraw in a starched, probably-detachable collar. On the right, McGraw as I’m used to seeing him as the Giants manager. In both cases his competitive nature is clearly visible despite the early halftone printing (which is actually very well done in gterms of keeping detail in both his dark suit and whte collar).

The backs suggest that the photo on the left is from 1911 (though I suspect it’s older than that) and the one on the right, 1913. In any case the backs are enough to date the book as being around 1914 or so.

Go I googled around and discovered that these are actually from two books. Or, well the same book but two different editions. The book in question is the Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide. The left page is from the 1912–1913 edition and I have pages 89 and 90. McGraw is actually on page 90 and so is technically on the back side of the sheet. The right page is from the 1914–1915 edition. I have pages 73 and 74 from this book and, being the same format, McGraw is again on the back of the sheet, this time occupying page 74.

I did not read the entire books but in flipping through to confirm I’d found the right ones I couldn’t help but notice that in each book the sheet before the McGraw sheet features a photo of the Giants president. 1912–13 depicts John T Brush, whose name remains on the only remaining part of the Polo Grounds, which was dedicated to him after his death in 1912. 1914–15 depicts the new president H.N. Hempstead.

Jason also included two cards in the envelope. Two very similar poses and lots of color but the similarities mostly stop there. The Stanley Hack is a 1935 National Chicle Diamond Stars card. I’ve long admired this set with its carefully drawn portraits placed in front of colorfully abstract backgrounds. The three Giants legends in it (Terry, Ott, and Hubbell) are on the top of my list of cards I’d love to get but never will.

This Hack has a nasty crease across the middle but presents really nicely since the crease never actually breaks the surface of the paper. It’s now one of only a half dozen baseball cards I have from before 1940* and is the only one with super-vibrant color.

I thought at first that Jason had gotten the wrong end of the stick when I mentioned that I was looking for a 1955 Doubleheader of Hack and Jack Shepard but it turns out that he’d just noticed me expressing my admiration for Diamond Stars and rueing the fact that I’d probably never acquire one.*

*I’m pretty much incapable of buying a card of a player who’s not a specific collection or team interest of mine.

The other card is a 1975/1976 SSPC Frank Robinson card. This one is notable because it’s the first card of an African American manager. Topps at this time was not releasing manager-specific cards so it’s a very good thing TCMA/SSPC’s wildcat release was around to commemorate the historic first season in cardboard form.

Thanks Jason! A small envelope but a good one. Always fun to be forced to do a bit of research to figure out what something is too.

1934 Player’s Cigarettes Hints On Association Football

Digging into my backlog of pre-war sets to write about. Might as well start off with some soccer to fill the some of the hole that’s resulted from cancelling sports worldwide.

These are from the 1934 Player’s Cigarettes Hints on Association Football set. They have very similar artwork to my 1928 cards but depict generic footballers instead of specific people. As a result this set is super cheap since it’s not about the players but is instead a more thematic checklist.

Since thematic checklists are something that I love about pre-war cards* I was not deterred by the absence of any real players. Plus as a soccer fan I love just seeing the artwork and reading the backs as a way of learning how the game looked and how it was played 85 years ago.

*The Romance of the Heavens set is a perfect example of this kind of thing.

Many of the cards feature routine actions that soccer players are expected to be able to make. Kicking, tackling, saving. etc. In many cases, such as not kicking with your toes, the advice is as valid today as it was back then. In other cases such as not knowing how a ball swerves, it’s clear how far the modern game has come.

Most of the cards are vertical but there are a handful of horizontal ones. I especially like the horizontal artwork since it offers both a wonderful depth of focus in the composition and the player’s-eye perspective of the field is fantastic.

The “‘W’ Formation” card is particularly awesome because it captures the specific moment in soccer strategy where the W-M formation was taking over England.

Flipping those cards over shows that three of them describe still-relevant tactics. The card describing the outside forward cutting in feels like it could still be describing the modern inverted winger. As someone who came of age with inverted wingers being described as a modern development to the game, I love seeing the idea described in the 1930s as just regular tactics.

The “‘W’ Formation” card meanwhile continues to be super-interesting since it describes the development of the “M” component of the formation in the centre half dropping back into the middle of a three-man defensive line. I grew up with 4-4-2 as the default formation everywhere and while I’ve learned about the evolution of tactics and formations, I also haven’t ever seen a primary source like this which describes an earlier standard.

Some more cards I just love. The goalkeeper’s cap is awesome. “When not to shoot” makes me laugh since it’s probably the most-relevant card for any youth coach. The kickoff card though is a great follow-up to the W formation one since it shows the five-man forward line before the two inner forwards drop back behind the center forwards and the wingers.

Also, with the modern game* allowing you to pass the ball backwards immediately from the kickoff, seeing three men in the circle instead of only one (or the two I grew up with) is also a huge change in how the game actually looks.

*As of 2016!

On the backs of these cards, I love that letting the ball run is presented as a specifically-Scottish strategy but it’s the goal kick description that really jumps out a me. Most of the cards describe what usually happens in a game and, by extension, what players should learn to do. The goal kick card though suggests strategy despite it not occurring regularly in games.

Rather than kicking it long the card suggests that keeping possession and passing it shorter to a teammate might be a better course of action than the standard procedure. As a Barcelona fan who believes that teams should keep possession and try and play out the back, this makes me very happy .

Some more tactics cards which show that the game is still very much the same as it was then. All of these are about passing or seeing the potential of space where a play might develop. There’s something especially wonderful about the empty green field that these cards suggest which reminds me of the abstraction in Richard Swarbrick’s Gareth Bale animation a decade ago.

There’s a lot more field out beyond the edges. These cards suggest the promise of that empty space and the potential to just run into it. It’s that space and the collective gasp by the crowd when a perfect ball is played into it which is what captures a soccer fan’s imagination.

I’m intrigued that the passback card doesn’t mention the goalie picking up the ball. In many ways this description, while a bit more conservative than the modern game, suggests that the pass backs were originally much closer to the way we use them now than they were in those dire years when you could just kill time passing back and forth to the goalie.

I also need to point out how the triangular movement card mentions the change to the offsides law. In 1925 the law was changed to reduce the number of defenders between an attacker and the goal line from three to two. I’m not sure why this would make certain plays harder unless perhaps this card represents a tactic that’s re-developing after defenses had adjusted to playing a newer offside trap.

The rest of the cards are similarly cool with great artwork and colors. It’s a great set and a lot of fun page through and read.

1938 Churchman’s Boxing Personalities

After my post last week about some Hollywood Exhibit cards I figured I should go back and post about an other set of cards I got last year. The 1938 Churchman’s Cigarettes Boxing Personalities set is another one I acquired after falling down the pre-war rabbit hole. I’m not a boxing guy but I also recognize how important it was to American pop culture over most of the last century.

For a set of 50 guys* who were active over 75 years ago in a sport I’ve never really followed, I recognized a lot of the names. Some of them have had movies made about them. Others are truly legends of pop culture which hearken back to an age when boxing in general and the heavyweight title in particular was of national interest.

*Actually 39 since the last 11 cards are of referees and promoters.

Having Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey cards are very cool. My favorite card in the set though is the Joe Louis card because this is a 1938 set so it represents the year that Louis won and solidified his Heavyweight Championship.

I also really like that these are photos. While I love the artwork on a lot of pre-war cards, it’s always nice to be able to see real photographic images of these legends.

The backs of these are great in that they mention each fighter’s key matches and titles won. The Louis and Schmeling cards are especially noteworthy since they show that this set came out late enough in 1938 to mention the results of their fight in June.

While that fight isn’t what won Louis the title, the implications of it beyond boxing put this Louis card in a similar category as my Jesse Owens card as cards that are much much more than just sports. They don’t just involve race relations in the United States, they also touch on World War 2 and stick their thumb in the eye of Nazis and white supremacy.

Romance of the Heavens

It’s easy to get sucked into pre-war British tobacco cards. There are tons of sets out there and they’re all mostly affordable. As much as I call this a rabbit hole I’ve been very careful in only buying things that are both cheap and especially interesting to me. What this means though is while I try to avoid making “look what I bought” posts,* my pre-war purchases invariably break this rule because they’re so cool I want to post about them.

*Though I did just do one over on SABR.

The latest addition is a set of 1928 Will’s Cigarettes Romance of the Heavens. I don’t even know where I saw these first but I was floored by how beautiful the cards looked. This isn’t just chromolithography, it’s chromolithography at its best with deep saturated colors and fine details.

Just look at these. Most of the set is dominated by yellows and oranges set against the deep blue black skies. The content ranges from depicting celestial objects to explaining phenomena such as the tides and how the moon was formed.

I especially love the “Earth as Seen from Moon” card since it predates Earthrise by 40 years but still knows how awesome and fragile the blue marble view is. I also like how a zeppelin is used to provide some depth to the image. I grew up with the Goodyear Blimp but that was limited to sporting events and not something that was just seen overhead.

Where this set really sings though are in the horizontal cards. Over half the set is like this and the almost-panoramic proportions lend themselves to incredibly dramatic compositions.  Halley’s Comet* is the first card in the set and each successive image tries to better it.

*Which last appeared in 1910 so its presence here suggests that interest in the comet survived for a long time.

Jupiter from an unknown, imagined, moon’s surface is straight out of Star Wars. Aurora Borealis* is a splash of red that really pops compared to the cards around it. And the gaping black eclipsed sun gives a surprisingly good impression of what it’s like to see one live.

*At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within this set!?

The backs look like the rest of the Wills backs I have but I enjoy reading them since I can compare to what I’ve learned about these things. Unlike athletes and celebrities, every subject in the set is one that my kids are still being taught about and that’s pretty cool in and of itself too.