Friday, July 25, 2008

1859 Harper's Weekly Woodcuts

This set was an ongoing set that started in 1859 and ran until 1891. These woodcuts predate the first cards by a decade. The example shown here is of the Cincinnati Red Stockings from 1869.

It's always interesting, to me, to find early examples of baseball cards from the mid-nineteenth century. We are all familiar with the tobacco cards from around the turn of the twentieth century because of current releases like Allen & Ginter and Old Judge.

It always brings a smile to my face to think that people were passionate enough about this sport, in its early days, to make images of their favorite teams and players. This was a time when printing these images was not the cheapest or easiest things to do.

Some cards in this set were tinted, which was a popular method of colorization at the time. One can find traces of this procedure in the early silent films of the twentieth century. Some were tinted to capture a mood more effectively. Some were hand painted to add a splash of color to a specific item.

There were at least 40 baseball related images during the run of this set. The cards were fund in the Harper's Weekly newspaper. Each card in the set differs in size. There was no standardization of size in those days. I'm guessing that whatever size they had to fill was what size they went with.

It's amazing to find such detail and clarity in a woodcut from 1869. The colors are still sharp and the lines are still clearly visible. I would love to come across one of these originals in person. I'm almost positive that a picture of the woodcut does not exhibit the same amount of justice that an in person viewing can achieve.


AlbuqwirkE said...

Very interesting! They certainly seem to be a thing that nobody in their right mind would have tossed, so I suspect there are some pretty nice collections of these somewhere.

Steve Gierman said...

I certainly hope so, but you know how some people were back then. If they didn't care for it, out it went. That's still true today to a degree. I know people who will just throw things out rather than actually look at what they have.

capewood said...

Isn't it remarkable that the uniforms are very similar to uniforms of today. Except perhaps for the hats. Are they wearing berets?

Was it printed on a separate sheet or card do you know? Or was it cur from a page in the magazine? There are probably Harper's Weekly magazines around from that time period. There are several listings on eBay for pages from around 1962 and forward. What would be really great is to find the woodcut itself, the thing they made the print from. It would be like getting a modern printing plate but way better.

ernest said...

These aren't actually cards. They were pages within Harpers Magazine that had wood-cut drawings printed on them. They are collected because of the great artwork of the wood-cuts. Oftentimes, they are cut out and framed.