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Historic Baseball Cards

October 20, 2008

With the World Series getting underway later this week, this entry highlights the DRT Library’s collection of early twentieth-century baseball cards. (Caitlin, the library’s archivist, was particularly excited about the cards for her hometown teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns. Reference Librarian Stephanie was enthusiastic about cards relating to teams from Boston, where she lived for eight years.) An unknown person compiled and pasted almost all of the cards into a scrapbook. Also, while the majority of the cards feature baseball players, one page in the scrapbook contains cards for boxers like Jack Johnson and Jim Corbett.

Examples of cigarette and tobacco advertisements on the back of baseball cards.

Examples of cigarette and tobacco advertisements on the back of baseball cards.

Almost three hundred baseball cards in the collection are T206 White Border cards, which were produced by the American Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911. Measuring 1-7/16” by 2-5/8”, the baseball cards fit perfectly into packs of cigarettes and tobacco and were therefore used as promotions for these products. The front of each card includes a color lithograph image of the player surrounded by a white border; the player’s name and team are listed at the bottom. The back of each card contains an advertisement for one of the fourteen brands of cigarettes or two brands of tobacco owned by the American Tobacco Company. The set of T206 cards includes 389 major league players and 134 minor league players; however, there are thousands of variations of cards, as the same player could be featured in different uniforms and poses and with a different product advertised on the card’s back.

One page of T206 White Border cards.

One page of T206 White Border cards.

The DRT Library’s collection of T206 baseball cards includes players from all of the “Classic Eight” National League teams: Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. Four of these cities (Boston, Chicago, New York, and St. Louis) also had American League teams, and their players are represented in the collection. There are also cards for players on the American League teams in Washington D. C., Cleveland, and Detroit. (It might be noted here that before Major League Baseball’s expansion in the 1960s, St. Louis had the westernmost and southernmost team in the United States.) Furthermore, the DRT Library’s collection includes cards for minor league players on teams from Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama; Rochester, New York; Jersey City, New Jersey; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; and Kansas City, Missouri. Finally, while many of the baseball cards are for players who are not well-known today, the collection does include cards for famous Hall of Famers like Ty Cobb; Cy Young; and Chicago Cubs players Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance.

Cutouts of players and circular baseball cards.

Cutouts of players and circular baseball cards.

In addition to the T206 cards, the scrapbook contains other interesting baseball cards and ephemera from the early twentieth century. Several pages contain cardboard cutouts of players that could stand independently, allowing children to recreate games between their favorite teams (see above). The scrapbook also includes fifty-six round cards with black-and-white images of players (see above). One page contains twenty-eight cards with red borders; preliminary research indicates that the players featured on these cards played in the Texas League.

Texas League baseball players.

Texas League baseball players.

To learn more about early baseball cards, see the Library of Congress’s online collection, “Baseball Cards, 1887-1914,” and the Old Cardboard website,

Update, April 2011

Caitlin Donnelly, DRT Library archivist, has recently conducted more extensive research into the baseball cards in the DRT Library’s collection. Definitively determining each card’s American Card Catalog (ACC) number is difficult without seeing the advertisement on the back. However, as a result of this project, we have discovered that some of the cards initially believed to be T206 cards are actually from other sets of white border baseball cards from approximately the same time period (1909-1913). This research has also uncovered additional information about the cardboard cutouts of players, the round black-and-white cards, and the red border cards. To see a summary of these findings, see the scope and content note in the finding aid for this collection, available at

Click here for a full citation of the documents and images included in this entry.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. HernanChacin permalink
    August 20, 2013 8:45 pm

    Extraordinarias y Valiosisimas todas estas colecciones.

  2. Hernan Celestino Chacin permalink
    August 30, 2013 10:43 am

    Estas so joyas dificiles de obtener. Excelentes.

  3. Hernan Chacin permalink
    September 19, 2013 10:33 am

    Una extraordinaria coleccion. Hernan Chacin

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