Top of page

From Player Portraits to Baseball Cards

Share this post:

With the World Series just around the bend, baseball has been on my mind.

In 1910, photographer Paul Thompson copyrighted a series of photographic portraits he had taken of baseball players. The portraits are simple straight-on head-and-shoulders shots with the players gazing directly back at the camera. These same portraits would serve as the basis for the 1911 Gold Borders baseball cards from the American Tobacco Company.

Below you’ll see the Chicago Cubs’ terrific infield trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance, who live on amongst the Hall of Fame immortals, most notably for their proficiency at turning the double play.

Photograph shows Joe Tinker, shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front.
Joe Tinker, Chicago Cubs. Photo by Paul Thompson, 1910.

Joe Tinker
Joe Tinker, Gold Borders baseball card, 1911.

Johnny Evers
Johnny Evers, Chicago Cubs. Photo by Paul Thompson, 1910.

Johnny Evers
Johnny Evers, Gold Borders baseball card, 1911.

Frank Chance
Frank Chance, Chicago Cubs. Photo by Paul Thompson, 1910.

Frank Chance, Gold Borders baseball card, 1911.
Frank Chance, Gold Borders baseball card, 1911.

Learn More:

  • The Baseball Card collection presents a Library of Congress treasure—2,100 early baseball cards dating from 1887 to 1914. The cards show such legendary figures as Ty Cobb stealing third base for Detroit, Tris Speaker batting for Boston, and pitcher Cy Young posing formally in his Cleveland uniform. A special presentation provides more context to the story behind  “Tinker to Evers to Chance!”
  • Home of the world’s largest baseball collection, the Library of Congress presents Baseball Americana. With more than 350 images–many never before published–it chronicles the game’s hardscrabble history. Among the Library’s treasures are the first known image of baseball published in America (1787), the first dated baseball card (1865), and the Paul Thompson photographs (1910) shot specifically for the landmark T206 baseball cards, as well as vintage advertising, posters, film stills, cartoons, maps, and more.

Comments (3)

  1. Some before my time, but I can remember my family speaking of these men. It bring back good memories . Thank you.

  2. I have an oval photo of a ballplayer from the late 1800s. He is standing and looks like a pro but who knows. There is no insignia on his uniform however it looks like there could be some little socks on his belt. It looks like a photograph that’s been hand colored.Can anyone identify it? Thanks, Joe

  3. Paul Thompson copyrighted these images, though he was not the photographer. He established an eponymous photographic news agency and secured copyright for the images as the agency’s founder.

    The agency’s credit line, “Photo by Paul Thompson,” created the mistaken impression that Thompson was a photographer, but his New York Times obituary rectifies the misconception. George Grantham Bain, who asserted that he founded the first photographic news agency and accused Thompson of copying his business model and stealing his images, emphasized that neither he nor Thompson were photographers.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.