Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Tobacco cards from 1910 and 1911

I was fortunate to snag a lot of 1910/1911 tobacco cards for well under $2 each. Mostly boxing but some other sports including one baseball card.

This 1911 Mecca Double Folders T201 is by far the oldest baseball card in my collection now. This card would have folded out so the owner could flip it open and have a drawing of another player that matched the bottom of the player on top. Topps later put out a similar set in the 1950s, and Fleer in the 2000s. This one is in three pieces but all the parts of the card are there. I decided to keep the pieces in the toploader they came in; they were put in very nicely and I would just mess it up if I tried to take them out and put them back in. I did take out the top part just to hold it in my hand for a bit.

Here's the reverse. This was one of the first card sets to feature statistics on the back.
The card featured the Reds' third baseman and catcher. Just for fun, here it is with the Reds' 3B and C from exactly 100 years later.

Here's the sad part, though: this card has to be one of the most tragic baseball cards of all time. By the time the card was a decade old, both men had died violent deaths. Eddie Grant played for the Cleveland Naps, Phillies, Reds and NY Giants from 1905 to 1915, then enlisted in World War One in 1917. He was killed by an exploding shell in France in October 1918, the first of eight MLB players to die in the war. The Edward L. Grant Parkway near Yankee Stadium was named for him, and there is a plaque in his honor at Oracle Park, the Giants' home field (there used to be one at the Polo Grounds). John "Larry" McLean was a talented but highly-troubled catcher for six teams between 1901 and 1915. The alcoholic McLean got into numerous fights, and his baseball career ended after a brawl with manager John McGraw while with the Giants. In 1921, he got into a fight at a Boston speakeasy and was shot and killed by the saloon manager, John Connor. Connor served a year in prison for manslaughter.

Here are the other cards in the lot. Most of them were boxing:

There were actually two copies of this Jim Stewart card. They are identical except one says Hassan on the back and one says Mecca. One copy will be going to Diamond Jesters for a Time Travel trade. I imagine others of these may end up there as well; though most of the below are open for trade for something else pre-WWII or possibly other things as well; I'm not in a hurry to get rid of any of these but am open for offers, especially if any of these cards particularly fit into someone's collection.

Jim Stewart was a boxer for several years and worked various jobs in Brooklyn and upstate New York. Like Eddie Grant, he died in World War One, succumbing to the Spanish Flu at Fort Dix in September 1918.

Eddie Walsh, "the Harlem bricklayer" according to the back of his card, had a 3-4 record during his brief boxing career.
Harry Stone, from New York's Lower East Side, was one of many Jewish boxers of the era, but the first one to wear a tallis (prayer shawl) in the ring - you can see it on this card. Stone fought in World War One, and after the war moved to Australia, winning that country's lightweight title in 1921. Stone lived in Australia for the rest of his life, dying in 1950 at the age of 57.
Billy Papke from Spring Valley, IL, is considered one of the greatest middleweights of all time, and was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001. Sadly, in 1936 Papke killed his wife and himself; it is believed he may have had undiagnosed brain trauma which led to the incident.
Brooklyn's Sailor Burke twice fought Billy Papke, losing in 1908 but defeating him in 1911. In 1907, Burke famously fought Jack Johnson and lost, though some at the time though Burke was faking (there is no evidence to support that). Interestingly, the back of the card lists the losses against both Papke and Johnson as "no decision". Perhaps because they were not KOs? I don't know much about boxing. Burke died in 1960 at the age of 75.
On to track and field. Jersey City's Frank Riley, of the Irish-American Athletic Club, competed in the 1908 Olympics in London. He later worked as a real estate broker, and died in Los Angeles in 1950 at the age of 67.
Harry Jensen of the Pastime Athletic Club in Connecticut, won at least three marathons in the NYC area in the late 00s and early 10s, and placed highly in several others.
Gil Nicholls was born in England in 1878, emigrated to the US in the late 1890s, and went on to a successful golf career, winning five PGA tournaments in the 1900s and 10s. In 1914 he was named the golf pro at the Great Neck Country Club on Long Island, and was the highest paid golf pro in the country. He died in Great Neck at the age of 71 in 1950.

For those that are interested, here are the backs of the cards. All are Mecca or Hassan from 1910 or 1911. 

Part I:

Part II:


  1. Papke looks like a really muscular 8 year old.

  2. Awesome cards... even if some of those stories behind the athletes are truly sad.

  3. I don't know if I need any of the old folders, but if I do, this sort of condition will be about all I can afford.

  4. really cool cards. thanks for sharing.