The personal collection of materials related to baseball and other sports gathered by the early baseball player and sporting-goods tycoon A. G. Spalding came to the Library in 1921 as a gift from his widow. During his lifetime, Spalding acquired the libraries of early Cincinnati Red Stockings center fielder Harry Wright and the early baseball journalist and inventor of the box score Henry Chadwick, two other notable figures in the history of baseball, and incorporated their materials with his own. The entire collection consists of more than 3,000 books and pamphlets; over 100 periodicals; numerous scrapbooks, scorebooks, and diaries; and other manuscript items that document the development of the sport from the mid-19th century to about 1914.
The Spalding Collection's visual materials consist mostly of photographs, primarily 19th-century studio portraits of players and teams of the day, plus Spalding himself and his associates, as well as several outdoor and action shots.The collection also includes rare images of "Town Ball" and "Old Cat," two types of stick and ball games that were Americanized variants of the English game of "Rounders," and are considered to be earlier versions of the game that eventually evolved into baseball. The visual materials also include original drawings and photostatic reproductions of cartoons by Homer D. Davenport, and a group of drawings entitled "Spalding's America's national game."
Biographical/historical: Albert Goodwill Spalding (1849-1915) was a major figure in the early history of baseball. A star player for the Boston franchise in the National Association, he left in 1876 to join the Chicago White-Stockings, later known as the Cubs, in the newly formed National League. He was the team's leading pitcher, team captain, and manager. After his career on the field ended, he later became team president.
Spalding also achieved fame as a publisher, an entrepreneur, and a promoter of the game of baseball. Spalding's Official Baseball Guide was an annual publication that contained league rules, records, and other information, as well as Spalding's own views on the game. After establishing his sporting goods company, he became involved with the manufacture and sale of all manner of baseball goods and sports equipment, including the supplying of the official game balls used for play in the National League.