The American National Game of Base Ball: Grand Match for the Championship at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, N. J.

Publisher Currier & Ives American

Not on view

This large Currier & Ives lithograph, issued shortly after the American Civil War, ranks among the most celebrated of nineteenth-century pictures of a baseball game in progress -- the 1865 championship game between the Mutual Club of Manhattan and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn. This game was played before a huge crowd (some reported almost 20,000 spectators) at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, the site of the first recorded, organized baseball game on June 19th, 1846. Since Manhattan lacked sizable grounds for baseball games, the Elysian Fields (located just across the Hudson River) became a preferred site for practices and organized matches during the formative years of the sport. In the late 1860s, when major baseball parks were established in Brooklyn, people tired of going to Hoboken. Attendance gradually dwindled at the games held at Elysian Fields; the last professional game played there in 1873.

This print presents the entire baseball diamond as seen from behind home plate. The scene shows the batter and catcher standing in the left center foreground, while all the other team players are in their infield and outfield positions. At the center of the image, a pitcher prepares to throw the ball underhand toward the batter, while two men are ready to run from their respective first and third bases. The umpire (shown from the back; dressed in brimmed hat and long brown coat) stands in the central foreground, while nearby there is a small group of men (some wearing top hats) and the rest of the batter's team. In the background, there is a large crowd of spectators, as well as horse-drawn carriages. Typical of the early years of baseball, as the print also shows, in addition to underhanded pitching, the players have no gloves, and the catcher has no mask.

Nathaniel Currier, whose successful New York-based lithography firm began in 1835, produced thousands of hand-colored prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century American life and its history. People eagerly acquired such lithographs featuring picturesque scenery, rural and city views, ships, railroads, portraits, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments. As the firm expanded, Nathaniel included his younger brother Charles in the business. In 1857, James Merritt Ives (the firm's accountant since 1852 and Charles's brother-in-law) was made a business partner; subsequently renamed Currier & Ives, the firm continued until 1907.

The American National Game of Base Ball: Grand Match for the Championship at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, N. J., Currier & Ives (American, active New York, 1857–1907), Hand-colored lithograph

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