Friday, July 6, 2012

Art and Base Ball - Perfect Together

                                                  Ship: Valparaiso

I've mentioned before that I've written a number of club histories for the second volume of Base Ball Pioneers which is scheduled to be published sometime next year by McFarland & Company.  The structure of the team history includes a section of biographies about the player's lives both during and after their base ball careers.  It was difficult to write the biographies primarily because of the challenges in identifying the players many of whom are listed in box scores by only their last names. 

One of the team histories is about the Eureka Club of Newark. A number of the Eureka players went on to lead prominent lives and I was surprised and somewhat saddened by how infrequently their obituaries mentioned their part in New Jersey's premier base ball club of the 1860's.  For example. R Heber Breintnall went on to be Adjutant General of the New Jersey State National Guard (highest military position in the state), but his obituary makes no mention of being a New Jersey base ball pioneer.

I thought about this as I was analyzing the spread of base ball in Hudson County from 1855 to 1860 - part of a larger project to study the whole state for the same period.  Part of the process is to create a master list of the different clubs and a roster of the players.  The formation of the Union Club of West Hoboken (today's Union City) was announced in the Daily Courier and Advertiser on June 7, 1859. 

One of the good things about club formation announcements is that, as in the case above, they tend to include first names.  When that happens I typically do Internet searches to see if anything turns up.  In the case of the Hudson Club nothing happened until I got to the last name on the list - James Butterworth who was a director.  According to one web site Butterworth is "considered among the foremost American ship portraitists of the 19th century."  Born in England in 1817, the web site confirmed that he moved to the United States in 1845 and lived in West Hoboken. 

Butterworth was 42 in 1859 so he was probably serving in a non-playing capacity which was not untypical.  Only one box score of a Hudson Club game has been found and Butterworth's not listed.  He may also have been too busy with his painting.  The above picture of the Valparaiso is dated circa 1855 which would suggest he was very active in his "day" job at this time.  His paintings of clipper ships were so highly regarded that Nathaniel Currier and James Merrit Ives (yes, that Currier and Ives) used his paintings for many of their lithographs.

While Butterworth's role in early New Jersey base ball was minimal, it would have been interesting to see if it made his obituary.  I haven't been able to check that though because in this case I can't even find the obituary!

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