Probably like everyone who is reading this, I had never given a thought to how 19th century clubs communicated with their members, but one day last fall I unexpectedly received very tangible evidence of how it worked. The information came to me by means of an email (again with the email) from Jean Walton, the secretary of the New Jersey Postal History Society, asking for help with an article for their quarterly journal about some items Don Bowe, one of their members, had purchased. Included was the above postal cover (envelope) addressed to J. Winner, Jr., at 150 West Street in New York City. Inside the cover were three identical slips of paper like the one below announcing that the Bergen Base Ball Club would have its opening game on May 27, 1867 at 3:00 with the first nine playing the field (whoever else shows up). On the reverse side of one of the slips was a note asking John (obviously J. Winner Jr.) to deliver the enclosed notices. Like the three game announcements, the note was signed by JHW, corresponding secretary. Jean was looking for help explaining what this was all about and I was fortunately well positioned to provide some assistance.
At the time, Bergen was an independent Hudson County municipality which was incorporated into Jersey City in 1870. Winner, it turned out was a Jersey City resident, apparently working at 150 West Street in New York, probably as an accountant, his occupation on the 1870 census. The other two copies were intended for S. Mills and James Hill, but searches for the two men proved fruitless probably because of the very common last names. JHW, however, was a far simpler proposition because contemporary newspaper articles identified one J. H. Westervelt as the corresponding secretary of the Bergen Club. J.H. Westervelt is most likely, John H. Westervelt, a retail cash merchant who a year later would be elected treasurer of the State Base Ball Association. Box scores for three Bergen Club games in 1867 list both Westervelt and Mills in lineup, but it looks like Hill either didn't make the first nine or dropped out for some other reason.
Again, I had never considered how club leaders communicated with their players in that technologically limited age. Perhaps its symbolic of how little thought is given to the behind the scenes work that was involved in operating these 19th century base ball clubs. Not only did the corresponding secretary have to communicate with players and others, a recording secretary had to keep minutes and presumably club membership records while the treasurer had to do all the financial work regardless of the relatively small amounts of money. Someone also had to handle potentially complicated issues such as finding a place for practice and matches, ordering uniforms and other equipment, not to mention arranging transportation for away games. Having spent most of the past 40 years working with not-for-profits as both a volunteer and staff, I know full well the work involved and how the inability to find volunteers willing and able to take on these jobs can put the whole organization at risk. That may help explain why some clubs were short lived and demonstrate the importance of the unknown and unsung figures who helped keep these early club alive so base ball could grow into the national pastime.