I suppose there is a discussion to be had as to what the one single most iconic card is in the sports card hobby. I don't have any interest in having that debate, but I think we can agree that the T206 Honus Wagner is certainly a candidate for that title. So, for the sake of moving this post along, let's just assume this is the single most iconic card in the hobby:
I would imagine I brought a few folks in seeing a thumbnail of that on various blogrolls. Psych!
Anyways, the T206 set was issued by the American Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911. At the time this set was issued, American Tobacco was in the midst of an anti-trust suit opened in 1907 and concluded in 1911 with the company being broken up into 4 new companies.
American was a subject of this anti-trust case due to it's voracious appetite for buying and merging with various of it's competitors. It was formed initially in 1890, by the merger of several companies including Allen & Ginter, Goodwin & Company, and the Kinney Brothers Tobacco Company. The acquisitive nature eventually led to the anti-trust action 17 years later. But, that is not of concern here.
I want to focus on the Kinney Brothers company. It isn't clear, with cursory research when Kinney Bros. formed, but it was an active concern in the post-American Civil War era and Francis Kinney patented several machines that revolutionized the cigarette market. The main Kinney Brothers tobacco brand, and the one that survived the longest, was Sweet Caporal (which also happens to be one of the more common T206 backs issued by American Tobacco.
Starting in 1887, Kinney started offering trading cards, already a common practice in the industry, with it's tobacco products. Their card offerings were mostly general interest subjects, but did include three 25 card sets issued in 1889 that are of interest to me: Famous American Running Horses, Famous English Running Horses, and Great American Trotters. Jefferson Burdick classified these sets as N229, N230, and N231 respectively.
This is my first card from those three sets, Specifically, the Great American Trotters (St.Julien). As can be seen from the back, there was a mail in offer where, if you send in 25 of the smaller cards, they will send you an 8x10 print of a same subject.
So, while Kinney Brothers weren't the first company to issue trading cards, and never issued cards with baseball players as subjects, there is a direct ancestral line (via the Sweet Caporal brand) from this card and Mr. Wagner above. I think that is pretty cool and gives me a chance to tie my little side project back to the more common part of the hobby.
What I am listening to: Kathleen by Townes Van Zandt