When the Mark Rucker Collection was auctioned off by ‘The Best of Yesterday’ in 1995, an interesting badge was offered as lot #27 to go along an incredible selection of 19th century Baseball treasures.
The catalog description:
“EXCELSIOR BBC (OF BROOKLYN?) BRASS PIN”
Small 1860s stamped metal insignia with pin soldered on back, approximately 1 1/2″ square. Likely made for team members and supporters. ‘EXCELSIOR’ is spelled out on a bar on the top. Beneath that is a design of four triangles radiating out from a center featuring a baseball. Crossed bats extend into the left and right triangles, with BBC at 9, 12 and 2 o’clock. A BB hat in profile fills the lower triangle. The pin has a sophisticated primitive look. None other known. Excellent to mint condition. Min $400.00
Not 1860s and not Brooklyn!
Well, besides the obvious non-1860s baseball style used on the pin, on May 4, 1886, Frederick W. Child of Greenwich, Connecticut was granted Patent 16,670 for the exact same badge design that sold for $400 almost 110 years later.
I’m not going to flame a now defunct auction house on their description of the piece as the realized price reflected that baseball collectors aren’t always fooled by catchy titles and pompous descriptions.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been easy to track the origin of this piece before 1995.
But who was Frederick W. Child?
Frederick Willis Child was born in Boston on January 1, 1844. The son of Cyrus Child (b. 1823 in Boston) and Emily A. Dearborn.
Emily died when Frederick was just 6 months old and he ended up being raised by Cyrus’ second wife, Elizabeth Parsons. (Cyrus married a third time in 1865!)
In 1848, Frederick was living in Delafield, Wisconsin and by 1850, his father had established a Bookkeeping business in Milwaukee.
When the Civil War broke out, Frederick enlisted on August 15, 1862 and began serving on the 24th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, Company B.
In less than 4 months, Child was already in the line of fire in Middle Tennessee.
The Battle of Stones River was being fought and the soon to be nineteen-year old Milwaukee clerk who had been detailed to a division ambulance corps found himself in murderous melee.
Confederate Cavalry got to General McCook’s supply train on December 31, 1862, and Child, who was near one of the wagons, had to surrender.
According to a letter sent from Fred to his father, rebel horseman turned to the young Milwaukee soldier and demanded that he gave up his revolver, but he said he had none. The gray jacket proceeded to search him and took his pocket book. No revolver but Child was striped off $14 in greenbacks and a $10 bank draft.
About 200 federal soldiers (including Child) were took as prisoners, but it didn’t last long. The 4th Michigan Cavalry swooped out of the woods and the rebels were forced to run and left the prisoners behind.
That night, after his near escape from the rebel cavalryman, Fred Child rejoined his comrades to share a cold and fitful sleep.
The Milwaukee Regiment ultimately listed 19 killed, 57 wounded and 98 missing. Perhaps one-third of those who stood ready for battle that morning were now casualties.
Child was mustered out of service on June 10, 1865.
Frederick returned to Milwaukee and ultimately became an accountant, not a surprise considering his father’s business trade.
By 1869 he was residing and working in Connecticut, where he married Clara A. Olmstead.
In 1885, around the same time Child filed the patent application for the ‘Excelsior Badge’, he also filed applications for two Tabular Calculators (RE10592 and 343,566) and for an Engine Counter (351,164)
Frederick W. Child died in Greenwich on April 30, 1929 and was remembered as a pioneer Certified Public Accountant and Civil War veteran.
Not a single link to Baseball was found while digging into the life of Fred W. Child.
What about the badge?
‘None other known’ … Guess the catalog description was right after all.
Why did Child design a Baseball badge remains a mystery.