A couple of days ago I received an email from noted cricket historian Tom Melville regarding my last post on Henry Chadwick, Byron Wharton and the Wright brothers.
Tom differs from my observation that the woodcut that George Wright mentioned in his letter to Chadwick was the one published by Harper’s in 1858.
Lets revisit what George wrote to Chadwick back in 1896:
“In reference to the old Harlem Club, I only have a dim recollection. See. I was only 8 years old. I can remember the cricket ground at the old Red House, one at Mount Morris and one at about 116th street and second avenue, or where the Harlem Gas House now stands. I can remember Godwin, the president of the Harlem Cricket Club. Well, he was a short, stout man, the same build as ‘Papa’ Richards, of the old New York Cricket Club. Those were the jolly old days at Fox Hill, Hoboken, N.J.
I have a wood-cut picture of the old grounds at this place, showing a match between the United States and Canada. It was here I spent most of my boyhood days. Oh that I were a boy again! I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you again before long.”
Wright said that he had a woodcut of the old grounds, but from what place?
He had mentioned three different cricket ground locations in Harlem and then the Fox Hill grounds in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Tom thinks Wright’s woodcut must have depicted a scene of the US vs Canada match of 1853. Here’s his reasoning including some interesting information on the old Red House cricket grounds:
The Red House cricket ground in Harlem was the major cricket venue in New York during the 1840s and was the site of most, if not all, the USA vs Canada matches during that decade. But during the 1850s the Red House ground was eclipsed by the Elysian Fields in Hoboken as New York’s premier cricket ground.
The USA vs Canada match of 1853 (the series was renewed at that time after a hiatus of six years) was held at Red House but no more international matches, I believe, were ever held there again.
It’s this 1853 match, I think, that Wright is referring to since the 1858 match in your illustration is clearly indicated as being played in Hoboken.
A nice engraving of an 1853 cricket match at the Red House ground can be found in the New York Illustrated News of June 25, 1853, p. 408.
Below is the engraving Tom mentions, but clearly this one doesn’t show a US vs Canada match scene as it depicts a New York vs St. George’s match. The Flag of England or the St. George’s Cross is clearly visible. The old Royal Union or Union Jack flag that represented Canada during that time isn’t present in the woodcut and I assume the St. George’s Cricket Club used the red-crossed flag as its emblem.
Now that we’re talking about flags, I thought this ‘incident’ was worth mentioning. It happened during the 1854 US cricketers visit to Canada.
Lets move on.
I was only able to find another woodcut of the Harlem cricket grounds. A c. 1853 engraving which Tom believes was published in Graeme’s Magazine.
This one doesn’t seem to show a scene of an International Match but another local match. It is titled ‘Cricket Match Lately Played at Harlem, N.Y.’
Update [May 19, 2012]
John Thorn [see comments section] tells us the engraving shown above was published in Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion on October 4, 1851.
After another email exchange with Tom discussing both Harlem engravings, he thinks that the engraving of the 1853 USA-Canada match at Red House that Wright mentions might just be lost (or not located yet) or that maybe George Wright may, indeed, be referring to one of the Red House engravings shown but mistakenly thought they depicted a USA vs Canada, rather than a local match.
Excellent points but I’m still not convinced.
George Wright was just 49 years old when he wrote that letter to Chadwick and not suffering from early dementia. I still think he was referring to the Hoboken grounds in it and that it was the 1858 Harper’s woodcut.
Melville, the veteran cricket historian thinks it’s 1853 and this amateur thinks it’s 1858.
Do I stand a chance? Probably not.
Update: Looks like we must add another woodcut to the list!
Tom Shieber, Senior Curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame, sent the following via email and now I’m leaning towards this one being the one that George Wright wrote about.
Could George Wright be referring to the Frank Leslie’s woodcut of October 4, 1856. Here’s a scan of the one I own:
The caption at bottom reads: “Great Cricket Match Between the United States and Canada, at Hoboken, N.J., September 11 and 12. United States Victorious! Ambrotyped by Brady, While the Game Was in Progress.”
Points in favor of this as George’s woodcut:
- It shows a US vs. Canada match.
- The game is taking place at Hoboken, the last location Wright referred to before stating “I have a wood-cut picture of the old grounds at this place.”
- George would have been nine years old at the time … very close to his recollection of eight.
All excellent points and in response to Tom (Shieber)… I’d literally kill to see the original Brady ambrotype!
Update [April 27, 2102]
Couldn’t stop and went on to search for more now that Mathew Brady was added to the discussion.
No original ambrotype picture but here’s part of the New York Herald account of the match with a small bit on Brady and the photograph that led to Shieber’s woodcut.
It’s worth noting that this must have been one of Brady’s first ambrotypes as he is credited with introducing and advertising the process in the US on that same year.
Tom Melville wrote back and raised another question:
The engraving of the 1856 USA vs Canada match COULD be the one Wright refers to but we still have the problem of it being played at Hoboken, not Harlem. It’s hard to believe Wright mistakenly thought either the 1856 or 1858 engravings depicted Red House since the they clearly state the location is Hoboken.
Did the Clipper or any other period publication carry an illustration of the 1853 USA vs Canada match?
Even though I’m almost completely sold on the 1856 woodcut being the one owned by Wright, I think there’s still a slim chance of finding an 1853 Red House engraving showing the US vs Canada match.
Leslie’s started operating in 1852 while the Clipper began in 1853 for what it’s worth.