While recently browsing some old auction catalogs, I came across the following pair of boots, presumably presented to none other than Harry Wright by a ‘team’ of American Indians that he had brought to Cincinnati to play in some sort of exhibition games.
To be honest, I didn’t remember (or even reading) about these items at all, even though I have that September 1991 Richard Wolffers catalog annotated with realized prices and even with some harsh remarks on a phoney Dan Brouthers cabinet card photograph they were trying to sell the day before.
Don’t worry, I won’t waste your time talking about Duane Garrett and Richard Wolffers Auctions.
Here’s the lot description:
Harry Wright’s Boots presented to him in 1868 by a team of American Indians whom Wright brought in to play a series of exhibition games against his Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first professional team, that was organized and managed by Harry Wright. Made of snakeskin, these 121-year old boots remain quite supple, the left with a fancy tassel and both with the original heel cleats. Accompanied by extensive documentation including a copy of a 1952 letter from U. S. Senator Robert A. Taft to Clark Griffith loaning these boots (which were the treasured property of the Fleischman family of Cincinnati) to an exhibition and a letter from the Hall of Fame that states in part “As you know these fabulous artifacts are some of the earliest known examples of the Red Stockings and the birth of baseball”. Of the highest order of importance and rarity, Excellent ……………….. Estimated Value $15,000-17,500
Lot 914 ended up realizing $3,300.
Did Harry Wright bring a team of Indians to play ball in Cincinnati back in 1868?
All I remember reading is about an exhibition of some sort of Lacrosse game that a group of Choctaw Indians played on the Union Grounds of Cincinnati back on May of 1868.
Harry Ellard’s ‘Base Ball in Cincinnati’ has a brief (although nasty) account of, what I suppose, was this same exhibition:
INDIANS PLAY ON THE UNION GROUNDS.
During the summer of 1868 the Cincinnati Baseball Club presented a novel attraction for the citizens. They brought a number of Indians from the Northwest to play a game of raquette on their grounds. This was a game among the Indians similar to that of lacrosse. In their gay attire and painted faces they presented a very picturesque appearance and afforded much enjoyment to the spectators, as this was the first time anything of the kind ever appeared in Cincinnati. They were given the clubhouse in which to camp during their visit, and it is well remembered that it took a month to deodorize the premises which they had occupied.
These kind of Lacrosse demonstrations had been taking place around the country for quite some time, and after searching a bit, this tour was organized by a former CSA Choctaw Cavalry Regiment Colonel by the name of Sampson N. Folsom, to travel to Cincinnati and other Midwestern cities.
So did the Indians present these boots to Wright?
According to the July 1995 edition of Cincinnati Magazine, the pair of boots were, apparently, the creation of a forger by the name of Randall Lee Marshall, but nothing more.
I don’t have a clue on what the alleged letter of Senator Taft to Clark Griffith said. Even if the boots were the creation of a forger, I can’t stop wondering if such a gift was really ever presented to Harry Wright.
Was this just a fantasy piece or did it really happen and the forger tried to capitalize with a recreation of the boots?
Maybe those with better memory and knowledge on Wright can enlighten me a bit on this subject.