I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of writing about this piece of information I ‘found’ yesterday while scouring old newspaper scans.
The following was printed on the January 23, 1867 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
THE BASE BALL COAT OF ARMS. -
We have received a photograph copy of a novel work of art, representing the coat of arms of the base ball fraternity of the United States. The design is of Mr. Andrew J. Garvey, of the Mutual Club, the original is an alto relievo cast, five feet six inches in height, in plaster ornamented with gold, and cost one thousand dollars. Copies in plaster and photographs, the latter very finely done are for sale by Mr. Garvey. The original cast will be on exhibition at Irving Hall, at the ball of the Mutual Club on Monday evening.
I have to admit that I don’t remember reading about this before, (information overload?) but at least the name of the artist sounded pretty familiar.
The Clipper also published the story on February 2, just a few days after the Mutual’s ball event:
BASE BALL COAT OF ARMS - The public generally, and the devoted of our national pastime particularly, are indebted to the serious and artistic skills of Mr. Andrew J. Garvey, a member of the Mutual Club, for the production of a new and beautiful work of art, representing the “Coat of Arms of the Base Ball Fraternity of the United States.” The original design is modeled in plaster of Paris, ornamented with gold, stands 5ft 4in high, and cost, it is said, one thousand dollars. In the centre, resting upon a pedestal, is a shield, upon which are grouped together colors, bats, balls, belts, caps and all the paraphernalia of the ball field. Above this and partly hidden by the crest of the shield is a globe, circled with a star-studded belt, upon the top of which is perched an eagle, with wings outspread and bearing a menacing attitude. The background is formed by a stand of national colors, the folds of which fall gracefully about the picture, and on other side, with an arm resting carelessly on a point of the shield, is the life-size figure of a man, attired in playing costume, one holding a bat and the other having in his hand a ball, both looking very natural, though representing no particular celebrities as one would naturally suppose they did. The originality of conception and excellence of workmanship reflects great credit upon Mr. G; the more especially as it is his first essay in a fresh field of labor. [Update: Blurry words in scan 'deciphered' courtesy of John Thorn]
A quick search yielded another newspaper bit covering Garvey’s ‘work of art’, this time under the General City News section on the February 4, 1867 edition of The New York Times, where Garvey, yet again, identified as a member of the New York Mutual club, describes the coat of arms as “an alto-relievo in plaster of Paris, 5 feet 6 inches in height, and presents two figures in full playing costume upon the right and left, respectively holding a ball and bat, an American eagle in the centre, and the whole of interspersed with the emblems of the fraternity.” According to the article, the ‘work of art’ attracted considerable attention at the annual reunion of the Mutual Club.
After reading the clippings, somehow, I found myself thinking about the art used on a 1865 NABBP Club Certificate of Admission while trying to picture Garvey’s ‘Coat of Arms’ would have looked like.
The certificate, which was sold in Barry Halper’s Collection auction, has similar characteristics to those mentioned in the both the Clipper and NY Times articles.
The name of the person that created the art for the certificate or the lithographic company that printed it weren’t disclosed in the auction listing.
Lets stop here and talk about Andrew J. Garvey, whose name sounded familiar.
Andrew Jeffries Garvey, born in Troy around 1830, was a plasterer by trade who became famous for being one of Boss Tweed’s Ring favorite henchmen.
As a young man he interested himself in local Democratic politics and that’s when he attracted the notice of Tweed.
Garvey did much of the plastering work for the city of New York during Tweed’s corrupt reign over the city and his bills were so high that it was said that he could have plastered all of Europe at the same price and still made a pro?t.
In two years’ time, Garvey charged the city almost $3 million for plastering work, nearly 60 percent of which was kicked back to the Tweed Ring.
No wonder the New York Times called him the “Prince of Plasterers.”
The Times added: “Generations of plasterers yet unborn will take off their hats to his memory!” and finished with this pearl: “His good fortune surpasses anything recorded in the ‘Arabian Nights.’”
At the very first discovery of the frauds, Garvey fled from the city and sailed for Switzerland to avoid standing trial under the indictments found against him.
Garvey returned from hiding under promise of immunity if he would turn State’s evidence on Tweed’s trial that began on January 7, 1873.
During the trial, Garvey, with a straight face, said that he ?ed to Europe because he feared assassination at the hands of The Ring.
Tweed’s face went red with rage at this wanton perjury so at recess he followed Garvey into an ante-room of the court and said something sotto voce to the man he made a millionaire.
A reporter inquired of Garvey what Tweed had said.
“His language was blasphemous,” answered Garvey.
The indictment against Garvey was dropped in consideration of the service he rendered.
He remained in New York in relative obscurity after the trial and later in life lived between England and Algiers.
Garvey died in England in 1897 as a very wealthy man and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
More on Garvey and his relation with the Tweed Ring can be find online but I strongly suggest that you read a couple of books that stand out for mention: Alexander B. Callow’s ‘The Tweed Ring‘ and Kenneth D. Ackerman’s ‘Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York‘.
It’s worth noting that in this short period of time [24 hours?] I wasn’t able to locate a single link between Garvey and Baseball, besides the ‘coat of arms’ newspaper articles.
Even though he’s presented as a member of the Mutual Club, his name isn’t present on the baseball literature and newspaper boxscores consulted.
No other ‘art works’ known from Garvey other than his overpriced plastering jobs for Tweed.
Did the original work exhibited at the Mutual’s annual soiree survive?
How about any plaster copies made for sale?
Could a photograph of the original work be pasted on one of Chadwick scrapbook pages after the fact that one was received at the Daily Eagle’s office?
How about other copies of the photograph?
Again, too many questions that need to be answered.
The fact that a Tammany Hall crook, linked to the Mutual Club and Boss Tweed, was the one who tried to create one of the earliest pieces of Baseball Heraldry was too good to pass on.
Am I the only one picturing Boss Tweed handling Garvey a one thousand dollar check for his overpriced creation?
Please drop a comment below or shoot me an email [here] if you have anything on Garvey’s Base Ball Coat of Arms… After a 3-month blog hiatus, I was desperate to publish this post with just a full day of investigation and might have missed a lot of stuff, so please excuse me.