1895- Hall of Famer and “Father of Professional Baseball” Harry Wright, bequeathed his archive of baseball pictures and documents to the National League and the Amer. Assoc of Professional Baseball Leagues. When Wright died in 1896, Hall of Famer, baseball official and sporting goods magnate Albert G. Spalding took possession of the archive.

1905-1908- Hall of Famer and “Father of Baseball” Henry Chadwick gifted his archive to Spalding as well. When Chadwick died in 1908 the remainder of the collection was given to Spalding by Chadwick’s widow. Both Archives (and Spalding’s own personal collection) served as the basis for Spalding’s published history of the game, “America’s National Game” (1911).
In donating his collection, it was the intention of Harry Wright to give to organized baseball “a nucleus or beginning of a historical collection of memoranda and facts bearing upon our grand national game of baseball…”
When Spalding received the Chadwick collection he remarked, “This very complete library of yours, together with my own collection, no doubt forms the most complete Base Ball Library in the world”

1911- AG Spalding publishes “America’s National Game” utilizing the donated archives of baseball’s founding fathers. The pictorial reproductions featured in the book are furnished by Spalding and his voluminous baseball photography collection.
Spalding wrote in his foreward: “It is known that I have acquired possession of the Base Ball archives of Henry Chadwick, Harry Wright and other old-time friends and factors of the game; it is urged that I am duty bound to make public some of the contents of my storehouse of information pertinent to our national pastime, and I have been importuned to relate some of the reminiscences of the days when I was connected with it, either as player, manager or club official.”

July 23, 1921- NYPL receives donation of the “Spalding Collection” from the widow of Baseball Magnate Albert G. Spalding. The collection includes primarily the archives of Spalding, Harry Wright and Henry Chadwick. The Times described the collection's scope: “There are piles of cabinet-sized photographs, some of which are marked with the names of subjects and some not….There are old scrapbooks and boxes of clippings.” “Two separate divisions of the collection are Harry Wright’s library and Henry Chadwick’s library.” “The Chadwick library includes old scrapbooks, score books and clippings…Scrap books, clippings, large score books, correspondence, account books, photographs, pamphlets, miscellaneous memorandum books and a package of Wright’s own score books are included in the Harry Wright library.”

1922- NYPL publishes a 44 page pamphlet and detailed inventory of the “Spalding Collection”.

1987- NYPL compiles a report regarding “missing items” from the original 1922 inventory of the Spalding Collection photograph archive.


In 1907, a sickly 83 year-old Henry Chadwick, unable to honor Albert G. Spalding’s request for him to draft a comprehensive history of baseball, sent a large portion of his library to the California residence of his friend and employer. Chadwick, the game’s preeminent writer and historian, had first met Spalding in the late 1860’s while covering his exploits on the field as a baby-faced pitcher for the Forest City Base Ball Club of Rockford, Illinois. Fifty years later, Spalding seized the opportunity to control the information and rare documents chronicling the game’s fledgling years. Spalding already had in his possession the archive of fellow pioneer Harry Wright, which included manuscript and photograph holdings that Wright bequeathed to the National League in his back in 1895. After Spalding added Chadwick’s collection to his archive, he sent a thank you letter to Chadwick which stated:

“This very complete library of yours, together with my own collection, no doubt forms the most complete Base Ball Library in the world…I am having a fire-proof vault constructed in my residence, for I consider this unique base ball literature too valuable to take any chances of fire.”

That vault housed baseball’s first “Hall of Fame” long before Spalding successfully concocted the reality of his own “Abner Doubleday creation-myth.”

The collection housed the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club Score Books of the 1840’s; the by-laws and constitutions of the earliest clubs known as “Eagle“ “Excelsior” and “Knickerbocker” ; Chadwick’s personal scrapbooks and score books, including the one chronicling the famous 1858 Fashion Course Matches; Harry Wright’s incoming and outgoing correspondence scrapbooks spanning the years 1865-1894; and a treasure trove of rare photographs showing images ranging from schoolboy Al Spalding on his first Forest City amateur teams to the autographed CDV and cabinet photos of the earliest professional champion players from Boston and Philadelphia. Spalding died in 1915 and in 1921 the New York Times reported his widow’s donation of the collection to the New York Public Library. The headline copy heralded: “BASEBALL HISTORY IN SPALDING RELICS: LIBRARY BEING CATALOGUED REVEALS MANY INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE GAME: BEWHISKERED BABE RUTHS.” Once the collection left the security of Spalding’s west coast version of Fort Knox, the time capsule documenting baseball’s infancy became the property of the people of the City of New York. Accessible to both the scholar and the scoundrel; the baseball fan and the thief. Anyone interested in researching the national pastime was welcome to view Spalding’s library of data housed on 42nd St. and 5th Ave. along with the Gutenberg Bible and Thomas Jefferson’s hand written copy of the Declaration of Independence.

In the 1970’s a significant portion of the Spalding Collection’s manuscript and photographic archives disappeared from the New York Public Library. Since that time, the rare items donated by Spalding’s widow have appeared in public auctions and on the tables of dealers at baseball card shows and conventions. Other Spalding treasures have traveled underground into the collections of individuals who are now in the possession of stolen property.
In the summer of 2009 Major League Baseball sponsored their own All- Star Game Weekend auction conducted by Hunt Auctions and it was discovered that the auction included many pieces of correspondence to baseball pioneer Harry Wright that were, in fact, stolen from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection. In response the FBI launched an investigation and took into their possession the MLB auction’s offerings of the Wright correspondence. The FBI investigation is on-going.

Click Here For Gallery of NYPL Missing Photos/Harry Wright Letters/Manuscripts

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