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Base Ball Broadside, July 12th [1874]


Base Ball, at Fair Grounds Charles City, Sun. July 12 [1874]


Small nineteenth century broadside poster (12 in x 9 in) on green paper, “Base Ball, at Fair Grounds Charles City, Sun. July 12 [1874].” 30.5 cm x 20 cm. A few cracks and some chipping on the edges, slightly faded.

The spelling of the word “baseball” has its own orthographic history. According to Prof. Marcus Dickson of Wayne State University, the spelling of “baseball” changed several times. In the 1830s and 1840s “base ball” had begun to replace “base-ball.” The amended  Knickerbocker rules of 1857 do refer explicitly to “base ball.” Usage of the word appears to have been governed largely by the choice of typesetters. In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the word had once again become, “base-ball.” In 1896, Dickson’s Baseball Dictionary recorded that the U. S. Government Printing Office decreed that the word was to be spelled with a hyphen. In 1884 The New York Times spelled the word “baseball.” Again, the only reason given for this spelling is common usage. The spelling on this broadside is “base ball.”

Fifty cents  was the admission rate charged as early as 1858 for baseball games. Early National League admission started at 50 cents, and by 1888 it was made mandatory. By the end of the 1890s, competition had lowered the price of admission to 25 cents. In the first twenty years of the twentieth century price for the grand stand was 50 cents. (See p. 942 of The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, Second Edition.)

Given that July 12 fell on a Sunday only in 1857, 1863, 1868 and 1874, the style of the type used here and the stated price of admission, fifty cents, the probable date of this event is 1874. Given that the Grand stand price on this poster is listed as only 10 cents and the admission charged 50 cents, the word “baseball”  spelled as “base ball,” the National League having been founded February 2, 1876, thus setting a limit, the most likely year for this broadside is 1874.