Jefferson R. Burdick was an electrician from Upstate New York who amassed over 30,000 baseball cards during his life. He has been hailed in the past as the “father of card collecting” and even had cards with an estimated value in the millions. Instead of taking his collection to market, he generously donated the lot to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, starting in 1940.
The Met will showcase his life work in an exhibition, entitled “Baseball Cards from the Collection of Jefferson R. Burdick.” As the largest collection of cards outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the exhibition offers a fascinating look at the history of the game, along with the history of American print throughout the late 19th and first half of the 20th Century. During the Great Depression, people who could not afford to go to games collected baseball cards instead as a way to indulge in their love for the game. “He didn’t collect cards because of their value but because of his interest in history,” said curator Freyda Spira in a past statement.
Burdick collected all sorts of printed ephemera during his life — from cards and prints to postcards and cigar bands. The Met accepted his donation on the basis that he organized them into archival folders — a system that continues to inspire collectors to this day.
Highlights of the collection include cards from Allen & Ginter’s 1888 World’s Champions series, which experts note as one of the first baseball cards ever produced. Transcending the realm of sport, each illustrative piece in the exhibition can be revered as art in its own right.
Revel in history as “Baseball Cards from the Collection of Jefferson R. Burdick” goes on display at the Met until November 22.
In other art news, Fotgrafiska New York will play host to a major exhibition on Andy Warhol’s photography.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
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