For twenty years Ive searched for sports broadsides and have found a fair amount of good ones. However, the one that has always been elusive is a c1880s Harvard vs. Yale football broadside of at least twenty inches tall. Last week I acquired this 1877 Harvard Yale baseball broadside. It measures 9 inches tall by 5 ½ inches wide. These may have been used as either a small poster or handbill, or both. I hesitated acquiring it since I really only desire larger poster size ones, say at least 20 inches or taller. I actually found a very similar Harvard Yale baseball one, about the same size from the 1880s, about a year ago but passed on it. This one however has certain aspects that put it over the top. First of all its early from the 1870s and its prominently dated. Plus the type is an early more archaic style to my satisfaction.
When I got it in hand I began looking up more about the game and team, using my 1923 copy of The H book of Harvard Athletics. To my surprise I learned, or actually, was reminded that Fred Thayer of Harvard had invented the catchers mask in 1877. On page 188, last paragraph, the H Book had this to say about it:
QUOTE "The most important fact to be chronicled in connection with the 77 Nine, of which Thayer was also captain, was the appearance of the catchers mask. This was Thayers invention, and the idea came from the mask used in fencing. The first one was made by a tinsmith in Cambridge, and was tried out in the old (first) gymnasium in the winter of 1876-77. It was first worn by Tyng in a match at Lynn against the Live Oaks when comments were made that that it gave an unfair advantage. The Crimson of April 20, 1877, had the following editorial, which seems to have been the only mention made of this revolutionary invention by the college papers. The new mask was proved a complete success, since it entirely protects the face and head and adds greatly to the confidence of the catcher, who need not feel he is in every moment in danger of a life long injury. To the ingenious inventor of this mask we are largely indebted for the excellent playing of our new catcher, who promises to excel the fine playing of those who have previously held this position This mask is shown in the pictures of the 77 and 78 Nines." UNQUOTE
Below, 1877 Harvard Baseball team, second below, close in of Thayer mask
Below, 1878 Harvard baseball team, second below, close in of Thayer mask
Interestingly the Crimson account was published only 35 days prior to the date of the broadside. Needless to say I was surprised when I realized the close time proximity of the catchers mask invention to the broadside, and that Thayer was captain of the team.
All this prompted me to re-examine a photo I have of Fred Thayer, that Id gotten years ago in one of the old SCGaynor eBay auction. Its of Thayer with the 1875 Harvard crew team, bottom row on left in civies. I have it with my baseball things leaning against a spider mask.
As I understand, Thayer masks are nearly unheard of. I believe John Gennantonio told me he knew of only one. Based on the photos of the 77 and 78 teams pictured in the H Book, and from illustrations I remember, I seem to recall they stuck out quite pronounced from the face and formed a V shape, but Im just going from memory. If anyone has one, Id certainly appreciate some photos