cards your great grandmother didn’t throw away

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Yesterday, December 11, 2010, marked the 135th anniversary of the birth of Roy A. Stamm. Odds are stacked against you having heard of this man before, but considering that you are reading this blog, I would imagine that you would have shared some common ground with him.

Roy Stamm and friends circa 1890

Given my interest in most things historic, I always have an eye peeled for early mentionings of baseball and baseball cards. As a result of my ongoing research, I have amassed a sizable database of historical accounts of the origins of baseball in the New Mexico Territory, including the names and addresses of businesses and homes associated with people who either played baseball or had their hand in the industry in one manner or another… saloon owners, tobacconists, printers and photographers are prime examples of historical folks I collect data on. The bottom line is that you simply cannot know when that sort of information will prove valuable, even though your hunch tells you that you should try to only have to sift through the written archives once. At any rate, I’ve already gone further into all of that than I intended to do here.

With little spare time to spread around, I sometimes must make a decision to ignore the stacks of unsorted baseball cards on (or near) my desk, and pick up a book instead. The result can prove both entertaining and informative. The written account of Roy Stamm’s life struck me like an unexpected bubble envelope stuffed full of baseball cards off my want lists. Although Stamm completed his work in 1954, “fOR ME, THE SUN: The Autobiography of Roy A. Stamm, An Early Albuquerque Business Leader,” the book wasn’t published until 1999, some 42 years following his death.

Stamm the man, his book and his balloon (1890)

The following except from the book followed an incident in 1882 in which a bully had tossed the author, then six-years-old, into a mud puddle on South Second Street in New Albuquerque and attempted to force him to eat a toad. I’m not sure which is worse, the incident or one’s mother finding out about it.

“She was of Puritan Massachusetts and Mohawk Valley Dutch ancestry and had taught school in Kansas. Outraged by this “plain evidence of racial resentment”, she saw that from that time on I rode my saddle horse during most of my childhood (I became so accustomed to this, I’d ride across the street instead of walking!).

This decision was all right with me. Forbidden to play tops or marbles “for keeps” and ordered to hold myself, literally, “above those bad boys,” I used this easy transportation to reach the tremendous distinction of owning the “third largest cigarette picture collection in town.” The first and best belonged to a black boy whose father and brothers were porters in saloons; the second, to a newsboy. Their inside sources of supply were partially balanced by my ability to move around and to trade for pictures desired by others to complete their sets.

All of which distressed mother but, fair minded, she allowed me to retain my well won trophies. No matter how strong and possessive a mother’s instincts may be, unless he is predisposed, a boy’s natural inclinations seldom will permit him to become “sissified.”

The only conclusion I am going to allow myself to draw from this segment of Stamm’s book is that card collectors of the past were as varied and passionate about the hobby as are card collectors of today- and most likely, the future. I did contact Roy’s son to tell him how much I enjoyed the book and to thank him for his efforts in helping bring his father’s words to print. We were not able to pinpoint which cigarette cards were contained within the collection, but I have been having a blast paging thru my copy of “American Tobacco Cards: Price Guide and Checklist” by Robert Forbes and Terence Mitchell and wondering about what treasures may have been contained within Stamm’s collection.

Allen & Ginter: “American Indian Chiefs” and “American Editors” series

I think it is reasonable to predict that Roy may have been fond of the Allen & Ginter American Indian Chiefs series since he was an twelve-year-old boy growing up in the wild west when the cards were issued in 1888. As wonderful as these cards are, I feel the need to remind readers that many of the men featured on the cards were still alive when the amazing Linder, Eddy & Clauss lithographs were reproduced as tobacco cards. Even if Roy didn’t collect the Allen & Ginter American Editors (1887) cards, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Albuquerque newsboy did, and would have traded handsomely to complete his 50-card set.

Roy Stamm and his UNM football teammates (1894)

Roy Stamm led a fascinating life; regardless of what angle you choose to examine it. However, I will not be spoiling potential future book sales by stating whether or not he included more about tobacco cards or baseball as he drew from his extensive journal that he kept throughout his life. Stamm passed away two years after the release of 1952 Topps baseball cards, 10 years before the first Sharpie mark became permanent and decades before the dawn of blogging. I wonder whether he would have adapted to trading his cards via the internet, or if he would have stuck to his guns and traded only on horseback.

– Kris

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