This circa-1876 studio photo captures the members of the Harvard nine as they pose together in uniform. The level of play at Harvard (as well as at other top colleges in the East) during the late 1800's was quite strong, so much so that the team was able to beat Boston's major league representatives on a number of occasions during the 1870's. This photo, however, is remarkable not simply for its historical allure and inherent beauty but in that it features James Tyng, who can be seen standing second from the left. Although Tyng is generally considered to be the greatest Harvard ballplayer of the era, he is best remembered today as the first player to ever wear a catcher's mask. The mask was actually the invention of fellow teammate and team captain Fred Thayer, who noticed that Tyng had lost much of his enthusiasm for catching as a result of being hit by numerous foul tips. The mask was first worn by Tyng on April 11, 1877, in a match against the Live Oaks of Lynn, and the results of the experiment were obviously favorable as the mask became standard equipment for all catchers in a very short period of time.
The photo is affixed to a period cardboard mount, the reverse of which also displays a similar sized photo featuring a number of Harvard players (wearing their letterman sweaters) as they sit along the steps of a campus building. The mount was obviously part of a presentation photograph album, as the faint outlines of four photos are visible along both the photo and mount. These slight impressions, however, do not in any way significantly detract from the visual appeal of the photo which is otherwise in Near Mint condition. The 13-1/2” by 11-1/2” mount exhibits some creasing and is otherwise in Excellent condition. An extremely desirable 6-3/4" by 9" photograph, featuring one of early baseball's strongest college clubs, as well as one of the game's most well-known pioneers.