Jefferson Burdick’s Football Card Collection Going on Display

On the occasion of the upcoming Super Bowl—the first ever played in the New York area—The Metropolitan Museum of Art will display a selection of vintage football 1933 Goudey Sport Kings Jim Thorpecards from its celebrated Jefferson R. Burdick Collection of printed ephemera. Opening January 24, Gridiron Greats: Vintage Football Cards in the Collection of  Jefferson R. Burdick  will feature some 150 football cards printed between 1894 and 1959.  Also on view will be several works from the Museum’s Department of Photographs and a varsity football sweater from The Costume Institute.

Highlights include football cards from 1894 by the tobacco company Mayo—the first such cards to be produced. The rare John Dunlop (Harvard) card will be shown, along with other early collegiate standouts. The exhibition will also feature Hall of Famers such as coach Knute Rockne, Red Grange and his teammate the powerhouse Bronko Nagurski, Jim Thorpe, and Sid Luckman; New York icons such as Frank Gifford, Tom Landry, Charlie Conerly, and Em Tunnell; and lesser-known players, coaches, and owners.

The Burdick Collection includes several uncut sheets of 1948 Bowman Football.

Bowman Gum Company Sheet of 12 uncut football cards, from the Bowman Football series (R407-1) issued by Bowman Gum, 1948 American,  Commercial color lithograph; Sheet: 10 in. × 6 1/4 in. (25.4 × 15.8 cm)

Sheet of 12 uncut football cards, from the Bowman Football series (R407-1) issued by Bowman Gum, 1948.

The collection ends in 1959 with the Bazooka series of oversized cards that were placed on the backs of full boxes of bubble gum.  That collection includes Johnny Unitas, who became a household name after his last-second heroics in the 1958 NFL title game, often called “the greatest game ever played.”

Also featured will be rare action photographs of varsity teams who played  football long before the founding of a national league in 1920 or the first Super Bowl in 1967.

The Burdick Collection tells the story of popular printmaking in the United States from approximately 1880 to 1960, and encompasses a broad range of sports cards, including—notably—more than 30,000 baseball cards.

The installation Gridiron Greats marks the first time a selection of football cards will be shown at the Metropolitan Museum.

The installation is organized by Freyda Spira, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints.

The installation will be featured on the website of the Metropolitan Museum (