This column looks at three rare original sports photographs, two from recent auctions. One is a rare 1940s color photo of Stan Musial, one a gold-backed glass photo of Kenasaw Mountain Landis and the third a ultra high speed ‘sctroboscopic’ photo of Ohio State All-American Wes Fesler. All three are the only examples I’ve seen.
The above is an original and perhaps unique 1947 Harry Warnecke Studio tri-color cabro photograph of Stan Musial in his St. Louis Cardinals uniform. True color sports photographs from before the 1950s are rare, and this one was offered in a recent Brockelman and Luckey auction.
Harry Warnecke (1900-84) ran the New York Daily News’ color photography studio and gained notoriety in the black-and-white days as an early color photographer of celebrities including Louis Armstrong, Dwight Eisenhower, Lucille Ball, Ted Williams, W.C. Fields, Orson Welles, General Patton, Gene Autry, Laurel and Hardy and others.
Warnecke developed the camera and process to make the high end, time consuming and costly color process and was rare in crediting his studio assistants (Robert F. Cranston and Gus Schoenbaechler in this case, as noted on back). Though taken in one camera shot, the image was developed from three single color negatives. The overlapping colors are seen in the edge of this photograph.
As evidenced here, not only did the process produce photos with brilliant and lush colors, but the images tended not to fade and discolor with age. Even Kodak snapshots from the 1970s to 80s have tended to fade and disocolor with time. Even though from 1947, this photo of Musial retains its original colors and clarity.
Warnecke’ colors photographs were forgotten after his death, but several years ago the Smithsonian dug out of its archives some Warnecke celbrity photos and put them on public display at their National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Visitors to the exhibit were mesmerized by the living colors of celebrities they only knew of in black and white. Since this exhibit Warnecke’s color photographs have gain strong demand from photography collectors.
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The second photo is a rare early 1900s “orotone” photograph of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis recently auctioned by Lelands. Only a small handful of baseball orotones are known to exist.
The orotone was a rare, high end photographic process that had the image on a pane of glass backed in genuine gold. Oro is Latin for gold. The process is know for its three dimentional appearance and distinct golden tone. The process was made famous by turn of the century American West and Indian photographer Edward Curtis. The Landis photo is shown in its original 15 x10 inches frame with easel back.
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The last photo is an original Harold Edgerton 1934 ‘strobpscopic’ super high speed photograph showing American former Ohio State football great Wes Fesler kicking a football.
An M.I.T. Electrical Engineering Professor, Dr. Edgerton (1903-1990) became world famous for his invention of the high speed flash tube that allowed for super high speed photography, known as strobascopic photography. Many of his high speed photographs are a part of popular culture. His famous images of the bullet piercing an apple and milk dripping into a saucer are considered to be works of art as much as demonstrations of scientific acumen. His original photographs are held by the Museum of Modern Art, London’s Albert and Victoria Museum and the International Museum of Photography. Edgerton later developed night aerial photography used during World War II, and underwater photography techniques used by Jaques Cousteau.
While his images have often been reproduced over the years, original examples, such as here, are rare.
This original/vintage Edgerton 9×7 inches gelatin-silver photograph was part of a series of three photographs that comprised history’s first ever super high speed photographs of a football player kicking a football. The photograph was taken in Edgerton’s laboratory.
The kicker, Wes Fesler, was a Harvard University basketball coach at the time of the photograph, and earlier a three time All-American at Ohio State. Fesler is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and appears in the 1955 Topps All-American trading card set. He also was the head football coach at the University of Minnesota.
The image was taken at 1/100,000th of a second.This photograph was owned by the ACME News Service, New York City. The back has ACME and United Press stamping and the original 1934 printed description. This complete but brittle paper tag is lengthy and gives all the details about how the photograph was taken and its history.