A baseball fan who walked by a newsstand in 1927 may have seen something that would have caught their eye. It was apparently memorable enough to have been saved for 93 years: a rare poster-sized photo of Babe Ruth—at the height of his sports celebrity powers and in uniform— signing autographs on baseballs and bats.
The 14×19 photo now at RMY Auctions shows Ruth with officials from the U.S. War Department who collected the autographed items for use as prizes at Citizens Military Training Camps around the country.
The camps were held each summer from 1921-1940. The program enabled men to obtain basic military training but without any obligation to any future active military duty.
Elliott’s photos were often meant to serve as a sales tactic to convince the public to buy newspapers as they went about their daily business. Elliott Service was established in 1913 in New York City. The company is described by the New York State Library as a “a subscription photographic and pictorial news service agency providing images for window display and advertising purposes.”
Elliott created larger format photos of news events and celebrities that were sent to subscribers, including news agencies, schools, libraries and businesses several times per week. In the absence of radio and television, the photos were meant to bring media and maybe some discussion to the masses. They are quite scarce today, yet generally not expensive.
The photo contains the Elliott Service logo in the lower right corner. The back carries a large paper caption. Despite some wear from display and handling, the photo remains in generally good condition. It’s among the top items in RMY’s June Collector’s Auction, set to close June 6.