|PACK SECRETS for May 31 2004|
Identifying ORIGINAL CHARLES CONLON
PHOTOS by Examining the Backs
An early 1900s editor for The Sporting News, Charles
M. Conlon remains the most famous baseball photographer of all time. He
shot many of the most famous images of early baseball, including of legends
like Babe Ruth, Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio and Christy Mathewson.
Conlon's old employer, The Sporting News, has a
nice section about their photographer, including a nice article Conlon wrote
about himself: http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/conlon/
As you might expect, there is great market demand
for Conlon's photographs and his photos of Hall of Famers can fetch high
prices, sometimes in the thousands of dollars. While not rare as the hen
teeth photos of Carl Horner of Joseph Hall, many of his original photos
are difficult to identify due to Conlon's inconsistent marking. While the
popular contemporary photographers like George Burke and Horner made the
collector's life easy by clearly including their names on nearly every of
their photos, Conlon often did not stamp his and his handwriting was messy
and not intuitively decipherable. I've seen numerous cases where the collector
or dealer did not realize he owned an original Conlon.
The easiest way to identify most original Charles
Conlons is by looking at the photo's back and examining the stamping and
handwriting. Most photos are identified by the presence of one of his stamps
and/or his distinctive handwriting.
* 1) Personal stamp:
He often placed one of his stamps, including his name and often with an
address, on the photo's back. Of course this makes the photo simple to identify
as his. But he didn't always use his stamp.
* 2) Conlon's signature, initial and/or notes. Usually in pencil, Conlon often signed his last name
('Conlon') or his initial ('C') and hastily circled it. He wrote his last
name with a big 'C' followed by a hasty small-lettered 'onlon.' His handwriting
is hurried and often messy. He also usually wrote a caption of the image
or similar notes at the top. Again, his handwriting his hurried and messy.
Deail showing Conlon's stamp and circled
last name (Image provided by Julie Vognar. Thanks to Kevin Struss who also
kindly provided images for me to look at for this article).
In cases, Conlon did not stamp or even sign his photos, but most are marked
with his stamp and/or signature or initial.