Blue Uniform Trade Cards Among Earliest Football Issues

It’s in the Details

Title Blue Uniform Trade Cards
Year Unknown
Size 2 3/4″ x 4″
Image Color
Type Trade Card
Number in Set
2 (?)

Blue Uniform Trade Cards Overview

Gately & Britton was a merchant in Reading, Pennsylvania operating in the 1800s and early 1900s. The company sold all sorts of items, including furniture, carpets, appliances, and clothing. Gately & Britton was advertised as the largest ‘Installment House’ in Reading, allowing customers to pay for things in weekly or monthly installments. Recently, I found a couple of early football trade cards featuring uniformed players with their name on them.

Another company, Gately & Fitzgerald, seemed to be an offshoot of the business. They were also a furniture company and located in nearby Johnstown. Other advertising items will sometimes be seen for that company as well.

Gately and Britton’s advertisements are found on a few trade cards. While most are of the non-sports variety, they are also present on some sports cards. The company seemed to have some interest in baseball, participating in an advertised baseball game against presumably another manufacturer or company in 1904 as mentioned in their hometown paper, The Reading Times.

001A popular trade card, “An Accurate Barometer” has been seen with the company’s stamp on it. But the company also distributed at least these two football trade cards with their name on it.

It is worth noting that at least one card with a similar design has players in a rugby-like pose. But that shouldn’t be surprising to collectors since American football was forged as a combination of soccer and rugby. The rules of the game were much different then and, in fact, what is considered as the first American football game, Rutgers and Princeton in 1969, featured a game with a round ball and players were not even allowed to pick it up and run with it.

As with any trade cards, these appeared with the names of other merchants as well. To date, the only other one I’ve seen on them was for Rolio – a type of breakfast food. On that one, the advertiser name appears on the back and the front has no text.

Dating these has been a bit difficult. As with other 19th Century trade cards, however, they are printed on thin paper stock. Each is approximately 3″ wide x 4″ tall with a thin red border around the image. These are almost certainly from the 1880s or 1890s. Backs of these Gately & Britton cards are entirely blank and the same printing appears on both at the bottoms:

Gately & Britton
(Limited)Largest Installment House in Reading
No. 940 Penn Street

One card depicts a ball carrier matched up against a001-copy defender. Both appear to be wearing uniforms and not simply regular clothing. The other shows a kicker, perhaps, since he is watching a ball fly over the goal post with defenders running towards him. Defenders are all wearing the same clothing, again hinting that these appear to depict an actual (albeit, perhaps not professional or collegiate) team.

The cards appear to be from the same ‘set’ but it is unknown how many others might be present as well. I have seen only three of these card designs – these two and a third different one with players in a rugby scrum formation. Because of that, it should be noted that, while I have classified them as football cards since they are an American issue that came well after the game was created, they could be considered a rugby issue.

The earliest recognized football card is the 1888 N162 Goodwin Champions Harry Beecher card. The earliest record I can find of Gately & Britton is from 1888 and given that they were in business for a while, it is not as likely as these cards date back to that exact year. However, these are still some of the earliest known football cards.

Blue Uniform Trade Cards Checklist

To date, I have found only the two examples shown here.

  1. Ball carrier against defender
  2. Kicking ball through uprights

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