The T100 Honest Silhouettes set is a unique issue and, suffice to say, even most pre-war collectors likely have not heard of it. The varied set includes all sorts of subjects and has a baseball card featured in it. The most popular card in the set, it is often said to feature Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan.
However, evidence doesn’t really suggest that is the case.
About the T100 Honest Silhouettes Set
The T100 Honest Silhouettes set includes a total of 50 cards. It is named as such because the pictures have a dark appearance with pictures of subjects that look like silhouettes.
I’ve seen almost every card in the set and the cards are so dark that it’s sometimes even difficult to make out the picture. And without any descriptions, either, collectors are left trying to figure out exactly what is being depicted.
The set is mostly a non-sports set and includes a variety of subjects. Those pictured are generic and feature musicians, people in a variety of occupations, and people performing everyday activities, such as reading the newspaper or walking a dog. But the set does depict several athletes, including a baseball player, football player, boxer, golfer, and bowler.
The cards are very rare – particularly the sports issues, which seem to have been gobbled up by type collectors. Backs of the cards have an advertisement for Honest Tobacco. The back advertises that 50 cards are available and that they were printed in New York.
While the cards’ pictures were printed and displayed vertically, the ad on the back, as shown here, was printed horizontally.
Case Against Roger Bresnahan
While other athletes depicted in the set are not generally tied to specific athletes, collectors have been quick to call the card featuring the baseball catcher a Roger Bresnahan issue. My guess is that, typically, the owners of the cards have driven home that suggestion.
The key piece of evidence cited is that the player pictured is a catcher with an ‘NY’ on his sleeve. Identifying this as a Bresnahan card, however, might be a bit of a reach. Here are a few reasons why.
First, and most importantly, the dates for a Bresnahan card aren’t a perfect fit. Most sources say it is a 1910 issue and it is graded as being from that year, although this Heritage auction says it is ‘circa‘ 1910. Yes, Bresnahan was a catcher and yes, he did play in New York. But the problem is that Bresnahan left the New York Giants after the 1908 season as he was traded to the Cardinals, where he would become a player manager. He would remain in St. Louis until 1912 until 1913 when he would join the Chicago Cubs for his final three seasons. For it to really fit as a Bresnahan card, the set would really have to have been a 1908 set at the latest and the closest we really get to that is that aforementioned ‘circa’ Heritage reference.
Looking beyond that, however, there’s still no guarantee that the player featured would have been Bresnahan, anyway. That’s because, as there are today, there were two New York teams at the time of this set. Collectors have often stated that the Giants’ NY logo is on the sleeve of the player shown but a second team was also in New York at the time – the New York Highlanders (who would go on to become the Yankees). They also wore an NY on the sleeve so what’s to say it doesn’t highlight one of their players?
If we are really trying to identify a specific New York catcher, two reasonable options existed. In 1910, the starting catcher for the New York Giants was Chief Meyers and the Highlanders’ catcher was Ed Sweeney. The player shown is right-handed and unfortunately, that doesn’t narrow the list down any farther as both catchers mentioned, along with Bresnahan, were all right-handed. If we’re really insisting the card features a player, it would almost certainly be one of those two, assuming this really is a 1910 set. And, as stated, even if it is not truly from 1910, Bresnahan would have had to compete with another catcher in another city for the distinction of being pictured on the card.
Another key is that both of the teams’ logos had an intertwined NY. The NY on the T100 card is a block letter format. This was possibly done to avoid any copyright issues with either team. In other words, it is quite possible that not only was the player shown not supposed to be Bresnahan, Meyers, or Sweeney, but was meant to be intentionally generic instead.
Case For Roger Bresnahan
There isn’t much evidence in the case for considering this to be a Bresnahan card – particularly if it was printed in 1910.
But in trying to find the original photo used to create this card, I found this one to to be very interesting. While the image is from the other side and features Bresnahan facing to the right instead of the left on his card, the picture looks a lot like the T100 card, just reversed. The hand out to receive the ball, the underhanded glove position, the stance. It just looks a lot like the image on his card. The biggest thing I note is that the stance looks wildly similar.
Given what we know, I don’t see any real explanation for calling this a Bresnahan issue. And even if it was proven to be a pre-1910 issue, while it could be a specific player, I would lean towards calling it a generic issue because we simply don’t know which team was supposed to be featured.
The one takeaway I have in studying this card a little closer is that to call it a Bresnahan card with more proof seems, at best, a stretch. There just isn’t really the evidence to support that and, unless the identical original photo surfaces showing it is Bresnahan, my guess is that there won’t ever be proof for citing it as a true card of the Hall of Fame catcher.