National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Cigar Store Figure: Ball Player Cigar Store Figure: Ball Player
Rendered by Albert Ryder (artist), c. 1939
watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on paper
overall: 48.5 x 29.2 cm (19 1/8 x 11 1/2 in.)
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Woodcarving from the Index of American Design
Object 8 of 26

This shop figure clearly advertises the lunch offered by an eatery. Less visible in the rendering is the inscription, "Robb MANUF'R. 114 Centre St. New York," which refers to the premier carver of show figures and trade signs at the time, Samuel A. Robb (1851-1928). Robb had been apprenticed to a carver and then studied drawing from life and from casts at the National Academy of Design and perspective drawing at Cooper Union. By 1875 he had set up his own shop in New York. During this decade baseball players became the favorite subject for cigar-store carvings, and Robb's workshop produced several. It is possible that the mustachioed batter in Ryder's rendering, probably carved between 1888 and 1903, is Mike "King" Kelly, to whom he bears a strong resemblance. Kelly, a catcher who played for Cincinnati, Chicago, Boston, and New York between 1878 and 1893, and who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945, has been called the first superstar of baseball.

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