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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Baseball Cards, 1887-1914

[Detail] A. A. Mattern/John Kling. Hassan Triple Folders, 1912.

Historical Comprehension

Browsing the collection by player, team, league, city, or card set, students can determine what life might have been like at the turn of the century. Who were the people playing baseball? How old were they? Where did they live and work? Were they all white men?

In answering these questions students can discuss what inferences they are making from the images and what assumptions they are bringing to their analysis of the images. How do their own experiences of baseball and baseball cards influence their interpretations of the cards and, thereby, of life at the turn of the century?

McDowell, 1888. S.F. Hess, Newsboys League.

[McDowell], 1888, S.F. Hess Newsboys League

After acknowledging these assumptions, students can create a list of research questions to confirm or negate their reasoning. They can determine whether these cards represent all the baseball players of the time. Were some players and teams excluded from the card sets? What were the social and cultural factors of this historical time period that resulted in these exclusions? By reading about the collection they can determine if this is a complete collection of all the baseball cards of the period and understand the motivations of the original collector and of baseball card publishers. Does this collection provide a broad enough representation to allow for an accurate comprehension of this period? What other materials would assist in understanding this period?

To further their comprehension, students can read the special presentations "Early Baseball Pictures, 1860s - 1920s" and "Baseball, the Color Line, and Jackie Robinson, 1860s-1960s".

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