While a young collector I had the good fortune to meet a Chicago native, the late Jim Rowe. Jim had worked for the great baseball photographer George Brace and had access to Brace’s original negatives. Brace, and by extension Rowe, were a God-send to autograph collectors such as myself. Collecting autographs through the mail had before Rowe had a somewhat frustrating aspect; there were many, many great players willing to sign for kids such as myself but it was nearly impossible to find photos worthy of sending to them. Once or twice I cut up baseball history books that I had thoroughly absorbed but taking scissors to a book made my heart sink. Besides, the photos in the cheaply printed books were grainy and of the lowest possible quality. I pretty much had to settle for sending blank 3″ x 5″ cards. Even that had dangers; blank cards on both sides were difficult to find and players would (far too) often sign the cards on the lined side.
But card shows came to Detroit in the early ’70’s and hence my introduction to Mr. Rowe. I certainly never got to know him well but he was a pleasant, if very quiet, man. He had a closely typed list of players that he could make real photo prints of. If I recall the price was three for a buck and you could order just a single print of any player on that list. I don’t think that you could choose different poses of players but if you ordered, say, three Carl Hubbell postcards then you would often get multiple poses back from him. A buck was still a buck back then and I would save up for some time to finally mail Mr. Rowe an order for five or six bucks. Actually, six bucks was probably a very big order for me but the gentleman never complained.
The photo postcards were generally beautiful and I remember that my mouth fell open when the first signed one come back through the mails. The postcards took my enjoyment to an entirely new level. Thank you, Jim Rowe, I remember your kindness. In the next post I’ll write a little about the process that Mr. Rowe probably used to make his wonderful photo postcards. Charles