This category contains 99 posts

An Unbelievable Life-Thomas Sopwith

Helmar “Daredevil” series Thomas Sopwith

London Historians’ Blog is a wonderful place to spend an hour. Here’s what they say about Mr. Sopwith:

“As a small contribution to #RAF100, I’d like to remember in particular a man who – while never in the RAF himself – did build tens of thousands of their warplanes. Boy, did he build them. That man was Sir Thomas Sopwith (1888 – 1989). Remembered mainly for the aeroplane that bore his name – the Camel – Sopwith also gave us many other famous fighter planes, including the Hurricane, the Hawker Hunter and, believe it or not, he was also involved in the Sea Harrier, some 60 years after World War One. In other words, he was building aircraft from barely ten years after the Wright brothers up to a model which is still in use by the US Marines today, over a century of in-service fighter planes. You won’t be surprised to learn, then, that Sopwith himself lived to be 101. “

It also turns out that Mr. Sopwith was a great hockey goalie and even played for the 1910 Great Britain National Hockey Team that won the gold medal in the first European Championships. Maybe it would be fun to make a hockey card of him.

Give London Historians’ Blog a read sometime soon. Best, Charles

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1933 Game of the Century

Collector and historian Michael Fox has created an attractive and clever poster detailing Baseball’s First All-Star Game. He’s come up with a great way to follow the action of the game in visual form–great idea! It takes just moments to orientate to the format and then you can easily follow the action of the game. Very nice.

Michael is doing other important games in this manner and I hope that he’ll share some additional ones in the future. They are designed at 24″ x 18″, a perfect size for a poster. Thanks, Michael!

Display Exhibit #6, Cleveland

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Jackie Robinson by Pedley

Jackie Robinson by J. Scott Pedley

Mr. Pedley’s art has really caught on. I love the colors in this one and the way that he handles the face planes. Scott is also a great guy.

Helmar Rug Arrives!

Months ago I wrote that I had partnered with a traditional, hand-woven maker of rugs for a test project. I was anxious to see how the traditional method of tying small knots to make a design would work out on our theme of vintage baseball. There ended up being a few unexpected twists but I am very happy with the finished piece. At left the rug is nearly finished.

And here is the finished piece! I don’t know whether to put it on my floor or on my wall. But I do love it. It has that old world tapestry feel to it. If anyone else is interested in a one-of-one design let me know. They are not inexpensive but will last forever.

Here’s a beautiful exhibit of tapestries from the Renaissance. I would love to design something that large. Charles

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Exhibit Display #5, Cleveland

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A Project to Think About…

No, this doesn’t really exist…yet. Helmar digital mock-up.

These digital mock-ups were intended for my Baseball History & Art magazine but just didn’t fit. I’ve thought through the process and I am sure that we could make a physical product pretty close to these images. It would be quite a project, though, and I’m not sure that anyone would be interested. Better known players would help. Charles

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Exhibit Display #4, Cleveland

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The Red Baron Lands…

The Red Baron by Helmar

Our new series “Daredevil Newsmakers” is available now!

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Exhibit Display #3, Cleveland

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Exhibit Display #2, Cleveland

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Exhibit Display #1, Cleveland

Display done for exhibition at the Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park, Cleveland.

Three Boston Catchers

George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer by Helmar

This will be another art card in our series of Western subjects. Charles

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Lincoln in the Field

Helmar colorized photo: Abraham Lincoln

Early Henry Ford

By Helmar Brewing.

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T-Shirt Design, Terrapins

Federal League Baltimore Terrapins design by Helmar

Always something different to think about… Charles

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Happy 21st to son Nick!

One of Nick’s favorite images. He’s a great young man.

Amy Johnson, Aviator

Amy Johnson by Helmar Brewing

The art will be used soon in a series on aviators that I am working on. I know that it would be more appropriate to write about Amy Johnson’s highly successful flying career but, let’s face it, people want to know about terrible crashes. Here it is, from Wikipedia:

On 5 January 1941, while flying an Airspeed Oxford for the ATA from Prestwick via Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, Johnson went off course in adverse weather conditions. Reportedly out of fuel, she bailed out as her aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary near Herne Bay.

The crew of HMS Haslemere[Note 3] spotted Johnson’s parachute coming down and saw her alive in the water, calling for help. Conditions were poor – there was a heavy sea and a strong tide, snow was falling and it was intensely cold.[16] Lt Cmdr Walter Fletcher, the commander of Haslemere, dived into the water in an attempt to rescue Johnson.[16] Fletcher failed in the attempt. As a result of the intense cold he died in hospital days later. In 2016, Alec Gill, a historian, claimed that the son of a crew member stated that Johnson had died because she was sucked into the blades of the ship’s propellers; the crewman did not observe this to occur, but believes it is true.[17] This claim has not been verified, as Johnson’s body was never recovered.

A memorial service was held for Johnson in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 14 January 1941. Walter Fletcher was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal in May 1941.[16]

As a member of the ATA with no known grave, she is (under the name Amy V. Johnson) commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.[18]

Disputed circumstances

Johnson had been one of the original subscribers to the share offer for Airspeed.[19] It has been more recently hinted her death was due to friendly fire. In 1999, it was reported that Tom Mitchell, from Crowborough, Sussex, claimed to have shot Johnson’s aircraft down when she twice failed to give the correct identification code during the flight. Mitchell explained how the aircraft was sighted and contacted by radio. A request was made for the signal. She gave the wrong one twice. “Sixteen rounds of shells were fired and the plane dived into the Thames Estuary. We all thought it was an enemy plane until the next day when we read the papers and discovered it was Amy. The officers told us never to tell anyone what happened.”[20]

Real Photo Postcards

Vintage contact print equipment with unopened packages of raw postcards.

In a recent post we looked at the late Jim Rowe of Chicago and how his real photo postcards really invigorated autograph collectors back in the latter 1960’s through perhaps the mid 1980’s. Today we’ll take a quick look at the basic process that was used to make real photo postcards back in the 1910 era. Most of the equipment pictured here can be reliably dated to 1918 or prior.

Real photo postcards were not difficult to make once the maker got the hang of it. The equipment needed was minimal: a photo negative, a contact print frame, blank postcards that have been chemically treated, a few readily available solutions and a couple rinse pans. It was a perfect small business and could be done at home. The 1918 package of blank postcards on the right even brag that the postcards “can be developed by gaslight”.

With the advent of blank postcards becoming available in 1903, the actual process became straightforward. A photo negative and blank postcard were sandwiched within a contact frame and locked down (there were no opportunities for enlargement; the print would always be the same size as the negative). A light source was briefly engaged, transferring the ghost image to the postcard. A little experience was needed to gauge the length of the exposure. The postcard, with the inherent ghost image, was then quickly rinsed through a series of four baths and voila! Your postcard was ready for sale. Charles.

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Jim Rowe Postcards

It was likely the late Jim Rowe that made these contact prints using original negatives of photos done by George Brace.

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

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A Riot of Color

This was probably the second or third piece of Indian miniatures that I purchased years ago. It impresses me as much today as it did back then. Hope that you enjoy it. Charles

The Old Ballpark

The great Hughie Jennings in Detroit. Underrated all around.

This is a piece that has been done for a while but I haven’t published it yet. A few people might recognize the homes in the background from period photographs. It would have been a wonder to live right next to Bennett Park! Charles

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Another Experiment..

Based on the Allen & Ginter series of 1888. I’ve always liked that design. Charles

Baseball Heritage Museum Plug

Shoeless Joe Jackson at League Park

Today I would like to give a plug to our friends at the Baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland. Their Facebook page is updated more frequently and it is surprising how many activities that they have. It is a wonderful place to visit; the exhibition space is actually within the old ticket offices. Kudos to Bob Zimmerman and Joe Gazzo. Joe is a very gifted artist and has often held art instruction classes at the museum. What could be cooler than that? Charles.

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Had to share this one…

I really like this one, a Bill Mazeroski for the new series of 1950’s players. The painting is done using opaque watercolors. Which other second basemen from that decade would you like to see?

Best, Charles Mandel

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What we’re working on today…

Time to shake things up a bit! Here’s one of the first paintings for a new series that will concentrate on the 1950’s.

I expect that the final size will be 3″ x 4″. How about sending me some suggestions for the name of this new set? Any players that you would like to see?

Best, Charles

What we’re working on today

The 1910-11 T3 Turkey Red series is often considered by collectors to be the most beautiful of all early baseball sets. In fact, the beauty of this series has probably never been surpassed since the oversized cards appeared over a century ago. Amazing.

I’ve finally decided that it is time for us to take a shot at our own version of the iconic series. After months of discussion we’ve started to work on our first paintings. Here’s an advance view of our Eddie Collins card as of a couple days ago.

And here is the work as of today. Any suggestions for improvement? Also, if you have any other ideas for this series, such as player suggestions, please let me know!! Charles.

A Close View of Mr. X

A close-up of Mr. X

Here’s the close-up of our mystery player. I think that it points away from being Hans Wagner. The shoulders are more narrow and the face just seems to indicate that it is another player. So, who do you think it is now? Our choices seem to be Fred Clarke, Chief Wilson or Roy Thomas. In any case, it is a great photo!

Update to Player Identification

Clarke or?

The last post began the discussion of our Helmar Imperial Cabinet #4 and the identity of this mysterious Pirate player. While I’ve suggested that it is Hall of Fame member Fred Clarke, others are certain that the photo is of the ever-popular Hans Wagner. Let’s dig a little deeper:


At the top of the cabinet the photographer has scrawled “Bresnahan catching” and “Pittsburg + N.Y.”. Following that is a much less clear tag that appears to read “Sept. 18”. This does help narrow things down for us.

A quick Internet search shows that the Pirates played the Giants on Sept. 18, 1908 in a double-header at the Polo Grounds. Our photo clearly agrees with other period images of the stadium. On that long-ago September afternoon the Giants crushed the visiting Pirates in both games. Left handed batters for Pittsburgh that day consisted only of these players: Fred Clarke, Chief Wilson, Roy Thomas, and pitcher Nick Maddox (who only had two at bats). The player shown in our Imperial Cabinet would be one of these four men unless Wagner decided to bat from the left side that day. Wagner is known to have hit lefty no more than a handful of times over the course of his long career. It would be a very rare photo indeed if it turns out to be Wagner.

Maddox, I think, can be excluded almost immediately. He simply didn’t look anything like the batter in the photo. Each of the other natural lefties (Clarke, Wilson, and Thomas) had prominent noses and that does complicate things for us.

Chief Wilson

Roy Thomas 

Based on my photo library I am now leaning toward Clarke but an not at all convinced. In my opinion it is definitely not Wagner. The best news of the night is that I found another photo online that I’ve never seen before. It is a photo from the HOF and is dated September 19th, 1908–the very next afternoon from our Imperial Cabinet photo. Pittsburgh and New York again played at the Polo Grounds (with a big win for Pittsburgh). This new photo clearly shows Bresnahan and Wagner together and is taken from the same point of view. Does it change your opinion of the mystery batter? Here it is.

Honus Wagner batting in game, Roger Bresnahan catching
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