Baseball Cards First Sold with Gum?

Did you know that baseball cards celebrated a 150-year anniversary in 2018? In 1868, the first baseball cards were produced by Peck & Snyder, a sporting goods store in New York.

Tobacco companies began including baseball cards with their products in the 1880s. This practice eventually died out because they learned that children were the main audience for the cards—most states prohibited children from purchasing tobacco by the end of World War I.

So, when were baseball cards first included with gum?

H.D. Smith & Company, a Cincinnati company that began in 1856, may have been the first to include a baseball card packaged with gum. An ad that mentions HD Smith & Co.’s products in Leslie’s is dated October 27, 1888. A partial ad reads:

“A novel production of theirs this season is the St. Louis and Detroit Champion Baseball Gum—a piece of gum with a perfect lithograph picture of one of the champion nine of the National League or American Association on each piece. The pictures were made to order in Germany, and are wonders in their way.”

When an auction house came across two baseball cards from 1888, they researched the origin. The players were Sam Thompson and Ned Hanlon. “H.D.S. & Co.” was printed on one of the tabs. Further digging led to the H.D. Smith & Company. If these were printed early in 1888, they believed they might have found baseball cards from the first chewing gum company to include them.

This company manufactured and sold a variety of chewing gums. The “Big Long Chewing Gum” was advertised as “the best paraffine gum made.” They sold a patented medicinal gum called “Cough.” “Red Riding Hood” gum was advertised on ceiling fan pulls.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Blitz, Matt. “How Gum and Baseball Cards Became Intertwined,” Food & Wine, 2019/03/18 https://www.foodandwine.com/news/how-gum-and-baseball-cards-became-intertwined.

“Spectactular 1888 Scrapps Uncut Pair of HOFers – Sam Thompson/Ned Hanlon – SGC Fair 20,” Love of the Game Auctions, 2019/03/18 http://loveofthegameauctions.com/spectacular-1888-scrapps-uncut-pair-of-hofers—sa-lot3962.aspx.

“Pictorial history of baseball cards covers 150 years of diamond dandies on cardboard,” Starr Cards, 2019/03/18 http://starrcards.com/history-of-baseball-cards/.

Woellert, Dann. Cincinnati Candy—A Sweet History, American Palate, 2017.

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