The Charm Of Making: The Process Of Creation For The T206 Baseball Card Series
The images for the set were produced by the American Lithograph Company, New York, which was very involved in both securing players and producing images for use in the set. Not very much is known about this company. What is known is that many of the T206 portrait poses feature the work of Carl Horner. He was one of the most prominent baseball photographers in the early 20th century. Along with his contemporary, Charles Conlon, Horner brilliantly captured the classic images of our national pastime. Working from his Washington Street studios in Boston, Massachusetts, Horner was renowned for his famous portrait photographs of the baseball stars in the early 1900's. Horner published many of his studio portraits in the period of 1904-05. It appears that Carl Horner granted the American Tobacco Company permission to use his photographs on some of their baseball card inserts beginning in 1909. Several other baseball card issues from this same period also feature Horner portraits.
Multi-stage printing process resulted in missed stages - Many examples have been found with printing variations that clearly resulted from missing one or more stage in the printing process. From these, additional information can be surmised regarding the production process. There is a reference in the Neal Ball permission letter to the effect that the T206 cards were printed by the American Lithograph Company. The lithograph process involved a layered type of printing, where certain colors were added in different stages (layers). As can be expected with the printing of millions upon millions of cards, several examples have been found missing one or more of the color stages. Lithography was far more complicated than four-color printing, however it appears that four base colors were used in this process, and these could be combined (overlapped) to produce additional colors.
The following is a breakdown of the color layers for the T206 cards:
- Stage 1 - YELLOW
- This was the first stage of the printing process. The yellow provided the foundation upon which other colors were added and/or combined to create the complete image.
- Stage 2 - BLACK
- The second stage applied was the black color. This stage provided the entire border, as well as any black coloring on the picture. Several cards have been seen that contain only the yellow and black printing stages. These examples are missing the brown name and team captions.
- Stage 3 - BROWN
- The third color layer applied was the brown. This layer was responsible for not only the color in the picture portion, but also for the name and team caption. Printing errors that have been seen missing the name and team captions are missing this process. Also, any brown stage that was double printed would result in the name and team caption also being duplicated. Many cards have been seen with only the yellow, black, and brown colors applied. These cards seem almost photographic in appearance and most have been found in the Sweet Caporal 350-460 series.
- Stage 4 - BLUE
- The fourth printing stage was the blue color. The blue printed on top of white would just be blue, but when printed on top of the yellow would result in a light green. This blue and yellow color mixture was used to create the green grass backgrounds.
- Stage 5 - GREEN
- The next printing stage was the green color. The dark green color (such as the background color on the card of Butler) was a separate stage and was not a result of mixing blue with yellow.
- Stage 6 - RED
- It seems that the final color printing stage was the red. The red printed on top of the white would just be red, while red on top of the yellow would produce any orange color. Many of the identified printing errors showing Boston players missing the red "B" from the cap and/or uniform are missing this final red process. Examples have also been seen of Huggins and Egan, both of Cincinnati, missing the red coloring from the team name on jersey.
Evidence points to cards being printed in sheets. Many miscut cards have been identified that when considered together support the theory that the cards were printed on sheets. From observing miscuts, errors, and variations, we have evidence of vertical, horizontal, and sheet type patterns. By combining all the evidence, we come to the conclusion that these cards were indeed printed on sheets. While no complete sheets of T206 cards are known, the evidence is very strong that they existed in this form.