Canale: Carl Horner’s greatest hit, Honus Wagner’s T206 portrait

From Larry Canale at The National Pastime Museum on May 6, 2015:

If you follow music, you know the phrase “one-hit wonder”: a recording artist who charted one huge Top 40 hit and then faded to oblivion. There’s Pilot (1975’s “Magic”), and Terry Jacks (1974’s “Seasons in the Sun”), and Edison Lighthouse (1970’s “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”), to name just three among thousands.

In the world of baseball, photographer Carl Horner is known for his landmark portrait of Honus Wagner—yes, that portrait: the one that appears on the most famous baseball card ever. Wagner’s T206 tobacco card pops up in the news every so often when a decent-condition example sells for a seven-figure price. Originally issued in limited quantities as a cigarette-pack premium between the years 1909 and 1911, it’s long been the Holy Grail among baseball collectors.

Wagner’s photographer, however, was no one-hit wonder. The Swedish-born Horner (1864–1926) was a productive portrait specialist who arrived in Boston in the 1880s and quickly established a studio where he welcomed a steady stream of clients—including early professional ballplayers.

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Originally published: May 6, 2015. Last Updated: May 6, 2015.