A couple of days ago, I got an email from a local collector of Carlisle Indian School artifacts enquiring about the legitimacy of a photo currently offered for sale on ebay. I looked at the item and noticed that the seller claims it is either a 1903 or, more likely in his estimation, a 1913 photo of the Shoemakers football team from Carlisle Indian School. I had never seen a photo of a shop team before but was well aware that such teams existed. Large shops had their own teams while smaller shops would have joint teams. Debating societies had teams. The band even had a team! When he was superintendent, Major Mercer claimed to have 14 teams to outfit. Each year the varsity would get new uniforms. Their old ones would be passed down to another team. Besides the varsity, the second team played a schedule of games as did the junior varsity. Selling athletic equipment to Carlisle was a lucrative business.
The seller said that he bought the photo from an enrolled member of the White Earth reservation in Minnesota. On the rear of the photo is written “Joe Libby Dec. 19, 1903.” Joe Libby was from the White Earth reservation and didn’t make the varsity until a few years later. I would say that this photo is real.
The very next day, I came across a collection of items that appear to have come from Mitchell Pierce’s estate. One of the items was a photograph of the Blacksmiths team. I think this photo is also real. Note the two lettermen on either end of the back row. They were probably experienced players who were coaching the Blacksmiths, most probably because that was their trade.
Both the Shoemakers photo and the collection that includes the Blacksmiths photo are still up for sale as of this writing, but the Shoemakers won’t be up much longer.