Let the Buyer Beware

Caveat emptor or let the buyer beware has never been more appropriate advice for ebay buyers than with regard to three items that are  up for sale now for large prices. Apparently Mitchell Pierce, Seneca, of New York State, accumulated a collection of artifacts during his life that are now being sold after his death. Three items that readers of my blog may be interested in are photos identified as being of Carlisle Indian School football players circa 1910. My research has found nothing to suggest that Mitchell Pierce ever played on Carlisle’s varsity squad. It has shown that he departed Carlisle several months before the start of the 1910 season.

The first of the three photos of interest is probably what it is advertised as being:


The outfits worn by these individuals or small groups of players appear to be Carlisle uniforms based on the stripes on the forearms and socks. Also, the backgrounds look similar to those on photos known to be genuine. A couple of them may have been shot on Carlisle’s home field. I have made no attempt to identify the players in the photos and don’t know what Mitchell Pierce looked like. My guess is that these photos are of Carlisle students, but not necessarily those who played on the varsity squad.

The second and third photos aren’t immediately identifiable as being of Carlisle students or having been taken at Carlisle. The backgrounds in the photos are not similar to those I have previously seen in Carlisle photos and the uniforms are also very different from those in the first set of photos. I checked with an expert on such matters, Richard Tritt, photocurator at Cumberland County Historical Society. Richard was not able to identify any of the individuals and the backgrounds were not familiar to him either. There is no photo of Mitchell Pierce in the CCHS collection, so Richard was not able to identify him in the photos. If Richard can’t tell if these photos were made at Carlisle, few people could because he has seen hundreds if not thousands of photos to compare these with.



While the uniforms in these photos are clearly not those of the Carlisle varsity, the possibility exists that they are of shop or organization teams. Major Mercer once told a reporter that he had to outfit 14 different football teams at Carlisle. His approach was to buy the varsity new uniforms every year and to hand their old ones down to his other teams. Unfortunately, few photos have been found of shop teams and none of teams for the band or literary societies. Follows is a photo of the Shoemakers’ team. A photo of the Blacksmiths also exists. The Blacksmiths have large Bs sewn on their jerseys and two lettermen as coaches. Varsity socks are visible on one of the Shoemakers and a letterman holds their ball.

Another possibility is that these team photos were taken at an on-reservation Indian school. I haven’t seen Pierce’s student file, so don’t know if he attended another school before coming to Carlisle. He may have because it was not uncommon for Carlisle students to have begun their education elsewhere. These photos may have been taken at that school.

Regardless of the origin of these highly priced photos, let the buyer beware.

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4 Responses to “Let the Buyer Beware”

  1. john liffmann Says:

    mitchell pierce played on the lacrosse team, not on the football team.

    • tombenjey Says:

      Lacrosse was first played at Carlisle during the spring of 1910 to replace baseball as an interscholastic sport. Mitchell Pierce left Carlisle after commencement in 1910, so he could played on the lacrosse team. About all I know is that William Garlow was captain of that team and the outcomes of the games they played. I haven’t seen a team roster yet. Mitchell Pierce could have played on that first Carlisle lacrosse team. If you have photos or articles about it, I would love to see them.

  2. john liffmann Says:

    I have his varsity letter document signed by Pop Warner and a team photo of the lacrosse team.

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