I have just been listing on my Reynard Collectables ebay store a very fine group of about thirty postcards, bought last year as part of a massive (and expensive!) collection at auction. The major part of the collection was glamour and humour cards, some of which have already been featured on here, but as the Wimbledon Championship fortnight is looming I thought I would take the opportunity to put these tennis-related ones up for sale. Aside from the fact that they are very fine photo cards of Edwardian sporting stars, they were also fascinating to do some research on while completing the listings.
I think they are all from around 1906 and include three cards showing men’s singles and doubles finals, with the courts – and especially the grandstands – a far cry from today (I think this is not long before they moved to the current home of the All England Club at Church Road).
The rest are of individuals or a few doubles pairs and include some of the “superstars” of the time. For instance the English Doherty brothers (Reginald and Hugh Laurence) won a huge number of singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon, won the Davis cup numerous times and several Olympic Games titles. Hugh was also the first non American to win the US national title (now the US Open). It is said that they only started losing as their health declined, as both suffered through poor health pretty much through their lives, and Reginald died in 1910 aged only 38, just four or five years after his last major win. His brother Hugh Laurence Doherty won his US crown in 1903 amongst a number of Wimbledon titles, singles and (with his brother) doubles. But he also died young, in 1919, aged only 43, having been invalided out of WWI due to ill health. He had actually given up tennis in 1906 to take up golf, at which he was also a fine player! The brothers were eventually inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1980.
Or what about Anthony Wilding, a New Zealander who won numerous Australian and Wimbledon titles (singles champion at Wimbledon 1910,11,12,13), both singles and doubles, and was for a time world number one. He died in WWI at Neuve Chapelle in 1915 (one of his commands was a fleet of armoured Rolls-Royce cars!). He is still remembered in New Zealand and has a foundation in his name – the Wilding Foundation. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.
Another interesting story was that of Karl Behr, a New Yorker who although a decent tennis player (Wimbledon doubles and US championship singles finalist) didn’t seem to have a record anywhere near that of the previously mentioned players, but was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame well before them (but he was American!). His main claim to fame was that he was a survivor of the RMS Titanic, sinking along with his fiancee and a group of other first class passengers. He died in 1949 aged 64.
Behr’s doubles partner in their Wimbledon final defeat in 1907 was Beals Wright, also from the USA, and although he never won a Wimbledon title he did win numerous US national titles and also two Olympic titles at St Louis in 1904. He died in 1961, aged 81, and had been inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1956.
The above are just a few of the highlights from fascinating personal stories from a bygone age. Other names include Norman Brookes (Australian), Sydney Smith, Dorothea Douglass, May Sutton, Dr Wilberforce Eaves (!), Roper Barrett, Alfred Gore, Major Ritchie (his name not his rank!), Otto Froitzheim, Max Decugis and George Hillyard (who later became AELTC secretary and under whose supervision the club moved to their current home at Church Road).
All in all, a fascinating slice of sporting and Edwardian social history and a very enjoyable few hours listing these cards, which are available (if not already sold) on the Reynard Collectables ebay store here.