Exhibition location: Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Gallery, Gallery 690
In conjunction with this year's Super Bowl—the first ever to be played in the New York area—The Metropolitan Museum of Art will display a selection of vintage football cards from its celebrated Jefferson R. Burdick Collection of printed ephemera. Opening January 24, 2014, Gridiron Greats: Vintage Football Cards in the Collection of Jefferson R. Burdick will feature some 150 football cards printed between 1894 and 1959. Also on view will be several works from the Museum’s Department of Photographs and a varsity football sweater from The Costume Institute. Super Bowl XLVIII will be played on February 2, 2014.
Highlights include football cards from 1894 by the tobacco company Mayo—the first such cards to be produced. The rare John Dunlop (Harvard) card will be shown, along with other early collegiate standouts. The exhibition will also feature Hall of Famers such as coach Knute Rockne, Red Grange and his teammate the powerhouse Bronko Nagurski, Jim Thorpe, and Sid Luckman; New York icons such as Frank Gifford, Tom Landry, Charlie Conerly, and Emlen Tunnell; and lesser-known players, coaches, and owners. Another highlight will be two cards depicting Kenny Washington. As a student at UCLA, Washington played alongside Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in professional baseball in 1945. The following year, Washington himself became the first African American to sign a contract with a National Football League team after integrated teams were reinstated.
The set dated most recently comes from Bazooka Chewing Gum in 1959 and includes Johnny Unitas, who became a household name after his last-second heroics in the 1958 NFL title game, often called “the greatest game ever played.” Also featured will be rare action photographs of varsity teams who played American football long before the founding of a national league in 1920 or the first Super Bowl in 1967.
The Burdick Collection tells the story of popular printmaking in the United States from approximately 1880 to 1960, and encompasses a broad range of sports cards, including—notably—more than 30,000 baseball cards.
The installation Gridiron Greats marks the first time a selection of football cards will be shown at the Metropolitan Museum.
The installation is organized by Freyda Spira, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints.
The installation will be featured on the website of the Metropolitan Museum (www.metmuseum.org). Also available on the Museum’s website will be an “itinerary” of highlights selected by Freyda Spira for suggested viewing in the gallery or online. Images of eight works in the installation will be shown, along with interesting historical facts or contextual information.
# # #
January 16, 2013