On the occasion of the 2014 Super Bowl—the first ever played in the New York area—the Metropolitan is displaying a selection of vintage football cards from the celebrated collection of Jefferson R. Burdick (1900–1963). In 1947, the Syracuse electrician began to donate his collection of approximately 303,000 trade and postcards to the Museum. The Burdick collection constitutes an integral part of the Museum's collection of ephemera and tells the history of popular printmaking in the United States. Shown for the first time in this exhibition, the football cards document the sport through media ranging from lithography to photography.
Highlights include football cards from 1894 by the tobacco company Mayo—the first such cards to be produced. The rare John Dunlop (Harvard) card is on view, along with other early collegiate standouts. The exhibition also features Hall of Famers such as Coach Knute Rockne, Red Grange, 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. The latest set 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 are 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.
Exhibition curator Freyda Spira introduces an "itinerary" of eight selected works in the exhibition.