BASEBALL CARDS GLENDORA

Glendora, California has a long history with baseball cards dating back to the early 1900s. Located just east of Los Angeles, Glendora was a small agricultural town that developed a passion for the national pastime of baseball. As baseball grew in popularity across America in the late 19th century, so too did the collecting and trading of cardboard pieces of history known as baseball cards.

Some of the earliest baseball cards produced in America came from companies based in Glendora. In the 1890s, a local printer named Charles Cutler began producing small lithographed cards featuring major league players of the day. His cards were simple – featuring just a black and white image of the player on one side with basic stats and information on the reverse. Cutler saw the cards as novel promotional items to help advertise his printing business.

As the popularity of baseball exploded in the early 20th century following the formation of the American and National Leagues, so too did the fledgling baseball card industry. In 1909, a Glendora candy maker named Walter H. Schroeder had the idea to include a baseball card in each pack of cigarettes he manufactured. Called Caramel Kid Cigarettes, the cards featured colorful lithographed images of stars like Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie. The innovative marketing ploy was a huge success and helped establish Schroeder as a pioneer in the baseball card business.

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Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Schroeder Candy Company was one of the leading producers of baseball cards found in candy, gum, and tobacco products. Their high quality lithographed cards featured the biggest stars of the era like Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, and Lou Gehrig. While Topps Chewing Gum is often credited with popularizing the modern format of baseball cards in gum in the 1950s, Schroeder was including cards in candy bars and other products nearly 50 years earlier. Their cards helped fuel the growing baseball card craze spreading across the nation.

As the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, it took its toll on the baseball card industry in Glendora. Schroeder and other local producers scaled back production due to economic hardship. But the passion for collecting cards remained strong in Glendora throughout those difficult years. Many kids in town swapped, sorted, and stashed away their beloved cardboard treasures, hoping to one day complete their sets. This helped keep the baseball card hobby alive, even during the Depression era.

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By the late 1930s, the economy started to recover and the baseball card industry rebounded along with it. In 1938, a new Glendora company called Brookwood began producing sets featuring the biggest stars of that era like Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, and Hank Greenberg. Their quality lithographed cards were sold in packs and helped reinvigorate the local baseball card scene heading into World War 2.

During the war years of the early 1940s, production of non-essential items like baseball cards was scaled back or halted altogether due to rationing of resources. But Glendora’s love of the game and its cardboard commodities did not diminish. Kids collected, traded, and stored away what cards they had with the hope that the hobby would bounce back after the war ended.

And bounce back it did. In the post-war boom years of the late 1940s and 1950s, the baseball card industry exploded across America. Glendora once again found itself at the forefront of the boom thanks to two pioneering local producers – Brookwood and the Topps Chewing Gum Company, which had set up operations in town in 1948. Topps in particular dominated the postwar card scene with their innovative new format of including a card in each pack of gum. Stars of the day like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle became collectible card superstars.

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Throughout the 1950s, ’60s and beyond, Topps produced their iconic sets in Glendora and the town became closely associated with the baseball card phenomenon. Local kids could often be found trading, comparing, and discussing the latest Topps releases in neighborhood ball fields, shops, and schools. Some talented artists from Glendora even went on to have long careers designing cards for Topps. The town truly became intertwined with the baseball card industry.

Although production has since moved elsewhere, Glendora’s legacy in the world of baseball cards lives on. The Glendora History Museum hosts an annual baseball card show each summer that draws collectors from across Southern California. Former residents with fond memories of collecting as kids in the ’50s and ’60s return to swap stories and cards from the town’s rich baseball card past. Now spanning over 125 years, Glendora’s influence on the hobby remains an indelible part of both local history and the larger story of America’s pastime on cardboard.

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