Tag Archives: pittsfield


Baseball cards have been an integral part of the sport for over 150 years, documenting players, teams, and the evolution of America’s pastime. In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the history of baseball cards mirrors both the rise and decline of the city’s industrial past and cultural significance.

Pittsfield emerged as a major manufacturer of paper products in the late 19th century, with several mills operating along the Housatonic River. This included the American News Company, which began producing baseball cards in the 1880s as promotional inserts included in packages of cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Some of the earliest baseball cards ever made originated from Pittsfield’s paper mills, featuring iconic players from the era like Cap Anson and Pud Galvin.

As baseball grew in popularity nationally in the early 20th century, so too did the baseball card industry in Pittsfield. Allen & Ginter and Goodwin & Company, two leading tobacco manufacturers at the time, operated factories along the river that pumped out millions of cards annually. Many of the sport’s biggest stars of that era like Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, and Cy Young had their likenesses reproduced in card sets produced right in Pittsfield.

By the 1920s, the city had become a major hub for the mass production of baseball cards. Companies like American Caramel took over production after the decline of tobacco inserts. Their cards from this period are some of the most collectible in the hobby today, featuring innovative designs and photographs of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and other legends of the day. Pittsfield’s mills were working around the clock to keep up with booming demand.

The Great Depression took its toll on the city’s once robust industrial base. As consumers cut back on discretionary purchases, the baseball card market contracted sharply. Many of Pittsfield’s paper manufacturers went out of business, leading to a decline in local card production through the 1930s and 1940s. Topps Chewing Gum later took over the market, printing their cards on heavier stock in other locations with larger facilities.

After World War II, Pittsfield struggled with the loss of many manufacturing jobs. The local economy shifted more toward services and retail. While some collectors still sought out the vintage cards produced decades earlier in the city, new baseball cards were no longer made in Pittsfield. The city’s long history as a hub for the sport’s trading cards industry had come to an end.

Interest in vintage Pittsfield-made cards only grew stronger over subsequent generations. In the late 20th century, the rise of organized collecting and the large auction markets fueled renewed passion for these historically significant cards. Today, examples from the early tobacco and caramel sets regularly sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Memorabilia shops in Pittsfield cater to this ongoing nostalgia, selling reprints and information to modern fans.

Pittsfield’s role in the early history of baseball cards serves as an example of how the sport both reflected and shaped local industry and culture during the sport’s initial rise to prominence in America. While the city’s paper mills have long since closed, their legacy lives on through the treasured cards that still circulate among collectors worldwide. For Pittsfield, baseball cards represent an enduring link to the past and the outsized impact of its now former industrial might.