Constable: How stamp dealer stumbled upon souvenirs from 1907 Cubs World Series

  • More of a historian than a Cubs fan, Lloyd Levin of Mount Prospect unearthed a collection of souvenirs from the 1906 and 1907 Chicago Cubs.

    More of a historian than a Cubs fan, Lloyd Levin of Mount Prospect unearthed a collection of souvenirs from the 1906 and 1907 Chicago Cubs. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Buying an abandoned box of papers in pursuit of stamps for his collection, Lloyd Levin of Mount Prospect found pristine memorabilia of the 1906 and 1907 Chicago Cubs.

    Buying an abandoned box of papers in pursuit of stamps for his collection, Lloyd Levin of Mount Prospect found pristine memorabilia of the 1906 and 1907 Chicago Cubs. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/19/2016 5:35 PM

By Burt Constable

Hoping to add to his impressive stamp collection, 86-year-old Lloyd Levin of Mount Prospect purchased an odd box of old papers that had been abandoned in a storage locker.

 

"I'm starting to go through it, and lo and behold, here is the 1907 Chicago Cubs World Series souvenir booklet," Levin says. "It's overwhelming. The pictures are just spectacular."

The rare 109-year-old artifact is in mint condition. The cover features a drawing of bear cubs climbing a flagpole to get the pennant. The 16-page booklet boasts stunningly clear photographs of Cubs players such as first baseman/manager Frank Chance, second baseman Johnny Evers, shortstop Joe Tinker and pitcher Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown -- all inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

The Cubs, coming off a stinging upset loss to the crosstown White Sox in the 1906 World Series, won the 1907 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, and then repeated that feat in a 1908 rematch. Since then, there have been no World Series champion Cubs teams to produce any souvenirs.

That, Levin says, makes his find more valuable. He's already rejected a $7,000 offer to buy it. The original was given away as "Compliments of the Chicago Daily Journal: Chicago's Best Evening Newspaper," and Levin says he'd love to see it reprinted for today's legions of Cubs fans.

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In storage for 109 years, this 1907 World Series score book is in remarkable condition.
In storage for 109 years, this 1907 World Series score book is in remarkable condition. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

A well-known collector, dealer, philanthropist and appraiser, Levin was the subject of a Daily Herald front-page story in 1977 titled "Revolutionary fights economic bias," for his work as an insurance executive and marketing pro trying to stop discrimination against single people, gays, "swingers" and others outside the "norm" of that era. He led the fight to ban smoking in public train stations decades before that happened. He owns a first-class collection of antique Valentine's Day cards from the 18th and 19th centuries. But he's always on the lookout for stamps.

"I'm in San Diego in January of this year and I had an ad in the paper to buy stamps and postcards. A young man shows up who cleaned out storage units," says Levin, whose wife, Hermine died in 2015. "He brought me a box of stuff, and I saw there was a lot of Chicago material in there. I bought it and I shipped it back to Chicago."

The illustration of bear cubs climbing toward the pennant works as well today as it did in 1907.
The illustration of bear cubs climbing toward the pennant works as well today as it did in 1907. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Months later at home, he opened the box and found plenty of interesting items: pristine programs from Fourth of July celebrations in Chicago neighborhoods in the early 20th century, a souvenir brochure from the 1903 Michigan vs. Chicago college football game featuring a drawing of well-dressed fans arriving in a carriage, a collection of paper dolls from the late 19th century, cigarette cards featuring scantily clad (think ankles and arms) women, a souvenir from the day in 1899 when President McKinley came to Chicago to lay the cornerstone of the new federal building, and items from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. But the Cubs memorabilia topped them all, Levin says.

"It starts with the 1906 Cubs," he says, showing a photograph of that legendary lineup, which won a record 116 games during the regular season. Levin, who grew up in East Chicago, Indiana, remembers taking the train and transferring to a bus to catch a game at Wrigley Field in the late 1930s.

"Forty-five cents to sit in the bleachers. It took us six hours to get to the game," remembers Levin, who went to one game at Wrigley this year. "I'm not a spectacular sports fan, but I'm a history buff."

The ads inside the 1907 program might be more interesting than the actual World Series, which ended with a Cubs' sweep of Ty Cobb and his Tigers. One ad offers a $6 round-trip train ticket from Chicago to Detroit. A clothing ad notes, "There is no question as to which are the best dressers, as the 'Cubs' have their clothes made by Bierdstadt & McCarthy."

Judging from old envelopes and other clues, the unclaimed box might have belonged to a relative of George Mason, a Civil War soldier who fought for the Union at Shiloh. The box contained so much history, but it didn't deliver the stamps Levin was seeking.

"At the bottom were six stamps. If they were real, they had a catalog value of $245,000. But they were all forgeries," says Levin, who notes that he's still happy about his Cubs find and will be rooting for Chicago to win tonight's game. "I've always been a Cubs fan. Hopefully, we'll be looking at a new brochure that says the World Series championship book for the Chicago Cubs 2016."

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