"It is consigned to us by fashion historians Sonya and Tony Abrego (who are very active in the vintage clothing world, where they buy and sell a lot of goods). In addition, Sonya has a Ph.D. in Design History, Decorative Arts, and Material Culture. She teaches at Pratt Institute. As Tony and Sonya poke around in search of vintage clothing, they sometimes come across old uniform finds. About three months ago they were at the Brimfield Antique Show, a huge multi-day event that takes place three times a year in Massachusetts, and Tony spotted the old Princeton uniform being sold by a new vendor who was mostly selling furniture and blankets. He immediately knew it was historically important, and probably worth a lot more than the vendor was asking for it."
Our January 2018 Artifact of the Month is one of the most exciting vintage football artifacts to come to market in the past 20 years, a Princeton University jersey worn by All-American Norman Tooker in 1905. Auctioned by Grey Flannel Auctions on December 20, the jersey sold for $52,417, a price rivaled only by a previous Princeton jersey Grey Flannel auctioned in 2010 for $69,769.
1905 Princeton Tigers, photo courtesy of Seely G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University, colorization by AntiqueFootball
Is it Authentic?
Grey Flannel's description of the jersey included the extraordinary claim that the jersey was the earliest known collegiate item with positive player identification to ever hit the market. The jersey included the name "Tooker" on a patch inside the jersey, which presumably referred to Norman Tooker, who played right end for Princeton's first eleven in 1904 and 1905. According to Michael Russek, Grey Flannel's Director of Operations, the jersey was discovered at the Brimfield Antique Show:
The period Spalding manufacturing tag, the evaluation by vintage clothing experts, and the presence of Tooker's name all help corroborate Grey Flannel's claim. However, any advanced collector would prefer a direct chain of ownership from Tooker or a definitive photo match for verification of authenticity. A born skeptic, I reached out to the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University and acquired a high resolution scan of the 1905 Princeton football team photo provided in the auction description. Norman Tooker appeared in the front right of the photo wearing a jersey that closely resembled the Grey Flannel jersey. Unfortunately, black and orange both appear as a dark charcoal in vintage football photos. However, zooming in on Tooker's image and adjusting contrast and color levels revealed the Princeton "P" and a repeating narrow stripe pattern on Tooker's left sleeve that are both consistent with the Grey Flannel jersey. Colorizing these elements in the Princeton team photo yielded the modified image below.
The enlargement of Tooker's image also helped identify several other feature matches to the Grey Flannel jersey, including a unique offset in the alignment of the sewn-on shoulder pads, torn stitching, and creases in the leather pads. These photo matched characteristics are sufficient proof for me that the Grey Flannel jersey is indeed the one worn by Tooker in the 1905 Princeton team photo.
The 1905 Princeton Tigers
Coached by Art ("Doc") Hillebrand, the Princeton Tigers boasted a 7-0 record during their 1905 campaign until suffering a surprising defeat at the hands of Darmouth on November 4th. The Tigers would also lose their end of season rivalry game to Yale, 23-4 on November 18th to finish at 8-2. The 1905 team included consensus All-American fullback, Jim McCormick, and James Cooney who was selected as an All-American tackle by the New York Times. The Tigers' right end was Norman Brown Tooker, who was named a third team All-American by Walter Camp at the conclusion of the 1905 season.
Norman Brown Tooker
Norman Brown Tooker was born on April 25, 1884 to Nathaniel and Sarah Jane (Brown) Tooker in Essex, New Jersey. Sarah Tooker died in 1895, leaving Nathaniel to care for their 5 children. Fortunately, as president of the National Sugar Refining Company in Yonkers, New York, Nathaniel had the means to employ servants to help raise the children and to send them to elite private schools. Norman attended Newark Academy between 1899 and 1902 where he became a star on the football field. Nathaniel retired in 1900 after his National Sugar Refining Company was acquired by sugar trust magnate H.O. Havemeyer's American Sugar Refining Company.
Norman entered Princeton University in 1902. In addition to competing in the high jump for the University's track team and grappling for the University wrestling team, Norman became the Tigers' first team right end in 1904. He distinguished himself on the field as an "exceptionally fast man" and "one of the best punters on the intercollegiate gridiron." Tooker graduated in 1906 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and would go on to receive a PhD in Medicine from Columbia in 1910.
Nathaniel Tooker died in 1911 with a personal estate worth over $1,660,000, including stock in the American Sugar Refining Company and the Cuban American Sugar Company. According to a September 38, 1913 article in The Sun, each of Nathaniel's children inherited over $300,000, or approximately $8,000,000 in 2018 dollars, from Nathaniel's estate. Norman married Ruth McClintock of Colorado in 1911. After operating a private medical practice, Tooker returned to Princeton University in 1915 where he served as Associate Professor of Hygiene and Physical Education until 1933. In the mid-1930's, Tooker purchased "Thorvale", a 600 acre estate in Williamstown, MA as a summer home. Thorvale, which included a 7,000 s.f., 12 room home with 4-car garage and swimming pool, was valued at $35,254 in 1934. In 1946, Tooker sold the estate to Nobel Prize winning writer Sinclair Lewis for $45,000. After Lewis' death in 1951, Thorvale was converted into a seminary.
Norman Tooker died on July 14, 1967 at the age 83. It's unknown how his Princeton jersey made it to a vintage clothing dealer's booth at the Brimfield Antique Show, but, one can assume, based on the Grey Flannel auction price, that it's new owner plans to preserve this important vintage football artifact for generations to come.