Academic journal article Base Ball

Baseball's Lost Chalice

Academic journal article Base Ball

Baseball's Lost Chalice

Article excerpt

Whatever happened to the Dauvray Cup? The game's first World Series trophy, it was commissioned and funded in June 1887 by actress Helen Dauvray-before it was known that she cared for baseball or for New York Giants shortstop John M. Ward, whom she would go on to marry.

The cup has been lost for so long that no one alive has seen it; no one can say when or how it was lost, or what fate may have befallen it-until now. Picking up an old, cold trail, I can report what the cup actually looked like-contemporary newspaper woodcuts were wildly off-how much it cost to make, and what may have happened to it between the baseball campaigns of 1893 and 1894. Even more interestingly, however, in the quest for baseball's lost chalice I stumbled upon the true story of Helen Dauvray's romantic, fabulously embroidered, self-invented life. The Dauvray Cup was, then and now, all about her.

Let's start at the beginning. Helen Dauvray was born Ida Louisa Gibson on St. Valentine's Day-in, according to various published sources, 1856, 1857, 1858, 1859, 1860, 1861, or, as engraved on her tombstone in a final blaze of vanity, 1862. Her parents were Charles H. and Sarah Louisa Gibson, née De Young. Miss Dauvray's birthplace has been supplied as Cincinnati, Ohio; Virginia City, Nevada; and San Francisco, California. Census documents and passport applications offer intriguing but not definitive variants on every bit of her biography to 1887, when she first enters the baseball world. What follows is this writer's best synthesis of swirling data discrepancies.

In the 1850 census both of Ida's future parents are listed with Maryland births, but Sarah Louisa (she dropped her first name after this), was probably born in Louisiana on December 8, 1833, as she declared in her passport application of 1877.1 Charles, too, may have been born in Louisiana rather than in Maryland, for in 1840, at age 25, he resided in Natchitoches Parish. M.H. De Young, father of the future founder (bearing the same name) of the San Francisco Chronicle and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, also lived there.2

By 1850 Charles and Louisa Gibson had married and relocated to Louisiana's Union Parish, the birthplace for daughters Amelia and Laura. However, this residence represented a return to the state after a sojourn in Missouri, where a son-listed as Andrew in the 1850 census but surely the same boy subsequently known as Adolphus or Adolph- had been born two years earlier, when his mother had been 15.

Charles H. Gibson was identified by turns as a farmer, a baker, and a miner, but truly he was always a struggling itinerant laborer, ready to pack up his family in the pursuit of gainful employ. By 1855 the family resided in Ohio-Cincinnati by several accounts-and it was there that Ida and sister Clara were born. Two years later the peripatetic Gibsons picked up again, this time for Virginia City, Nevada, and then San Francisco. Louisa's De Young relatives had, in tandem, moved to Cincinnati and then San Francisco. But when the golden sluice gates did not open for the luckless couple, they relocated yet again, to Portland, Oregon.3

In 1861-1862 Charles found work in the Salmon River mines and sent his family back to San Francisco. Presumably he supported them with nuggets now and then, as Mossman's Express was providing armed escort for messengers from the mines.4 While some biographical notices of Helen Dauvray mark her acting debut as Little Eva in a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin in Virginia City in 1862, in fact she was still at that time Ida Louisa Gibson, a girl of six with no idea of taking the stage. How she actually became an actress-"Little Nell, the California Diamond," an infant prodigy frankly modeled on the popular Lotta Crabtree-is a story she successfully hid for all the remaining years of her life.

On February 10, 1863, a classified ad appeared in San Francisco's Daily Alta:


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