Lot # 4: 1875 Young Tom Morris Studio Portrait w/ Challenge Belt (Old Tom Morris' Personal Photo)

Category: Photographs

Starting Bid: $2,000.00

Bids: 4 (Bid History)

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In the mid-1990s, one of the most important discoveries in golf memorabilia history was made: Old Tom Morris’ personal golf photographs.

Eric Auchterlonie – of the famed St Andrews golfing family – passed away in his home in Pitscottie, Fife, just outside of St Andrews. On the property grounds, inside an old horse stable and hidden behind two large hessian coal stacks, was one of the most historically significant golf collections in the world. Word of this so-called “Stable Find” quickly spread throughout collecting circles.

The collection – consisting of more than 40 original photographs from the 1800s – was personally owned by Old Tom Morris, and then passed down in the Auchterlonie family, where it remained for almost 90 years.

Upon Old Tom’s death in 1908, the photos were given by the Morris family to his former apprentice (and 1893 Open Champ) Willie Auchterlonie. According to the Auchterlonie family, the photos were then housed at the Auchterlonie’s Golf Shop on Albany Place in St Andrews for more than three decades. They were then relocated to the company’s Union Street location for safekeeping during the air raids of World War II. The collection was then passed down through the Auchterlonie family until its fateful re-discovery in the now-famous “Stable Find” by two prominent golf collectors in the mid-1990s. Those collectors purchased the entirety of the Tom Morris collection from the Auchterlonie family, and split into two – half entering a legendary American collection and the other half remaining in the UK.

Offered here is Old Tom Morris’ personal copy of Young Tom Morris’ famous studio portrait with the Open Championship Challenge Belt.

Historians have long debated when this photo was taken, though it was likely taken some time after Tommy's victory in the 1870 Open Championship - when he became rightful owner of the Challenge Belt forever. 

Taken by famed St. Andrews photographer Thomas Rodger, very few of these early cabinet cards were likely produced by Rodger, and only a handful of surviving examples are known. In fact, an original photograph of Tommy Morris by himself is one of golf photography collecting's Holy Grails, as so few examples exist. 

We cannot overstate the importance of the fact that this was Old Tom's personal photograph of his son Tommy. This is the only photograph from Old Tom's personal collection that features Young Tom by himself. By all accounts, Old Tom lost a piece of himself the day that Tommy died. In fact, Old Tom's own scrapbook stopped forever when Tommy died. It was as if time stood still for Old Tom, who would go on to outlive Tommy by 33 years (and suffer the curse of any parent - he outlived every one of his children). One can only imagine what Old Tom must’ve felt as he walked by this photo for decades after Young Tom’s passing.

We could've surely gotten a better photograph if we removed this photo from its frame. But it's set in modern museum quality frame with glass on front and reverse, and we didn't think it was wise to disturb the impressive frame job. Frame size 10 1/4" x 12 5/8".