In 1947, Jefferson R. Burdick began to donate his entire collection of approximately thirty thousand baseball cards in large batches, along with another 270,000 trade and postcards, to the Museum. Burdick organized the cards into albums—incorporating the sports cards into other contemporary advertising material—over the course of fifteen years in the Print Study Room at the Museum. In compiling the albums he adhered to a strict cataloging system, which he published as the American Card Catalogue in 1939. Burdick's method has become the standard system used by all collectors of early American printed ephemera.
The Burdick collection of baseball cards is the most comprehensive collection outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and illustrates the history of the game from the dead-ball era at the turn of the nineteenth century to the golden age and modern era of the sport. The selection of cards on display represents a broad overview of baseball cards produced as advertisements by tobacco, candy, and gum companies between 1889 and 1959.