Skinning a Cat

Dan Mabey has written at least four books about the Post cereal baseball promotions that ran from 1961 through 1963, including the American and Canadian sets.  After tracking him down and ordering the three American books in spring 2006, we traded a few e-mails, in one of which he asked if I had unearthed information about who shot the Post cereal football card photos.  He had identified Art Shay as the Post cereal baseball photographer in his books.  In the e-mail, Dan said that Art Shay made it very clear that he was not the football picture taker.

The Post football photos are fantastic.  They are what drew kids to the cards in 1962.  The posed action shots reproduced using the rotogravure process make the cards a unique blend of photography and art.  Nearly every player was featured with a full body shot, most from knee level looking up, making the players appear larger than they really were.  Frank Youso’s photo was juxtaposed against a large pine tree in such a way as to make him appear Paul Bunyanesque.  The uniform and background colors were extremely attractive to imaginative young minds.  The appeal of the Post cereal football cards was more about the photos than anything else.

Dan’s question caught me off guard.  I’d ordered his baseball books primarily to try to extract information that might correlate to the Post football set.  The idea of trying to determine who shot the photos for the cards had never occurred to me.  My goal had always been to collect at least one of every Post cereal football card that appeared on any of the company’s products.  Not to mention that high school biology found my skills lacking when it came to dissecting a feline.  As with the cat, I had no idea where to start. So I didn’t.

Still the question simmered slightly below the surface of collecting a master set.  As with finding the cards, finding the photographer was another puzzle.  Puzzles are, for the most part, fun.  A couple years went by before an e-mail sent to Post actually brought a reply, but it was only to say that such information was not available.

During some internet searching a signed photo of George Izo appeared for sale.  In the picture, there was Izo standing in classic Post cereal quarterback style in Griffith Stadium, obviously taken during the Post cereal shooting session.  After purchasing the photo, the seller replied that he believed the Izo shot could have been snapped by Nate Fine, official Redskins photographer from 1937 through 1987.  He also mentioned that it may have been Vernon Biever that took Packers photos in 1961.

Around that time, while perusing a Packers program from 1961, it was evident that a photo of Boyd Dowler had the same background as his Post cereal photo.  The internet yielded an address for Vernon Biever and a letter was mailed:

Maybe my cat was about to spill it’s guts…I might not flunk Gerald Gotway's Biology class after all.

A letter had also been dispatched to George Izo to gauge what he knew about the photo that had recently been acquired:

Izo confirmed that Nate Fine took his Redskins picture in Griffith stadium in 1961.  Vernon Biever wrote back that Loghead Photography from Dallas likely shot the photos of Boyd Dowler.  It seemed that the two statements were not quite compatible if indeed there was only a single photographer.