Panel man

Veteran Post cereal football collector Kirk Robinson sent a letter in December 2011.  He was looking to get back into Post cereal football cards after selling his extensive panel collection ten years earlier and wanted my active e-mail address.  He’d sold me some of my first Post football panels and wished now he still had some and wanted to explore ways to accomplish that.

We traded e-mails and in short order Kirk e-mailed a Jim Brown photo that he particularly liked with a back stamp that showed Browns photographer Henry Barr had taken the photo.  He asked if Barr was the Post cereal photographer.  David had found Barr photographs in some of his searches.  Henry Barr was definitely on hand the day the Post cereal photos were made but he most likely couldn’t be the Post cereal photographer as none of his work beyond the Browns had been located.  Before I could respond to Kirk with the Laughead information we had, he sent another e-mail asking again if Barr was the Post cereal photographer “because this picture was done at the same photo shoot as the 62 Post Football Image & Salada Coin.” 

Kirk remembered an article that Bob Swick, now editor of “Gridiron Greats” magazine, had written for Sport Collectors Digest in the early 1990s that said “NFL players pictures used on the coins were purchased from a Mr. Loughead (sic) for a whopping sum of $25.00 each.”  (Note here about the price paid:  there are 121 NFL photos used in the Salada coins set, bringing the total paid to $3,025 for those pictures.  $25 per shot sounds measly, but consider that would be $24,280.76 in 2016 dollars.  Not bad for a sale of 121 “extra” photos.)  In short order Kirk brought up the Pros '63 magazine cover, 1962 Browns media guide cover and 1964 Sport Illustrated “Mad Hatter in Photoland” article as evidence that Laughead Photographers also took the Post cereal photos.

My thoughts at the time were that while it was very possible that Laughead did take the Post photos, there were problems with proving it.  The sticking points were 1) Brad Bradley could not say for certain they ever took any Post cereal photos, 2) the Post cereal photographs looked to be taken at knee level rather than the trademark Laughead camera on the ground angle, 3) Laughead used mainly black and white film according to Bradley (although the Browns media guide and Pros '63 covers are in color), 4) many other photographers were at team’s picture days and 5) the lack of explanation for the mysterious photographer who offered Michael Gidwitz approximately 120 Post cereal photos sometime in the 1980s.

We beat the various points of evidence around for a few days, including discussion of the similarity of some of the photos from the Kahn’s sets, and ended up where it was before:  maybe Laughead Photographers did Post photos and maybe they didn’t.  David was finding pictures by other photographers as he continued his search:  Henry Barr—Browns, Jules Schick—Eagles, Nate Fine—Redskins, Vernon Biever and Hank Lefebvre—Packers, Vic Stein—Rams, Cal Pictures—49ers.  Not all were from 1961, but they were still photographers who had shot those teams within a few years prior.  He found more Vikings and Cowboys pictures.  Then he sent an e-mail that there was a postcard being auctioned by Mears titled “Greetings from Green Bay” that showed Jim Laughead on one knee shooting Paul Hornung, also on one knee, at a Packers picture day that was undoubtedly from 1961.  I went for it and got the postcard.  A blown up scan confirmed it was Jim Laughead.

Green Bay picture day 1961

We already knew that Laughead photographers had been in Green Bay in 1961, but this photograph showed that Jim Laughead was present at the instant Paul Hornung’s Post cereal photograph was made.  We now could show with photographic evidence that Laughead was at the site of the Packers and Browns 1961 photo days.  There were no other known photographers with that distinction.

Meanwhile, I had gone back to Ann Lilly with two photos of Bob that were taken at the site of his Post cereal photo.  The first reply came back that Bob said they were taken at training camp in Northfield, Minnesota.  My reply to her was that they were not taken there as the background didn't fit and she said Bob suggested getting in touch with Cornell Green.  Finding how to get in touch with Cornell Green didn’t happen quickly enough, so I contacted Gerry York who was working with Brad Bradley to put up photos on a Southern Methodist University historical website.  Gerry’s answer was that it was at Dal-Hi Stadium, later known as P. C. Cobb Stadium, site of many big high school games in Dallas over the years.  We now had the all the Cowboys sites nailed down.

David went to work on the second Vikings site.  Most of the photos were taken at Bemidji State College, Bemidji, Minnesota during training camp.  However, Tommy Mason, Dave Middleton and Rip Hawkins had their pictures made at what David figured out was Midway Stadium in St. Paul—the Vikings practice facility.  Both Vikings sites were accounted for. Bill Lapham's photo is the only one with Lake Bemidji in the background, but was still taken at Vikings training camp.

Somewhere in this whole time line, what I call Post cereal “proof” photos—the same type photos as Kramer and McGee that were being offered by Michael Gidwitz on his Precious Paper website—showed  up for sale in some quantity.  Proof photos were cropped by the Post art department and used on paste up boards to make the camera ready mock ups used in creating the rotogravure cylinders that printed the backs of the cereal boxes.  Without having been cropped, the proof photos showed the same chalk line in front of each player’s feet—all the teams were photographed in such manner.  Laughead Photographers set up that way, but did anybody else?

I had retired in the summer of 2012 and was interested in learning how to do websites, so I took a class that fall and another the next spring.  The “final” for the second class was to create a website on a subject of your own choosing.  Mine would be about who photographed Post cereal football cards.  Other than the technical part of putting it together, I still had the issue of convincing myself that I could actually say who it was with enough certainty, but there was still no smoking gun that definitively pointed to one photographer.  There was a lot of circumstantial evidence and that’s how the conclusion for the website was written.  Much of that evidence has been covered again in this narrative.