The Empire Club was organized in 1860 at a meeting held in the office of Justice Hequemberg on the south side of Vine, between Second and Third streets.
-Al Spink, The National Game, p. 39
At that meeting, a constitution and set of by-laws, patterned after those of the Knickerbocker Club, was adopted and officers were elected. Kinwiddy was chosen as president, Hollenback was named secretary, and Barklage was selected as treasurer - a post he would hold for ten years.
What's interesting about this April 16, 1860 date is that it allows you to make an argument that the Empire Club was the first baseball club in St. Louis history.
If one believes that the Cyclone Club was not founded until Merritt Griswold published the rules of the game in the Missouri Democrat, or until just afterwards, then one must believe that the Cyclones were not founded until April 26, 1860 or at some point after that. If this is true then the Empire Club, according to Spink, was founded before the Cyclones.
Empire Base Ball Club.-At the regular monthly meeting of this Club, held at their hall, corner of Third and Vine streets, on the 3d day of July, the following officers were duly elected: B.J. Higgins, President; Peter Naylor, Vice-President; John F. Walton, Secretary; Patrick Cooney, Treasurer. The following preamble and resolution was also adopted:
Whereas, the Slycome (sic) and Morning Star Clubs are matched for a game on the 9th inst; therefore
Resolved, that the Empire Base Ball Club challenge the winning party. If not accepted by them, then this challenge be extended to any Ball club in Missouri.
-St. Louis Daily Bulletin, July 7, 1860
I'm not really certain what to make of all of this information. The contemporary source mentions a regular monthly meeting, which implies that there had been previous meetings. The election of officers makes it seem as if the club had just formed. But the April 16 date from Spink is very specific and has to have some basis in fact but Tobias, who had access to club records and was a former member, didn't mention it.
So what do we do with the Empire Club? I tend to accept the April founding date for the club. It's too specific and the fact that the Empire Club always played their anniversary game in the middle of April lends credence to the April 16 founding date. But the fact remains that the date comes from a source written fifty years after the fact and I have no idea what Spink's source was. The contemporary sources are silent on the matter and you can make the argument that they support a founding date of June or July 1860. There is no doubt that the Empires were one of the first baseball clubs in St. Louis but it's difficult to argue that they were the first. If we're going to base all of this on Spink then you have to deal with Griswold stating that the Cyclones were the first club and formed in the winter of 1859/1860. We also have a source from 1895 that says the Cyclones formed in the summer of 1859. And if we base it on the contemporary sources, the Commercial Club has a better argument for being the first club.
I think I'm going to have to create a chart to track all the possible dates that a pioneer St. Louis baseball club could have been formed. I think a timeline for the sources would be helpful.