Washington Post Reports on the Chandler Tintype Donation

chandlerReporter Mike Ruane wrote about the unusual photograph of Andrew Martin Chandler of the 44th Mississippi Infantry and family slave Silas in today’s Post. The image was donated to the Library of Congress by Tom Liljenquist, who learned about the image from my book, African American Faces of the Civil War. The image originally appeared on a 2009 segment of PBS Antiques Roadshow.

The Antiques Roadshow segment was brought to my attention by Richert Salondaka, with whom I became acquainted when my wife, Anne, and I lived in Northern California back in the late 1980s and early 90s. I remember Richert noting that this has got to be in my book! he was right. I tracked down the owner of the photograph, and eventually obtained permission to publish it in African American Faces.

Since then, the photo has appeared on PBS History Detectives, and it continues to be the subject of conversation about slavery and the Confederacy.

Now it is in the Library of Congress—and it belongs to the American people.

An excerpt from Ruane’s story:

Liljenquist bought the photograph from descendants of Andrew Chandler on Aug. 15 and immediately gave it over to the library. “I owned it for about 10 minutes,” he said last week.

He declined to say how much it cost or identify the owner. But five years ago, on the “Antiques Roadshow” television program, the picture was said to be worth $30,000 to $40,000.

In an interview at the library, he said the photo captured “two remarkable young men … (who) look very sincere, maybe a little bit scared, maybe not.”

Read the full story.

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“Hyde” as a Deep Sea Diver

The companion image to yesterday’s post is this carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. An individual wearing a Morse Diving Helmet and an insulated suit stands in a photographer’s studio. A modern pencil identification on the back of the mount of this image names this diver as “Hyde,” and is associated with a tintype of a man in the uniform of a Union sailor. According to a previous owner, the sailor’s first name is George. There is however no record of a George Hyde in the U.S. navy during the Civil War period.

This image is new to my collection, and available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Deep Sea Diver

Navy Man “Hyde”

This tintype in a carte de visite mount by an anonymous photographer is identified in modern pencil on the back only as “Hyde.” This photo came with another image, a carte de visite of a man outfitted in a Civil War era deep-sea diving suit, his head and face covered with a Morse Diving Helmet. According to a previous owner of the photos, the sailor’s first name is George. There is however no record of a George Hyde in the U.S. navy during the Civil War period. If you know anything about a George Hyde who served in the Union navy between 1861-1865, please be in touch!

This image is new to my collection, and available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Navy Man “Hyde”

Top 10 Most Popular Historic Photos of 2013

top-10-flickr-2013A carte de visite of four Union amputees was the most popular photograph posted to my Flickr photostream this year. A review of the data in Flickr’s interestingness feature revealed that it led the next most popular image, a photographer with his camera, by more than a two-to-one margin.

Eight of the ten most popular were portraits of Civil War soldiers or sailors, or 80 percent. Yet Civil War military men composed only half the images posted in 2013 (36 of 72). The other half features civilians and other non-military subjects from the 1840s through the end of the 1860s, and includes daguerreotypes, tintypes and cartes de visite.

The Top 10 of 2013:

1. Union Comrades, Fellow Amputees
Carte de visite by Burnite & Weldon of Harrisburg, Pa. Four federal officers pose with their swords, and carry the visible effects of the human cost of war. Three of the men have suffered the amputation of the right arm, and the fourth the loss of a finger or fingers.
See full image.

2. A Civil War Photographer
Carte de visite by Jos. Longaker of Attica, Ind. A photographer stands next to his bellows style, wet plate camera equipped with a Petzval style lens. The lens cap sits atop the camera.
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3. Elderly Woman Wearing Glasses
Daguerreotype by unidentified photographer. A woman wearing glasses and a bonnet sits for the camera operator in this circa 1850 portrait. Her hair is streaked with gray, and the fine age lines on her face suggest a senior citizen. Resting upon a small round table covered by a blue-tinted cloth is her age-spotted hand, and the well-worn and possibly arthritic fingers of a hard-working seamstress or gardener.
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4. Seven Times Wounded at Gettysburg
Carte de visite of James Brownlee by Haines & Wickes of Albany, N.Y. Irish-born Brownlee served in the 134th New York Infantry, which at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg belonged to a brigade commanded by Col. Charles R. Coster. During the afternoon of the first day of the battle, Coster’s Brigade was ordered to support the crumbling federal right on the northern edge of Gettysburg. Soon after the brigade formed, the Confederate juggernaut descended on Coster’s men. The 134th was overwhelmed by advancing rebels on the front, flank and rear. More than half the regiment became casualties, including Brownlee, who suffered wounds from four bullets and three buckshot.
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5. A Union Sergeant Stands Front and Off Center
Quarter plate tintype by an unidentified photographer. A bearded federal sergeant wearing a four button sack coat over a dark shirt with no collar and knee-high boots is pictured in front of an elaborate backdrop. He holds a forage cap in his left hand and grasps the edge of his jacket with the other. He stands off center in the frame of this image, leaving the viewer with the impression that it may have been intentional. The empty space to his left may represent a missed loved one or friend, or a fallen comrade. The space may also have been the work of the photographer, who may have artfully posed the sergeant between the tents and foliage pictured in the backdrop. Or perhaps this soldier first posed with another individual before having this image made of only himself, and the photographer failed to adjust the camera or the soldier.
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6. A New Hampshire Mountaineer Wounded at Gettysburg
Samuel Bean Noyes by Kimball & Sons of Concord, N.H. Noyes (1842-1870) started his Civil War service in 1862 as a private in the Twelfth New Hampshire Infantry, a regiment popularly known as the “New Hampshire Mountaineers” for the sturdy, rugged soldiers in its ranks. Noyes had his baptism under fire at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. He and his Mountaineers, along with the rest of their corps commanded by Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, moved a half-mile ahead of the rest of the Union frontline and were attacked by alert Confederates. Noyes suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder during the rebel assault.
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7. A Minnesota Colonel With Table Top Stereoscope
Carte de visite of William Crooks by Martin’s Gallery of St. Paul, Minn. William Crooks (1832-1907), the colonel and commander of the Sixth Minnesota Infantry, stands next to a table top stereoscope, likely made by Alexander Beckers, a pioneer photographer, artist, inventor and businessman in New York City. Beckers, a friend and competitor of photographer Edward Anthony, received ten patents for the stereoscope. Stereoview photographs could be viewed in 3-D using devices like the one pictured here.
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8. Full Dress Zouave
Carte de visite by J.B. Smith of Utica, N.Y. A Union soldier dressed in the elaborate Zouave style. It is possible that this unidentified man served in the 146th New York Infantry, which was raised in Utica and other towns in Oneida County, N.Y. The regiment wore Zouave uniforms during part of their enlistment.
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9. On “The Noxious Institution of Slavery”
Carte de visite of James F. O’Brien by McPherson & Oliver of Baton Rouge, La. Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, O’Brien came to America as a young man and settled in Charlestown, Mass., which was then a hot bed of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment. After the start of the Civil War, O’Brien began to organize an all-Irish regiment, but his plans were dashed when the U.S. War Department combined the six companies he raised with four non-Irish companies to form the Forty-eighth Massachusetts Infantry. O’Brien received an accepted a commission as lieutenant colonel and second-in-command of the regiment.
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10. A Navy Man with Gumption
Carte de visite of Benjamin Franklin Wood by unidentified photographer. Wood (1836-1910) had a long career in the U.S. navy. His obituary, which appeared in the November 1910 issue of Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, tells his story.
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“African American Faces” Talk at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum

wisconsin-meI felt right at home in the Wisconsin Veterans Museum from the moment I entered the building yesterday afternoon. Located across from the stately Capitol building in Madison, the museum delivers on its tagline, “Connecting the past to the present, one story at a time.” Established by Civil War veterans in 1901, the museum is ably led today by Director Michael Telzrow (pictured, right) and Curator of Research & Public Programs Kevin Hampton (left).

Mike and Kevin generously shared their time and expertise as they took me on a behind the scenes tour of the museum, the highlight of which was a viewing of Wisconsin Civil War soldier images. In recent years they’ve built an impressive collection of cartes de visite, tintypes and ambrotypes. The team at the museum are on the front lines of preserving these wonderful images, and they deserve tip of the forage cap for their ongoing efforts.

Mike himself collected photos for a number of years, and we had fun referencing dealers we know and trading stories about unusual finds we’ve made along the way.

Another highlight was a viewing of original flags from Wisconsin regiments. These celebrated relics, torn and damaged from being carried into action on battlefields and faded from the elements, still remain powerful icons of the sacrifice of citizen soldiers from Madison and elsewhere in Wisconsin who stood up to fight for freedom and Union. The emotion attached to these banners continues to resonate, and I was instantly moved by their power.

We then toured the museum’s Civil War exhibit, which includes a Confederate cannon captured at Shiloh and almost immediately shipped to Wisconsin as a war trophy, and other objects with stories that are equally fascinating.

Mike, Kevin and I then had dinner, followed by my presentation about African American Faces of the Civil War at the museum. I was impressed with the quantity and quality of questions from the audience.

wisconsin-booksAfterwards, I signed books in the lobby gift shop. Here I met Kate Wheat of the 1st Brigade Band. Kate has purchased “Huzzah” refrigerator magnets from my wife, Anne. Kate kindly gave us her CD, “Frock Coats & Hoopskirts: Music for a Military Ball.” It’s currently playing in the background as I write this post.

I also met a young man named Matthew, who purchased a copy of the book. He is fascinated with the Civil War, especially the Battle of Gettysburg and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. He reminded me of myself as a boy, and I was particularly pleased that a copy of African American Faces is in his possession. I hope it deepens his appreciation and understanding of this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

I’m deeply appreciative for the opportunity, and thankful to Mike, Kevin, Jen, and the rest of the staff for making my Wisconsin visit memorable! I left the museum deeply impressed, and highly recommend a visit. I look forward to working with Mike and Kevin as they continue to seek out Wisconsin Civil War images.

Eyes out for the five-button coat!

Latest “Faces of War” Column: “Something Got the Matter with My Head”

PinckneyMy latest Civil War News ”Faces of War” column is now available. Pvt. John Pinckney was born into bondage on a prosperous rice-growing plantation in coastal South Carolina, and left to join the 104th U.S. Colored Infantry. He enlisted on April 13, 1865—four days after Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia and the day before the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

An excerpt:

One friend recalled, “When he came home he came right to see me in Georgetown, where I was living, and he had on his soldier clothes,” and added, “After he came home he went by the name Pinckney all the time — that was his father’s name.”

Read the full story.

New to My Collection: A Union Sergeant Stands Front and Off Center

My latest acquisition is this quarter plate tintype of a bearded federal sergeant. He wears a four button campaign jacket over a dark shirt with no collar and knee-high boots as he stands in front of an elaborate backdrop.  Holding a forage cap in his left hand, he grasps the edge of his jacket with the other. He stands off center in the frame of this image, leaving the viewer with the impression that it may have been intentional. The empty space to his left may represent a missed loved one or friend, or a fallen comrade. The space may also have been the work of the photographer, who may have artfully posed the sergeant between the tents and foliage pictured in the backdrop. Or perhaps this soldier first posed with another individual before having this image made of only himself, and the photographer failed to adjust the camera or the soldier.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
A Union Sergeant Stands Front and Off Center

New to My Collection: Keeping the Home Front Clean

This tintype by an unidentified photographer pictures two women posed with what appears to be the tools of their trade, which includes a straw broom, dish ware, and a towel. The individual standing on the left also holds a paper, which may be a letter of introduction or instructions of some sort.

This tintype is contained in a paper mat similar in size to a carte de visite. The border of the mat is embossed with 28 stars, and in the upper left is stamped “Potter’s Patent March 7 1865.” This is one of about 20 different designs patented by Ray W. Potter of New York City. It’s primary purpose was to hold tintypes, also known as ferrotypes. “The invention consists of a card provided in its center with a raised frame in such a manner that an ambrotype, daguerreotype or other photographic picture, or a picture of any other description, can be placed in the cavity formed at the back of the card, and said card will form the frame for the picture, and serve to exhibit to good advantage,” states U.S. Patent No. 46,699.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Keeping the Home Front Clean