I was showing my latest daguerreotype to a friend the other day and she asked me how many do I have. I hadn’t really thought about it, so I sat down today and did an inventory. I came up with
for a grand total of 50 cased images.
I’ll recap as many of them as I have good scans for here. One of these days I’ll get around to re-scanning/photographing the others, which I originally posted to Facebook but not at a consistent file size.
Albumen print, three men on a rockfall, mounted on brown card stock. This was another rescue from the $1 bin at a local antique store. I’m guessing it was taken somewhere around Washington DC as most of the photos in the dollar bin seemed to be local. Beyond that I have no idea where it was taken, when, or of who.
This appears to be a 1903 Winton touring car. In doing some image searching, I came across a photo of the 1903 Winton that was driven by Horatio Nelson Jackson that seems to be very similar, with the exception of this being a four seater and Jackson’s being a two-seater. Would that this were a photo of Jackson’s car before he set out on his famous cross-country drive. In 1903 it took him 64 days to cross the US, including numerous breakdowns and delays from having to winch the car out of mud holes and over rocky terrain. His trek proved it could be done. By 1919, when Dwight Eisenhower did it with a military convoy of heavy trucks, it had been reduced to 29 days (average speed less than 6mph, and including 6 days of rest with no travel attempted).
With the chauffeur in the front seat, I guess you could consider this an occupational photo. Regardless, an awesome piece of early automotive history. Note the license plate with the number 1211. Could you imagine driving from Washington DC to San Francisco, a distance of some 3000 miles, in a car like this?
Here’s an anonymous CDV, labeled on the back “View of Patterson’s House, from the N. Yd” I take that to mean North Yard. It must have been an industrialists home, built on the grounds of the factory.
This is only the second architectural CDV I’ve found. I did some cleanup on the scan of the close-up to make it easier to view. If anyone has any idea where this is/was, I would greatly appreciate feedback. The cdv was purchased in south-west Virginia, near Staunton and Harrisonburg. This is perhaps the poorest condition CDV I own, as it has separated into its various components – the albumen print has separated from the card backing, which has separated into two separate, very thin and delicate layers. This is actually interesting because it gives you an insight into how these were assembled, and the various weights and qualities of the paper components. This is also the first CDV I have that the glass plate negative shows a crack in the print (note the lower left corner of the image). I’ve seen plenty of other larger wet collodion images shot on glass plate that show cracks, perhaps the most infamous one being Alexander Gardner’s last portrait of Abraham Lincoln where the plate cracked right through his head. But I’ve never seen a CDV sized image with a cracked plate. Either it just didn’t happen all that often, or the plates that did crack were re-shot and discarded, or both. In any case, this must have been a very important image to someone to have survived the damaged plate.
Patterson House was the home of one of the first commandants of the US Navy Yard in Washington DC. So N. Yd. stands for Navy Yard. This would also place the image in the 1860s, perhaps inter-war or possibly pre-war. Given the location, it is quite possible this image came from either the Brady or Gardner studios, or perhaps even Timothy O’Sullivan. It is impossible to say as there is no identifying imprint on the recto, and the original verso layer of the card is missing. Further research is merited. Because there is no imprint on the front, I would suspect Gardner over Brady, as Gardner did not print his name on the front of his CDVs, and he had a strong relationship with the US Military (he was the one called to photograph the Lincoln conspirators after their capture and incarceration aboard US Navy ironclads anchored at the Navy Yard and the subsequent execution, held a scant few blocks away on what is now the grounds of Fort McNair). So I may well have another Gardner image!
Here is a previously undocumented photograph of Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. The second-most infamous prisoner-of-war camp in the Confederacy (after Andersonville), it housed Union officers and had an appallingly high mortality rate. For more information on the prison and its history, check: Libby Prison.
This view is most probably post-war, as most of the photos of the building even in 1865 show the whitewash on the lower levels as intact, and the Libby Prison sign in place hanging over the downhill sidewalk from the upper street facade.
After the fall of Richmond to Union forces, the prison was used to house Confederate officer prisoners of war, this time with greatly improved physical conditions to include windows with panes in them. Later, it became a museum, and was even dismantled and re-assembled in Chicago, but when it failed as a tourist attraction, the materials of the building were sold off as souvenirs.
As you can see the image was exposed to fire at some point, with scorching around the edges. I’m guessing the age to be between 1870-1880.
Here is a photo from the National Archives that shows the prison in 1865.
Here is an oddity – a cased albumen print of the Paris Opera house, taken shortly after it opened. The Opera was commissioned in 1861, and completed in 1875. The image could be as early as 1867, when the facade of the not-yet-completed opera house was bared of its scaffolding for the first time. This was taken with a wet-plate camera – notice the foggy foreground? That was pedestrian traffic blurring in the long exposure required by the collodion emulsion.
The oddity is that someone would have put this in a brass mat and case (the case is now missing), and not presented this as a cabinet card or some other mounted paper format.
This image provides a cautionary tale for collectors – nothing went terribly wrong, and I don’t think I grossly over-paid for it, but when it was listed, it was described as a salt print from a calotype negative. I assumed from the brass mat that this description was accurate. Upon receiving the item, it became obvious that it was NOT a salt print (one easy way to tell is the gloss of the paper surface) and that it was NOT from a calotype (calotypes are paper negatives and are generally softer and more lacking in detail than an image from a glass or film negative).
The image was purchased from a dealer in France, who acquired the image from someone in Romania, as evidenced by the inner envelope the image arrived in. The outer envelope was marked with my proper address here in the United States, but the inner envelope had stamps and a return address from Romania. Pretty cool, eh? Kinda like that photo I have of an Osage brave from the Arkansas territory – it started life in Arkansas, was collected in New York, then ended up in Paris, and I bought it and brought it back to the US. It just shows that like houses and cars, photographs have a life of their own and we are mere custodians for the next generation.
Ok- I managed to succumb to indiscretion and bought the rest of the “C.R.” cartes-de-visite. If you’re new to my blog, I posted earlier about this set of cartes-de-visite a “C.R.” purchased and collected during what I assume was his (not hers) journeys across Europe during and after the US Civil War. It’s a fascinating travelogue spanning three countries and twenty-one years. Two of the images in this second set are in fact photo reproductions of sketches. Given the dates and locations of the earliest ones in the set, one can’t help but wonder if “C.R.” was a Union or Confederate supporter, perhaps even a Confederate agent sent to the U.K. to try and purchase arms and ships for the Confederacy. Or was “C.R.” just a Northern businessperson whose work frequently took him to England, Scotland, France, Italy and Germany (there were one or two more in the set that I was unable to acquire that showed German churches) and had a soft spot for ecclesiastical architecture?
The oldest one in the complete set of nine CDVs dates from July 1864, and the last one is May 1885. Here’s the complete set, in chronological order.
Here are three of my latest collecting acquisitions. First, the daguerreotype. A very nice quarter-plate dag, extremely well exposed, and very subtly hand-tinted and gilded. If you look carefully you can see the hands are flesh-toned, and the face has a hint of it as well. The gentleman’s watch fob and the edges of the book pages are gilded. Both of these touches would have been “up-sells” at the time of the commissioning of the image. I haven’t popped this one out of its case yet because the glass is resting directly on the mat, and not bound by a brass frame as part of a package, and the glass is in so tight that I’d be afraid of cracking it or tearing the velvet surround trying to get it out. The scan does not do it justice, as the scanner’s lens can’t quite focus on the image plane.
Next up are a pair of rather fun images. They’re totally anonymous, both from a photographer’s and a subject’s point of view. The why of collecting them is rather simple – they’re interesting. And they were bargains. Bought off Ebay, they sold at the right (wrong from the sellers’ perspective) time of day and attracted no other bids, so I got them for a penny apiece. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to start collecting, and these are proof. The thing that grabbed my attention about both of these initially were the auction titles- “African-American/Native American man” and “Two Men doing a Tom Sawyer”. I’m deleting the seemingly obligatory “rare” from the titles because EVERYTHING on Ebay is “rare”, and if it doesn’t look like a dog chewed on it, it’s also “minty”. Minty describes a flavor or odor, not a condition. These are both obviously not “minty”, but that’s ok – what counts is the image itself. While a pristine image is a beautiful thing to find, I also enjoy finding photos that look like they’ve had a life, and were not just bought and stuck in an album on a hidden shelf.
On the “African-American/Native American man” photo, it is an albumen print, and there are some obvious mis-handling marks from the time of printing (see the silver splotch over his shoulder). I will grant the “rare” on this one as images like this are while perhaps not truly “rare” they are uncommon. I’m actually on the fence about who and what this young man might be. The straight hair suggests Native American, but some of the facial features like the nose and cheekbones could be African or even Asian features, and certainly very likely to be mixed race of some sort. Guessing from the attire (and PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong) this was taken in the 1890s.
The last image has no other way to describe it but “FUN”. Two men white-washing a fence, posing with their paint cans and brushes. A real slice of Americana, I love the sense of humor about it as well as the pop-culture reference before there was such a concept as a pop-culture reference. I’m sure Tom Sawyer would have had a good laugh at this if he were real, to see it. It even looks like the depictions of Aunt Polly’s house from movies. This is on silver gelatin “gaslamp” paper, and mounted on embossed card stock. I’ve tweaked the scan a bit to improve the picture quality overall, so don’t entirely trust the color balance.
I was doing some clean-up in my office the other day and ran across these two images. Absolutely nothing to do with each other. I don’t remember where I found the doctor’s office photo, but I got the Lehigh Valley Railroad stereoview (I know, here I go again with the stereoviews I “don’t collect”) in Sacramento, California, and I suspect that’s a large part of the reason I got it – curiosity as to why something so regionally specific ended up on the opposite side of the country. The doctors’ office photo I bought because my father is a (now retired) physician, and it was interesting to see what a doctors’ office at the beginning of the 20th century looked like. I love the pillow on the sofa that says “Here’s to the world, for fear that someone may take offense” – proof that cheesy knicknacks are not a late 20th century phenomenon. The stirrups on the chair make me wonder if it is a gynecologist’s office, and the relationship of the subjects of the photo is odd – the doctor seemingly asleep in the chair, and the man in the suit facing the camera – is he a patient, a friend of the doctor, the photographer, or a combination of the above?