Sometimes the reason you buy something is purely aesthetic – there doesn’t need to be an historical association, famous subject or famous photographer to make an image worth buying. This is an example of just that – a very handsome subject, simply captured, plainly presented. Is he part Native American? Hard to say, but he has a certain look about his nose and jawline.
This is an example, as I mentioned, of a carte-sized Cabinet Card. It is the same dimensions (2 1/2 x 4 1/2) as a carte de visite, but is printed on the heavier card stock with the beveled, gilt edges and the larger front imprint of the photographer’s logo typical of the Cabinet Card. Because of the style, I would definitely call this a Cabinet Card, and not a CDV, because the time period of its creation is definitely later, as are the material conditions of its composition.
It’s been a while since I added anything here, because I’ve been insanely busy dealing with a whole bunch of personal business (breaking up, evicting my ex, cleaning up the aftermath, starting dating again, reconfiguring my office, building a new home wireless network since the ex took the wireless router, getting nasty bronchitis, recovering from said bronchitis, etc etc you know…). I haven’t had a lot of time for collecting or thinking about it as a result. Well, the dust has settled and I’ve been casually acquiring an odd and end here and there, so I’m back to writing about it again.
One of the things that has interested me, and helped drive me into this whole civil war period image collecting thing, is my hometown – Chambersburg, PA. Chambersburg was perhaps the most trampled ground north of the Mason Dixon line during the Civil War. Prior to the war, John Brown planned his raid on Harpers’ Ferry while living there, and met with Frederick Douglass to discuss the plans (Douglass advised against attacking the federal arsenal). Jeb Stuart’s cavalry raided it for the first time in 1862. Then Lee’s troops passed through on their way to Gettysburg in ’63, and in 1864 General McCausland’s troops demanded a ransom of $500,000 in US currency or $100,000 in gold, which the town refused to pay, so it was put to the torch.
In digging around on Ebay, I found an image of a man who was born a few towns over from Chambersburg. That got me thinking about the old hometown, and I started searching for Chambersburg related stuff. I acquired a group of photos spanning a good 20+ years of work from a single studio, which in further searching on Ebay seems to have been the most prominent if not the only studio in town at the time.
Here is the image that got me thinking about Chambersburg, a photo of David Eiker, born in Quincy, Pennsylvania. Quincy is a tiny one-stoplight town a few miles east of Chambersburg. This photo was taken at the J. Goldin studio in Washington DC.
Acquired at the same time was a more-or-less unrelated photo of a Mr. R.K. Hopkinson, taken at the Henry Ulke & Bro. studio in Washington DC. The common thread was the Washington, DC studio. Mr. R.K. Hopkinson Served in Company D of the 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery during the civil war.
After digging up the stereoview of the Lehigh Valley Railroad station, I did a quick peek on Ebay to see if I could find any others. Whaddya know, my first search turns up another in the series. It’s in pretty rough condition, but I bought it anyway because it was going cheap. This is one case of a stereoview set that I’ll actually try to complete – there’s only 24 in the set. I have a casual interest in railroad memorabilia, as my grandfather was a conductor on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway Limited between Altoona an Chicago in the first half of the 20th century. I’m also a roller-coaster fan, so finding a photograph of the first roller-coaster is pretty cool (first roller-coaster you say? see the blurb below).
This is a picture of the switch-back gravity railroad, which was originally built to aid in bringing coal from the top of the mountain to the railroad. It quickly grew into a tourist attraction, and then became the first roller-coaster in the United States, when it became dedicated to passenger service. The car would be towed to the top of the mountain on one track, then switch and fall down the other track propelled by gravity alone. There was a driver/brakeman in the car to prevent it from flying off at the bottom out of control.
The town is Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, now known as Jim Thorpe, PA, named to honor the Native American athlete. Ironically enough, Jim Thorpe was from Oklahoma, and his sole connection to Mauch Chunk is that he attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and that Mauch Chunk was a Native American name approximately meaning “Bear Mountain”, because the mountain in whose shadow the town was built looks like the back of a bear. After he died in 1953, his surviving wife sold his remains to the town, which hoped that his grave would be a tourist attraction.
This next image is another recent acquisition – another Washington DC carte-de-visite. This one, if the inscription on the back is accurate, is a self-portrait by the photographer, or at least the inscription is by the photographer – “Your Friend – From Mr. Arthur(sp?) Woodley”. I’m curious if the Woodly on the card is a typographical mistake, as the signature really does look like it says “Woodley”. I’m also curious if the Woodley/Woodly is any relation to the Woodleys for whom Woodley Park was named. Given how small a town DC was in the 1860s, I’d say the odds are in favor.
The address on this one is a mystery – 181 Pennsylvania Avenue would put the studio on the Capitol lawn. Furthermore, he indicates that the studio is located between 17th and 18th Streets, which would make 1781 Pennsylvania Avenue a more likely actual address. I wonder if the printer was short on E’s and 7s when he ran these off.
Another CDV added to the collection. My first Mathew Brady CDV with the Washington DC studio imprint. I suspect that she was a circus sideshow performer, because even in the Victorian era when zaftig women were more popular, she is not the kind of zaftig that the Victorians found sexy.
Also note the book under her foot. I suspect it was just a posing prop to give her body some form and dynamic, but it would be interesting to know if there were something meaningful to the book underfoot. Books were a very common studio prop, usually held in the hand, to indicate that the subject was literate and had some kind of intellectual accomplishment. By extension, stepping on a book would seem to imply a deliberately and blatantly anti-intellectual attitude, which would have been at extreme odds with the contemporary ethos, and would seem out of character for a studio like Mathew Brady’s – he went out of his way to cultivate associations with the best and the brightest of his day. So it’s probably just a posing device, no meaning implied.
This is an E&HT Anthony reprint of a Mathew Brady CDV of “Fightin” Joe Hooker, appointed by Lincoln to lead the Union armies after Burnside’s disaster at Fredericksburg. Hooker didn’t last long after, meeting his tactical doom at Chancellorsville. This is not a rare version of the image, but rather an 1860s equivalent of a celebrity collector card – people would assemble albums featuring the politicians, generals, stars of the stage, and other celebrity types (Barnums’ Circus freaks, writers, poets, and so on). Unlike today where people, mostly teenagers, collect pictures of their favorite stars, in the 19th century it was not uncommon to find these cartes mixed in with the family album, and collected by the senior members of the family, not just star-struck children.
The scan does not do the original justice. An amazingly beautifully preserved CDV of a Barnum performer. She was originally from Kokomo, Indiana. Hired in 1879 at age 11, she weighed 28 lbs. The photo is then most likely also from that year or within a year or two after that date.