The CDV itself is rather unremarkable – in average condition, anonymous subject. What caught my attention, though, was the notation by Mr. Hanson in the lower left of the verso – “Formerly with Brady, New York”. This is the first CDV I’ve seen where the photographer marketed himself as having worked for the celebrated master, Mathew Brady. I don’t know if any of Brady’s other camera operators/studio assistants ever marketed themselves this way, but it’s a fascinating find.
An anonymous couple by Brady’s New York studio (if the backmark follows the formula I’ve interpolated, this is from the NY studio because it is listed first). The carte itself is in immaculate condition, and this is another variation on the studio imprint. Brady seems to have changed his often, unlike others (Fredricks, Gurney, Bogardus, Eisenmann) whose imprints remained largely unchanged throughout their studio operations.
If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you know by now of my interest in images by Mathew Brady’s Washington DC studio. Here is another gem, in near perfect original condition. The sitter is anonymous.
I’ve seen enough of Brady’s CDVs now that I’ve noticed a pattern in the labeling – if you want to tell which studio produced the image, first look at the front – if it says Washington or New York on the front, that’s a 100 % guarantee of where it was taken. If it is not labeled on the front, look at the photographer’s imprint on the verso. The studio that produced it will be listed first: a Washington DC portrait will say “No. 352 Pennsylvania Av., Washington DC & New York”, whereas a New York portrait will say “Broadway & 10th Street, New York, & 352 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC”. Strangely, the Washington DC ones often list only “New York” as the second address, if they list it at all (I have seen it all three ways,”Broadway & 10th”, “New York” and no second address), but the New York ones seem to always list the full “352 Pennsylvania Avenue” as the second address. This of course does not take into account the E&HT Anthony CDVs, which do not list any Brady studio address, but rather state “Published by E & HT Anthony, 501 Broadway, New York” very prominently, and then include the following variations:
- From Photographic Negative by Brady
- From Photographic Negative in Brady’s National Portrait Gallery
- Manufacturers of Photographic Albums
- No Brady attribution or mention of photographic albums
I guess it makes sense for Anthony to plug the albums on the backs of CDVs, but they made a full range of photographic supplies from albums to chemistry and cameras. The name lived on in various forms for well over a century – they merged with Scovill around the turn of the 20th century and formed Ansco (ANthony & SCOvill), which then partnered with Agfa in the US to become Agfa-Ansco.
I’ve had a devil of a time trying to decipher the photographer’s name on the back – the best I can tell is it’s either H.B. Gerncore or H.L. Ger-something-something. In any case, it’s a beautiful photo of a strikingly proportionate little person. I’m frankly not even entirely sure he’s a little person and not just a pre-teen in a well-tailored suit. But the top hat and tails make it more likely he’s an adult sideshow or circus performer.
Here’s yet another photo of Tom Thumb and company, this time in the outfits they wore to meet Napoleon III. Also an Anthony print, with the facsimile signatures on the back. Again no attribution of the photographer, so while it is possible it’s a Brady, it’s likely not. Notice the hand-coloring of the women’s garlands and the men’s watch chains.
The young couple in the previous post are Clara Barton and John J. Elwell, the young man she was linked to romantically.
While there is no evidence that they were ever sexually intimate, some time after the war, General Elwell wrote to her that he loved her “all the law allows (and a little more perhaps)”. What exactly that meant remains the realm of speculation, as it is certainly cryptic by intent; General Elwell was a married man. Given that he was married at the time of his association with Clara Barton, this photograph becomes an act of bravery and defiance (or brazenness depending on your take of Victorian social mores), although perhaps it could have been passed off as innocent as Ms. Barton and General Elwell both served together in South Carolina at the assault on Fort Wagner, he with the Quartermaster’s Corps, she as a civilian nurse. Certainly at the time she was already famous, and he would have been so as well by the time the photo was taken in 1865, so it may have been at Mathew Brady’s urging that they posed together or it may have been of their own choosing.
Here is an image of General Elwell:
and Clara Barton:
And my photo for comparison:
here is a young couple who posed at Mathew Brady’s Washington DC studio. They must have been “somebodys” because Brady bothered to copyright the image. I’ve seen enough of his images to notice that the copyright notice is used inconsistently, which leads me to think it was either to protect specific images because of the subject matter, or it may have been time-delimited as a result of a copyright dispute between himself and Alexander Gardner arising out of Gardner’s work for Brady during the Civil War. I’ve noticed it most often on the Fairy Wedding images, but also on the Brady version of the Seth Kinman elkhorn chair (I don’t have the Brady version, just the Alex Gardner version, which has Gardner’s studio stamp on the back, but Seth Kinman’s copyright notice on the front. I don’t recall if the Brady one has Brady’s copyright or Kinman’s).
If any of you Civil War buffs or Victorian America historians recognize this couple, any information would be greatly appreciated.
Here are the Thumbs, Commodore Nutt and Minnie Warren in the outfits they wore when presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Given that the image was produced by E&HT Anthony, in all likelihood it was taken by Mathew Brady in New York upon their return to the US after meeting the Queen. The verso contains the usual “Compliments of …” facsimile signatures of the four subjects. This probably was commissioned by P.T. Barnum to sell at his American Museum.
Two new additions to the collection, and what may well be a collecting coup – a potentially previously unknown image of Harriet Beecher Stowe, by Gurney of New York.
For those unfamiliar with who Harriet Beecher Stowe was, she was the daughter of a deeply intellectual preacher and abolitionist, Lyman Beecher. Her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, would become a leading figure in the abolition movement of his own, and a major intellectual light in Victorian-era America.Henry Ward Beecher, from the New York Times
Even though Henry was an oratorical and political powerhouse in his day, famous (or infamous, depending on your Union or Confederate sympathies), Harriet Beecher Stowe eclipsed him in his fame as a result of a book she wrote, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.
It is reported that upon being introduced to Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862, Abraham Lincoln fondly commented she was “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”
Although President Lincoln’s comment was certainly made in jest, in truth, Stowe’s novel was indeed instrumental in awakening the abolitionist cause, which was a major factor in turning a nation against itself for four arduous years.
* see linked article below for citation
For an excellent biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe, read Harriet Beecher Stowe biography, Ohio State University History department
Here is a photo of Henry and Harriet together, from Wikipedia-
This photo of Henry Ward Beecher, my other acquisition in this pair, is one by Mathew Brady, published by E&HT Anthony and as such is a common image in average condition.
Acquiring this image of Harriet Beecher Stowe in many ways closes a circle for me as I now have a face to go with the book, of which I own a rather tatty copy of the 1852 first printing of the first British edition of the book.
Two more recent acquisitions. One is a solo of Minnie Warren, the sister of Lavinia Warren Stratton (aka Mrs. Tom Thumb). She played maid of honor at her sister’s wedding as a bookend to Commodore Nutt being Tom Thumb’s best man, helping set the stage for P.T. Barnum’s “Fairy Wedding”. This is another in the Brady grouping of photos related to the wedding. Note the E&HT Anthony embossed seal on the card.
Minnie Warren did marry, but not Commodore Nutt – she married yet another little person stage performer, Edmund Newell, aka General Grant Jr or Major Edmund Newell. Minnie died in childbirth in 1878. She is buried in Middleborough, Massachusetts. (What IS it with these ersatz military titles?)
Here is the first Tom Thumb Wedding photo I’ve seen NOT by Brady. This is by the Stereoscopic Company of London which despite its rather pedestrian and industrial name was in fact one of the premier photographic portrait parlors of its day. The Regent Street address if nothing else should be a clue to that.
I’m still trying to figure out who/what the monogram embossed into the verso of the card stands for – CWA? CAW? WAC? I also dig the American flag embossed as well – it appears to have only two rows of stars, which was probably as much artistic license taken trying to fit a readable symbol into the space as anything. I’m a little surprised at the need to mark the image as somehow American – the Thumbs were international superstars and virtually everyone would have known they were Yankees.
Here is the skylight of Mathew Brady’s Washington studio. Today the space is occupied by the National Council of Negro Women. The studio itself today is nought but a storage room full of filing cabinets. But still being able to see the skylight Brady used to illuminate his subjects helps one imagine Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant sitting in that loft for the portraits we know them best by.