Tag Archives: US Navy

A Sailor Abroad – US Navy Officer in Valparaiso, Chile

US Naval Officer, Valparaiso, Chile, ca 1861
US Naval Officer, Valparaiso, Chile, ca 1861

Another find from my Gettysburg excursion. He’s a US Navy Officer. I’m not sure of the dating – the jacket looks possibly post- Civil War, but the shoulder boards suggest he’s a Master (a rank no longer used, but the equivalent of a Lieutenant, Junior Grade today) circa 1861. They changed the Master’s insignia in 1862 from the blank bar to include a gold bar at each end and an anchor in the middle, and introduced the rank of Ensign to replace the previous rank of Passed Midshipman as the most junior commissioned officer rank. This is another records quest – I would suspect there were only one or two ships at most that would have docked in Valparaiso in 1861, and ship’s crews being significantly smaller in 1861 than they are now, there’s a good chance he was the only Master (or one of two) on the ship.

A little corrective history

Someone who shall remain unidentified was selling a tintype on eBay. I won’t describe the image in detail, except to say that the subject matter was of sailors. There was a unique identifying feature in the photo that had the potential to point either to World War I or the Civil War. In doing a tiny tiny bit of basic (wikipedia) searching, the more logical conclusion is WW I. The seller had it labeled as a civil war image. I emailed him and pointed out the reasons why the image was WW I. His response back was “I know of no WW I era tintypes as the process was obsolete by the 20th century”. The tintype was around as a souvenir photo at carnivals and fairs into the 1930s. I have some tintypes in my collection that show people with cars. I know I shouldn’t pick fights with people on stuff like this- I don’t care about what it sells for and I don’t want to disrupt this guy’s business, but inaccuracy with something like this rankles me, moreso when it’s caused by unwillingness to do basic research, and even moreso when it’s done out of greed. A WW I tintype of sailors is probably worth $20-50. A Civil War tintype of sailors, tack at least another zero on those numbers, and depending on condition and quality, possibly two more zeros.

Here’s a good simple reference on the history of the tintype, if anyone is interested:

Ohio Historical Society Collections Blog