02
Oct
16

Exhibition: ‘Sojourner Truth, Photography, and the Fight Against Slavery’ at The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), Berkeley

Exhibition dates: 27th July – 23rd October 2016

 

‘I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance’

Former New York slave Sojourner Truth (which literally means “itinerant preacher”) strategically deployed photography as a form of political activism. This deployment is part of a long tradition of photography being used in the African American struggle for political change, from before the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.

Standing six feet tall and speaking with a thick Dutch accent (due to her having been born of slave parents owned by a wealthy Dutch patroon in Ulster County, New York) Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-1883), the name she adopted on June 1, 1843, devoted her life to women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Driven by a deep religious conviction she was a evangelist, feminist and abolitionist who possessed enormous charisma – “Harriet Beecher Stowe attested to Truth’s personal magnetism, saying that she had never “been conversant with anyone who had more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal presence than this woman.”” During the Reconstruction period (1865-1877) after the American Civil War, “Truth barely supported herself by selling a narrative of her life as well as her “shadows,” photographs of herself.” (Sojourner Truth, Black History)

What is interesting, as author Nell Irvin Painter observes in the accompanying video in this posting, is how Truth controlled the dissemination of her own image – her shadow – as a means of self promotion. As the press release states, “Truth could not read or write, but she had her statements repeatedly published in the press, enthusiastically embraced new technologies such as photography, and went to court three times to claim her legal rights. Uniquely among portrait sitters, she had her photographic cartes de visite copyrighted in her own name and added the caption “’I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance’. Sojourner Truth,” foregrounding her self-selected proper name, her agency, and her possession of self.” As the exhibition brochure observes, “Sojourner Truth’s very terms, “substance” and “shadow,” were economic as well as photographic metaphors in the fierce debates about money: shadow was aligned with the abolition of slavery, substance with proslavery and anti-black sentiment. Sojourner Truth knew this opposition very well.” Her speech, authorship, and recourse to law coexist with her image.

Her possession of self is intimately tied to the photographic depiction of her bodily form. She sells the photograph to support the body and, as her agency, the images become a form of self-actualisation. In this sense the image that she controls becomes her holistic body, for she never displays her injured hand or the scars on her back that she were inflicted on her during slavery. These photographs are how she would like to see herself, how she portrays and promotes herself to others and for this reason they are amazing documents to study. What a human being, to have that perspicacious nature – from Latin perspicax, perspicac- ‘seeing clearly’ – to clearly see her place in the world and to clearly understand how to project her image into the world using new technologies such as photography. For someone who could not read or write this clear seeing in the use of photography at such an early time in the history of photography is almost incomparable.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

Cicely Tyson performs Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t that a woman?”, originally delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.

 

 

Truth is powerful and it prevails.

I am not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.

Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.

If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.

It is the mind that makes the body.

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Sojourner Truth

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Carte de visite of Sojourner Truth with a photograph of her grandson, James Caldwell, on her lap' 1863

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Carte de visite of Sojourner Truth with a photograph of her grandson, James Caldwell, on her lap
1863
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

On July 4, 1863, in the National Anti-Slavery Standard, Truth announced her grandson’s enlistment in the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first all-black volunteer infantry. “Her faith is strong that God’s hand is in this war, and that it will end in the destruction of slavery, which day she hopes to live to see. The enlisting of the colored people she considers the most hopeful feature of the war.”

Truth was very proud of her grandson James Caldwell, whom she described as “a tall, able-bodied lad” determined to redeem white people from God’s curse and to save the nation. Truth also expressed her frustration that she herself could not lead “the colored troops”; instead she “can only send you her shadow.” Even at this early date, Sojourner Truth conceived of her “shadows” as the means to raise money. The article ends: “We are sure that many of our readers will thank us for informing them that Sojourner will send her photograph by mail to any one who will write her enclosing 50 cents and a 3-cent stamp. Letters to be directed to Battle Creek, Michigan.”

Sojourner Truth believed in paper and words: the paper currency created by the Federal government to support the war; the newspapers in which she had her letters published; the cartes de visite that she sold to support herself, labeled and copyrighted; the stamps that could send her paper photographs across the country to supporters; the tax stamps that the government required again to raise funds on behalf of the Union cause. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

 

Sojourner Truth: Quotes, Speech, Biography, Education, Facts, History (1996)

 

 

Synopsis

Born in New York circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. Her best-known speech on racial inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?” was delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.

Born into slavery

Born Isabella Baumfree circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was one of as many as 12 children born to James and Elizabeth Baumfree in the town of Swartekill, in Ulster County, New York. Truth’s date of birth was not recorded, as was typical of children born into slavery, but historians estimate that she was likely born around 1797. Her father, James Baumfree, was a slave captured in modern-day Ghana; Elizabeth Baumfree, also known as Mau-Mau Bet, was the daughter of slaves from Guinea. The Baumfree family was owned by Colonel Hardenbergh, and lived at the colonel’s estate in Esopus, New York, 95 miles north of New York City. The area had once been under Dutch control, and both the Baumfrees and the Hardenbaughs spoke Dutch in their daily lives.

After the colonel’s death, ownership of the Baumfrees passed to his son, Charles. The Baumfrees were separated after the death of Charles Hardenbergh in 1806. The 9-year-old Truth, known as “Belle” at the time, was sold at an auction with a flock of sheep for $100. Her new owner was a man named John Neely, whom Truth remembered as harsh and violent. She would be sold twice more over the following two years, finally coming to reside on the property of John Dumont at West Park, New York. It was during these years that Truth learned to speak English for the first time…

Fighting for abolition and women’s rights

On June 1, 1843, Isabella Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth, devoting her life to Methodism and the abolition of slavery. In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded by abolitionists, the organization supported a broad reform agenda including women’s rights and pacifism. Members lived together on 500 acres as a self-sufficient community. Truth met a number of leading abolitionists at Northampton, including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and David Ruggles.

Although the Northampton community disbanded in 1846, Sojourner Truth’s career as an activist and reformer was just beginning…

Advocacy during the Civil War

Sojourner Truth put her reputation to work during the Civil War, helping to recruit black troops for the Union Army. She encouraged her grandson, James Caldwell, to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. In 1864, Truth was called to Washington, D.C., to contribute to the National Freedman’s Relief Association. On at least one occasion, Truth met and spoke with President Abraham Lincoln about her beliefs and her experience.

True to her broad reform ideals, Truth continued to agitate for change even after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. In 1865, Truth attempted to force the desegregation of streetcars in Washington by riding in cars designated for whites. A major project of her later life was the movement to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. She argued that ownership of private property, and particularly land, would give African Americans self-sufficiency and free them from a kind of indentured servitude to wealthy landowners. Although Truth pursued this goal forcefully for many years, she was unable to sway Congress.

Death and legacy

Sojourner Truth died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 26, 1883. She is buried alongside her family at Battle Creek’s Oak Hill Cemetery. Until old age intervened, Truth continued to speak passionately on the subjects of women’s rights, universal suffrage and prison reform. She was also an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, testifying before the Michigan state legislature against the practice. She also championed prison reform in Michigan and across the country. While always controversial, Truth was embraced by a community of reformers including Amy Post, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony – friends with whom she collaborated until the end of her life.

Truth is remembered as one of the foremost leaders of the abolition movement and an early advocate of women’s rights. Although she began her career as an abolitionist, the reform causes she sponsored were broad and varied, including prison reform, property rights and universal suffrage. Abolition was one of the few causes that Truth was able to see realized in her lifetime. Her fear that abolitionism would falter before achieving equality for women proved prophetic.

Text from “Sojourner Truth Biography: Civil Rights Activist, Women’s Rights Activist (c. 1797-1883),” on Biography.com website [Online] Cited 28/09/2016

 

Unknown photographer. 'Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth' (front) 1864

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth (front)
1864
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

In 1864 Truth began to inscribe her cartes de visite with a caption, her name, and a copyright: “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance. SOJOURNER TRUTH.” Truth’s use of the first-person present tense “I sell” declares her ownership of her image: to sell it, she must own it. Most significantly, by using this caption Sojourner Truth knowingly aligned her photographs with paper money.

Sojourner Truth’s very terms, “substance” and “shadow,” were economic as well as photographic metaphors in the fierce debates about money: shadow was aligned with the abolition of slavery, substance with proslavery and anti-black sentiment. Sojourner Truth knew this opposition very well. She was making cheap paper notes, printed and reproduced in multiples, featuring her portrait. She had invented her own kind of paper currency, and for the same reasons as the government: in order to produce wealth dependent on a consensus that representation produces material results, to make money where there was none, and to do so partly in order to abolish slavery.

During the Civil War, a ferocious debate raged about whether paper could represent value like coin. Paper greenbacks – the first federally issued banknotes in American history – were attacked by those who believed that money was not a representation but a “substance.” Hard money advocates (naively) believed that gold was value, not its representation…. Like paper bills, cartes de visite functioned during these years as currency and as clandestine political tokens.

The photographs of Sojourner Truth register only her appearance, not her commanding presence. They are shadows, and some are more elusive and mute than others. Yet the printed words – name, caption, and copyright – remain forthright: her speech, authorship, and recourse to law coexist with her image. Those printed words force us to acknowledge the illiterate woman’s authorship, as well as her eloquence, her agency, and her legal claim to property, even as we value these humble objects. [The image above and verso below] is one of two known cartes de visite of Sojourner Truth that bear not only the caption, name, and copyright, but also a tax stamp that dates the photograph to 1864. Tax stamps were created to raise money for the Union cause, although they were attached to only a very small percentage of purchased photographs.

In all her seated portraits, Truth carefully chose the items she held in her lap: initially, the photograph of her heroic missing grandson and thereafter, her knitting. We must take her choices seriously. During the Civil War knitting acquired new patriotic connotations. No longer merely a feminine domestic art, knitting had become a public duty; newspapers published pleas for sewing and knitting societies to devote themselves to serving the cause.

During the Civil War, Truth was determined to teach her skills to the emancipated slaves, often Southern field hands, living in Freedmen’s Villages. A Union officer reported that Truth would say, “Be clean, be clean, for cleanliness is a part of godliness.” He paraphrased Truth’s beliefs: “[T]hey must learn to be independent – learn industry and economy – and above all strive to show people that they could be something. She urged them to embrace for their children all opportunities of education and advancement. In fact, she talked to them as a white person could not, for they would have been offended with such plain truths from any other source […] She goes into their cabins with her knitting in her hand, and while she talks with them she knits. Few of them know how to knit, and but few know how to make a loaf of bread, or anything of the kind. She wants to teach the old people how to knit, for they have no employment, and they will be much happier if usefully employed.”

Truth associated knitting with industry and advancement, not gentility. With real savvy, she informally introduced the craft to freed slaves by demonstrating the skill, not just telling her audience to learn it. The many cartes de visite that feature her knitting sustain this demonstration. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer. 'Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth' (back) 1864

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth (back)
1864
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth' c. 1864-65

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth
c. 1864-65
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

“The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) presents , on view July 27 through October 23, 2016. The exhibition features a large selection of photographic cartes de visite of the famed former slave, as well as other Civil War–era photographs and Federal currency, none of which have been exhibited before.

The exhibition is organized by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley and author of “Enduring Truths. Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance” (University of Chicago Press, 2015), the first book to explore how Truth used her image, the press, the postal service, and copyright laws to support her activism and herself. Many of the photographs included in the exhibition were a recent gift from Professor Grigsby to BAMPFA.

Runaway slave Sojourner Truth gained renown in the nineteenth century as an abolitionist, feminist, and orator. This exhibition showcases the photographic carte de visite portraits of Truth that she sold at lectures and by mail as a way of making a living. First invented by French photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri in 1854, cartes de visite are similar in size to the calling cards that preceded them, approximately two-and one-half by four inches, and consist of albumen photographs made from glass negatives glued onto cardboard mounts. By the end of the 1850s, the craze for the relatively inexpensive cartes de visite had reached the United States. Americans who could never have afforded a portrait could now have their likeness memorialized. Combined with the emergence of the new US postal system, these cards appealed to a vast nation of dispersed peoples.

Truth could not read or write, but she had her statements repeatedly published in the press, enthusiastically embraced new technologies such as photography, and went to court three times to claim her legal rights. Uniquely among portrait sitters, she had her photographic cartes de visite copyrighted in her own name and added the caption “’I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance’. Sojourner Truth,” foregrounding her self-selected proper name, her agency, and her possession of self.

This exhibition places Truth’s cartes de visite in context by reconstructing the flood of paper —federal banknotes, photographs, letters, autographs, stamps, prints, and newspapers —that created political communities across the immense distances of the nation during the Civil War. Like the federal government that resorted to the printing of paper currency to finance the war against slavery, Truth was improvising new ways of turning paper into value in order to finance her activism as an abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights.

Sojourner Truth, Photography, and the Fight Against Slavery is organized by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley, with the assistance of UC Berkeley undergraduate Ryan Serpa. The photographs included in the exhibition were a recent gift from Professor Grigsby to BAMPFA.”

Press release from the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

 

W. Arren (American) 'Carte de visite of Frederick Douglass' c. 1879

 

W. Arren (American, photographer/publisher?)
Carte de visite of Frederick Douglass
c. 1879
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
Courtesy Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement from Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.

Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his experiences as a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). After the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death, it covered events during and after the Civil War. Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.

Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the American Constitution. When radical abolitionists under the motto “No Union With Slaveholders”, criticized Douglass’ willingness to dialogue with slave owners, he famously replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

Frederick Douglass was also a runaway slave and eloquent abolitionist. Douglass and Truth both believed in the liberatory power of modernization and both were confident that the new medium of photography would contribute to their society’s redefinition of the status of black men and women. Of all modern inventions, photography, Douglass argued, would have the most far-reaching impact. He devoted two public lectures to photography, in 1861 and 1865, arguing that self-possession requires recognition from others. Douglass had 160 portraits made between 1841 and 1895. Like most sitters and unlike Truth, Douglass allowed the photographer’s name to be printed at the bottom of this carte de visite instead of his own. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Carte de visite of John Sharper' c. 1863

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Carte de visite of John Sharper
c. 1863
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

John N. Sharper, a printer by trade, enlisted in the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment (Colored) at Providence, Rhode Island on October 30, 1863. He was listed as being 5-foot8, of “dark complexion,” with black hair and black eyes. He was born in New York State about 1841. He signed his own enlistment papers. The 14th Rhode Island was later re-designated the 11th U.S. Colored Artillery.

Sharper was born at Herkimer, New York (west of Albany) on May 24, 1841. In 1860, at age 18, he was still living in Herkimer with his parents, Samuel and Jane, and working as a printer’s apprentice. Sharper’s unit was assigned to the Department of the Gulf, where its elements were stationed in New Orleans, Port Hudson, Brashear City (now Morgan City), Louisiana and Fort Esperanza on Matagorda Island, Texas. In the winter of 1864-65 Sharper was detached from his unit to work at post headquarters as a printer. Sharper was discharged for disability at New Orleans on September 11, 1865 for phthisis pulmonalis, another term for consumption or tuberculosis. He died on April 5, 1866, and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Herkimer.

His parents, Samuel and Jane, applied for a pension on as dependents of his. There is a page on Ancestry that shows Sharper married to an Esther Thomas (c. 1846 to c. 1929), but cites no documentation. (Text from the Civil War Talk website)

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The Bureau of United States Colored Troops was established as a separate office within the War Department on May 22, 1863. Maj. Charles W. Foster was appointed the bureau chief, with the title assistant adjutant general. African-descent regiments organized before the new bureau was established were not the first regiments mustered into the Bureau of United States Colored Troops. Most would retain their state designation until 1864, when they would be designated United States Colored Troops. In June 1863, the first regiment was officially mustered into the Bureau of United States Colored Troops. Organized in Washington, D.C., the regiment was designated the 1st United States Colored Infantry. (Text from the Civil War Trust website)

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According to government archives, by the end of the Civil War some 179,000 black men had served in the US Army (constituting 10% of the Union Army) and 19,000 had served in the US Navy. 40,000 died during the war, often from infection and disease. When Sojourner Truth made the photograph in which she displays a framed portrait of her grandson, who had just joined the first all-black regiment, she offered an alternative to images, such as Nast’s, that mocked and emasculated the black men and boys who fought to end slavery. Photographic portraits made counterarguments, showing us alert and serious black men, even boys, who were determined to fix their likenesses as soldiers willing to lose their lives to win the war against slavery.

Portraits can socially elevate but painted portraits were not affordable for the majority of Americans. Nineteenth-century photography, especially cartes de visite and tintypes, brought portraiture within the reach of many more people. African Americans seized the opportunity to have their “likeness” made. Tintypes also made it possible to adorn sitters with precious gold jewelry applied as strokes of paint. Glistening paint ornamented sitters with sparkling accessories – gold rings, necklaces, buttons, military belt buckles – and fancy ornamental enclosures framed persons as worthy. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Carte de visite of amputee on chair' late-19th century

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Carte de visite of amputee on chair
late-19th century
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

J. W. Black (American, photographer) 'Captioned carte de visite of Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence' 1863

 

J. W. Black (American, photographer)
Captioned carte de visite of Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence
1863

 

 

Several extensive series of cartes de visite were made of rescued slave children, especially those who appeared to be white like this child, Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence.

In the cartes de visite of the “redeemed slave child” Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence, captions make claims to possession of the child and her portrait, claims problematically resem- bling slavery. If Sojourner Truth boldly filed a copyright in her own name, the 1863 copyright on these photographs is in the name of the child’s “redeemer,” Catherine S. Lawrence, who gave the fair-skinned little girl her surname (and also had her baptized by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother, Henry Ward Beecher). Catherine Lawrence had Fannie photographed at least a dozen times in a wide range of costumes and settings. Although most cartes show her lavishly dressed, one unusual example shows the little girl barefoot, as if in transition from her status as poor slave to affluent and “passing” adoptee. Like the word “redeem” itself, this carte de visite combines Christian, economic, and legal claims. Its extremely unusual copyright betrays the financial transaction that redefined the “redeemed” slave child as adoptee. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Captioned carte de visite of Frank, Frederick, and Alice' 1865

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite of Frank, Frederick, and Alice
1865

 

 

On back: “The CHILDREN OF THE BATTLE FIELD. This is a copy of the Ferrotype found in the hands of Sergeant Humiston of the 154th N.Y. Volunteers as he lay dead on the Battle Field of Gettysburg. The copies are sold in furtherance of the National Sabbath School effort to found in Pennsylvania an Asylum for dependent Orphans of Soldiers; in memorial of our Perpetuated Union. Wenderoth, Taylor & Brown, 912-914 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. This picture is private property, and can not be copied without wronging the Soldier’s Orphans for whom it is published. Philadelphia, Sept. 23, 1865. J. Frances Bourns.

As the text on the back of this card makes clear, this portrait of beloved offspring had initially been found without names on the body of an unidentified fallen soldier. The photograph was reproduced and circulated as a carte de visite in order to determine the soldier’s identity. This early form of mass communication ultimately worked and his family was found. Subsequently, new cartes de visite included the children’s names, Frank, Frederick, and Alice, and were circulated in order to raise money on behalf of a school for orphans. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Portrait of a Marshall Bachelder and Cornelia (Weatherby) Bachelder' c. 1865

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Portrait of a Marshall Bachelder and Cornelia (Weatherby) Bachelder
c. 1865
Tintype with hand-coloring
6 1/2 x 8 3/8 in.
Courtesy Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

“Marshall Bachelder was born in Holly, Orleans, NY state, August 31, 1835, and died July 30, 1921. He came to Michigan at the age of 17 with his parents and settled on a farm in Greenbush township, Clinton County. He enlisted in the 8th Michigan Infantry in 1861 and served until the end of the war. He was married to Cornelia Weatherby in 1864, who survives him.” (as of 1921).

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Cartes de visite were multiples and allowed sitters to share their portraits with others, sometimes sending them by mail. By contrast, tintypes were unique images like daguerreotypes, but far less expensive. This haunting hand-colored tintype portrait of a couple contrasts a remarkably vivid young woman with a pale ghost-like soldier whose body, hair, and eyes have been drawn in. Whether his image was radically retouched in order to dress him in uniform is unclear from the photograph itself. Tintypes were made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal covered with a dark lacquer or enamel – they were unique direct images (no negatives were used). (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'A group of Contrabands at Haxall's Mill, Richmond, Virginia, on June 9, 1865' (detail) 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
A group of Contrabands at Haxall’s Mill, Richmond, Virginia, on June 9, 1865 (detail)
1865
Stereo view

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'The Innocent Cause of the War' (stereo view detail) c. 1865

 

Unknown photographer (American)
The Innocent Cause of the War (stereo view detail)
c. 1865
Courtesy of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby
Stereo view

 

 

A Union soldier looks at a young black boy in tattered clothing leaning on a pole at left. The caption turns the boy into “the innocent cause” for which the Civil War was fought. Stereo views were two photographs made from slightly separated lenses, reproducing the two-and-one-half-inch distance between our eyes; when seen through a viewer, they suggest three-dimensional space. Fairly inexpensive, they were very popular from the Civil War era through the early twentieth century. Stereo views were collected by individuals, and they also served as educational tools in schools and libraries. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Carte de visite (Donation Cake)' late-19th century

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Carte de visite (Donation Cake)
late-19th century
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
Courtesy Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

Little is known about this Civil War carte de visite except that it commemorates fundraising, a bake sale from one hundred and fifty years ago.

 

Sayre and Chase (American) 'Pro-Union carte de visite commemorating the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and Generals Charles Robert Woods and William Burnham Woods' c. 1865

 

Sayre and Chase (Newark, Ohio)
Pro-Union carte de visite commemorating the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and Generals Charles Robert Woods and William Burnham Woods
c. 1865
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

Most cartes de visite were portraits but some represented the war, depicting landscapes, battle sites, military prisons, and still lifes. This carte, made by Sayre and Chase of Newark, Ohio, displays the scarred battle flag of the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry as well as a sword, scabbard, and officer’s sash hanging from a line perfunctorily stretched across the studio. Leaning against the floorboards are two large, framed albumen photographs of Union generals, Charles Robert Woods (at right), who organized the 76th Ohio, and his brother William Burnham Woods. Both survived the war, and astonishingly both became Supreme Court justices. Within this scene, the framed photographic portraits are not cartes de visite but larger prints deemed worthy of frames, not merely inclusion in an album. Photography’s registration of “what has been” (its indexicality) serves as a form of evidence: here scarred inanimate objects testify to the violence of war and connote both courage and suffering. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

The 76th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or 76th OVI) was an infantry regiment of the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment served in the Western Theater, primarily as part of the XV Corps in the Army of the Tennessee.

During its term of service, the 76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry participated in forty-four battles. While 270 men, including five officers, died from disease or accidents, an additional ninety-one men, including nine officers, received mortal wounds. Beyond these deaths, another 241 men suffered battlefield wounds but survived.

Charles Robert Woods (February 19, 1827 – February 26, 1885) was a career United States Army officer and a Union general during the American Civil War. He is noted for commanding the relief troops that first attempted to resupply Fort Sumter prior to the start of the conflict, and served with distinction during the war.

William Burnham Woods (August 3, 1824 – May 14, 1887) was a United States Circuit Judge and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court as well as an Ohio politician and soldier in the Civil War.

 

J.P. Soule (American) 'Captioned carte de visite (Emancipation)' c. 1863

 

J.P. Soule (American, photographer)
John Sowle (publisher)
Captioned carte de visite (Emancipation)
c. 1863
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

The women abolitionists of Indiana who selected the costume Truth wears in the adjacent photograph (no. 5) may have been inspired by pictures of female personifications carrying flags. For example, this carte de visite, entitled Emancipation, personifies the nation as a white woman who wraps an immense flag around two kneeling slaves.

 

 

The printing press

During the Civil War, the printing press itself came to stand for the Republican cause. The printing of money was even represented in a number of cartes de visite. Rightly paranoid that his paper reproduction could be mistaken for a counterfeit bill despite its smaller size, the printer of the “Twenty-Dollar Bill” fills the card’s back with text establishing its credentials as an authorized – and copyrighted – “souvenir.”

In The Northern Star, four photographically reproduced, wrinkled one-dollar bills and one two-dollar bill rotate around the mirroring heads of Salmon Chase – Secretary of the Treasury, Republican, and abolitionist – and Abraham Lincoln. Between the two men’s heads at the center of the card is a barely comprehensible poem that ends with the line: “And Chase the money makes you know.” In the spatial configuration of the image, Chase is the Northern Star, the moneymaker, yet the inverse is true as well: the money makes you know Chase. Each one-dollar bill spinning around the central axis features his profile portrait. By contrast The Southern Cross mocks the Confederacy for its lack of “change” to “meet their bills.”

Sojourner Truth was making a form of paper currency and her cheap paper notes, printed and reproduced in multiples, featured her portrait. This was no insignificant achievement. Like Chase she had put her face on paper that stood for economic value; like Chase she was publicizing her self and her politics with her portrait. Truth had invented her own kind of paper money and for the same reasons as the Republican government: in order to produce wealth dependent on a consensus that representation produces material results, to make money where there was none, and to do so partly in order to abolish slavery. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Captioned carte de visite (Learning is Wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca & Rosa, Slaves from New Orleans)' c. 1864

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite (Learning is Wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca & Rosa, Slaves from New Orleans)
c. 1864
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
Courtesy Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

Part of the fundraising series devoted to the freed slaves of New Orleans, this carte de visite poses the formerly enslaved adult Wilson Chinn reading to Charley, Rebecca, and Rosa, freed children. Especially poignant is another paler, most likely later version, in which the caption is misspelled as ‘Lerning is Wealth’. Wealth, the caption proposes, derives from literacy, not slavery. Other cartes de visite of Wilson Chinn emphasize his abuse under slavery, displaying menacing chains at his feet and branded letters on his forehead, his former owner’s initials: “V. B. M.” The letters on Chinn’s forehead turn him into surface on which is inscribed the literacy of others. In this carte Wilson’s head is turned so we do not see that the man who reads from a book is likewise inscribed as a text; none of the children look to the alternative printing on his forehead.

 

 

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

BAMPFA is located at 2155 Center Street
between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue, in downtown Berkeley
Phone: (510) 642-0808

Opening hours:
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Friday and Saturday, 11 am – 9 pm

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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