Posts Tagged ‘Harriet Beecher Stowe

10
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits’ at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Exhibition dates: 14th June 2019 – 31st May 2020

Curator: Ann Shumard

The National Portrait Gallery, Washington has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Lucy Stone' c. 1855

 

Unidentified Artist
Lucy Stone
c. 1855
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 19.9 × 32.9 × 0.8 cm (7 13/16 × 12 15/16 × 5/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Lucy Stone (August 13, 1818 – October 18, 1893) was a prominent U.S. orator, abolitionist, and suffragist, and a vocal advocate and organiser promoting rights for women. In 1847, Stone became the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. She spoke out for women’s rights and against slavery at a time when women were discouraged and prevented from public speaking. Stone was known for using her birth name after marriage, the custom being for women to take their husband’s surname.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Lucy Stone was unequivocal in her opposition to slavery and her support for women’s rights. Yet, when some abolitionists argued that her antislavery efforts should take precedence, she replied, “I was a woman before I was an abolitionist.” Stone helped to organise the first national women’s rights conference in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1850, and lectured widely on the topic of women’s suffrage. When she married Henry Blackwell in 1855, she defied tradition by retaining her maiden name. In 1866, Stone became a founder of the American Equal Rights Association, which sought to secure voting rights for African Americans and women.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

 

Let us celebrate strong, creative, (com)passionate women.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National Portrait Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In mid-nineteenth-century America, the growing presence of women in public life coincided with the rise of portrait photography. This exhibition of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes from the 1840s and 1850s features portraits of early feminist icons, women’s rights advocates Margaret Fuller and Lucy Stone, abolitionist Lucretia Mott and best-selling author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

 

 

Seriousness of their intent and purpose writ large upon their faces. Portraits of the self, as if alone, without decorous engagement for the camera.

.
Elizabeth Gertsakis

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Charlotte Cushman' c. 1850

 

Unidentified Artist
Charlotte Cushman
c. 1850
Half-plate daguerreotype
Image: 12 × 9 cm (4 3/4 × 3 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Charlotte Saunders Cushman (July 23, 1816 – February 18, 1876) was an American stage actress. Her voice was noted for its full contralto register, and she was able to play both male and female parts. She lived intermittently in Rome, in an expatriate colony of prominent artists and sculptors, some of whom became part of her tempestuous private life.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Charlotte Cushman was the foremost American-born actress of her day and the first to enjoy critical and popular acclaim at home and abroad. Following her 1836 New York City stage debut as Lady Macbeth, she honed her craft there and in Philadelphia, where she managed the Walnut Street Theatre from 1842 to 1844. With a dramatic range and commanding stage presence that more than compensated for her lack of conventional beauty, Cushman boldly developed a repertoire that included male as well as female roles. Taking London by storm in 1845, she returned to universal acclaim in the United States in 1849.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Charlotte Cushman' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Charlotte Cushman (detail)
c. 1850
Half-plate daguerreotype
Image: 12 × 9 cm (4 3/4 × 3 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Harriet Beecher Stowe' 1852

 

Unidentified Artist
Harriet Beecher Stowe
1852
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Image: 3.9cm x 3.4cm (1 9/16″ x 1 5/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. She came from the Beecher family, a famous religious family, and is best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which depicts the harsh conditions for enslaved African Americans. The book reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and Great Britain, energising anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. Stowe wrote 30 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential for both her writings and her public stances and debates on social issues of the day.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Harriet Beecher Stowe authored numerous articles, essays, and books during her long career, but it was her dramatic, antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin that brought her fame at home and abroad. First serialised in the National Era newspaper, Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in book form in 1852 and sold more than 300,000 copies during its first year in print. Lionised by Northern abolitionists and vilified by Southern slaveholders, Stowe became the subject of intense public interest. When requests for her portrait multiplied, she responded by posing for several daguerreotype likenesses that were soon copied and distributed widely.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Ezra Greenleaf Weld. 'Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson Sisters at Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York' 1850

 

Ezra Greenleaf Weld
Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson Sisters at Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York
1850
Half-plate copy daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.2 x 24.4 x 1.3 cm (6 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Set Charles Momjian

 

 

Weld daguerreotype taken at the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York. The Edmonson sisters are standing wearing bonnets and shawls in the row behind the seated speakers. Frederick Douglass is seated, with Gerrit Smith standing behind him.

Ezra Greenleaf Weld (October 26, 1801 – October 14, 1874), often known simply as “Greenleaf”, was a photographer and an operator of a daguerreotype studio in Cazenovia, New York. He and his family were involved with the abolitionist movement.

Weld opened his first studio in his home in 1845. In 1850, Cazenovia hosted the abolitionist meeting known as the Fugitive Slave Law Convention. This gave Weld the opportunity to photograph the legendary orator Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson sisters, Gerritt Smith and Abby Kelley Foster. This daguerreotype was given to the imprisoned abolitionist William Chaplin who had helped many of the attendees escape to freedom.

Of the six daguerreotypes of Douglass that have survived, only one besides Greenleaf’s image has had its daguerreotypist identified. Greenleaf’s image is unique because it is a group shot at an outdoor meeting rather than a studio portrait. Daguerreotypes were seldom attempted under these circumstances because the long exposure time required made it difficult to get a satisfactory result. Weld’s is the only daguerreotype of Douglass whose date is known with certainty. This daguerreotype is also unique in the paradoxical sense that it is the only one known to have been copied. Two original half-plates exist: One is held by the Madison County Historical Society in Oneida, New York, the other is in a private collection and currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Text from the Wikipedia website

The Fugitive Slave Law Convention was held in Cazenovia, New York, August 21-22, 1850. Organised to oppose passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 by the United States Congress, participants included Frederick Douglass, the Edmonson sisters, Gerrit Smith, Samuel Joseph May, and Theodore Dwight Weld, among others. The convention opened at the First Congregational Church of Cazenovia (now Cazenovia College’s theater building), then moved to “the orchard of Grace Wilson’s School, located on Sullivan Street,” to accommodate the estimated 2000 to 3000 participants. It was chaired by Douglass.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c.  February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his 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 was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether white, black, female, Native American, or Chinese immigrants. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto “No Union with Slaveholders”, criticised Douglass’ willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

Mary Edmonson (1832-1853) and Emily Edmonson (1835-1895), “two respectable young women of light complexion”, were African Americans who became celebrities in the United States abolitionist movement after gaining their freedom from slavery. On April 15, 1848, they were among the 77 slaves who tried to escape from Washington, DC on the schooner The Pearl to sail up the Chesapeake Bay to freedom in New Jersey.

Although that effort failed, they were freed from slavery by funds raised by the Congregational Church in Brooklyn, New York, whose pastor was Henry Ward Beecher, an abolitionist. After gaining freedom, the Edmonsons were supported to go to school; they also worked. They campaigned with Beecher throughout the North for the end of slavery in the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Gerrit Smith (March 6, 1797 – December 28, 1874), also spelled Gerritt, was a leading American social reformer, abolitionist, politician, and philanthropist. Spouse to Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, Smith was a candidate for President of the United States in 1848, 1856, and 1860, but only served 18 months in the federal government – in Congress as a Free Soil Party Representative, in 1853-4.

Text from the Wikipedia website

In 1850, as Congress considered passage of a harsh new Fugitive Slave Law, more than 2,000 people heeded the call of abolitionist Gerrit Smith (standing, center) to meet in Cazenovia, New York, and protest the impending legislation. Among the nearly fifty escaped slaves to participate were Emily and Mary Edmonson (in plaid shawls), whose freedom had been purchased by abolitionists in 1848, and Frederick Douglass (seated, center right), who served as the convention’s presiding officer. On the gathering’s second day, the overflowing crowd moved from its initial meeting place in a church to a nearby orchard. There, a local daguerreotypist made this extraordinary record of the convention.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888) 'Lucretia Coffin Mott' 1851

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888)
Lucretia Coffin Mott
1851
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15 x 23.2 x 1 cm (5 7/8 x 9 1/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (1808-1888) was a writing teacher and photographer. He was born in Granville, Ohio and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On 20 June 1846, he bought John Jabez Edwin Mayall’s Chestnut Street photography studio that was in the same building as Root’s residence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Root had success as a daguerreotypist working with his brother, Samuel Root. The Root Brothers had a gallery in New York City from 1849 to 1857. Marcus Aurelius Root authored an important book on photography entitled The Camera and the Pencil.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Lucretia Mott (née Coffin; January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a U.S. Quaker, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and social reformer. She had formed the idea of reforming the position of women in society when she was amongst the women excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. In 1848 she was invited by Jane Hunt to a meeting that led to the first meeting about women’s rights. Mott helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.

Her speaking abilities made her an important abolitionist, feminist, and reformer. When slavery was outlawed in 1865, she advocated giving former slaves who had been bound to slavery laws within the boundaries of the United States, whether male or female, the right to vote. She remained a central figure in the abolition and suffrage movement until her death in 1880.

Text from the Wikipedia website

A devout Quaker whose activism proved unsettling to some members of her faith, Lucretia Mott assumed a highly visible role in the abolitionist movement. After joining William Lloyd Garrison at the launch of the American Anti-Slavery Society, she helped to found Philadelphia’s Female Anti-Slavery Society. Her concern for women’s rights was a natural outgrowth of her abolitionist efforts. In 1848, Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organised the convention at Seneca Falls, New York, that galvanised the women’s suffrage movement.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888) 'Lucretia Coffin Mott' 1851 (detail)

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888)
Lucretia Coffin Mott (detail)
1851
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15 x 23.2 x 1 cm (5 7/8 x 9 1/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will display photographs of 19th-century activists and professionals in “Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits,” a presentation of 10 daguerreotypes and two ambrotypes from the museum’s extensive collection of antebellum portraits. This focused exhibition will explore the increasing visibility of American women in society before the Civil War and the corresponding advent of portrait photography. Organised by Ann Shumard, senior curator of photographs, “Women of Progress” is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story,” and is one of seven exhibitions in the Portrait Gallery’s 2019 – 2020 program to highlight women in history. “Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits” will be displayed on the museum’s first floor June 14 through May 31, 2020.

The Portrait Gallery’s exhibition will reacquaint visitors with the fascinating lives of 13 memorable Americans. “In the 1840s and 1850s, the growing presence of women in public life coincided with the rise of portrait photography,” Shumard said. “As a result, women who were making their mark in endeavours as varied as journalism, literature, abolitionism and the burgeoning women’s rights movement became sought-after subjects for the camera.”

Those featured in the exhibition will include Dorothea Lynde Dix, activist and educator who sought humane treatment for people with mental illness; Margaret Fuller, editor and women’s rights advocate; Lucretia Mott, abolitionist and co-organiser of the Seneca Falls Convention; Lucy Stone, suffragist and a founder of the American Equal Rights Association; and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Other pioneers are the actress Laura Keene, the first woman manager of a major theatre in New York City and Mary Ann Brown Patten, the first woman to command a sailing ship around Cape Horn. The exhibition will also highlight the abolitionists Emily and Mary Edmonson, who are pictured in a daguerreotype with Frederick Douglass at the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law Convention in Cazenovia, New York. Funding for the exhibition was made possible by the National Portrait Gallery’s Women’s Initiative Leadership Committee including Capital One and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery [Online] Cited 03/11/2019

 

Rufus Anson. 'Laura Keene' c. 1855

 

Rufus Anson (American, c. 1821-?)
Laura Keene
c. 1855
Sixteenth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 5.4 × 9.7 cm (2 1/8 × 3 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Acquired through the generosity of Bill and Sally Wittliff

 

 

Rufus Anson (active 1851-1867), American daguerreotypist who operated a studio in New York City.

An accomplished comedic actress, Laura Keene (20 July 1826 – 4 November 1873) rattled New York City’s theatrical establishment in 1855 when she became the first woman manager of a major theatre in that city. After leasing the Metropolitan Theatre, she opened Laura Keene’s Varieties, serving as manager, director, and principal star. Keene faced hostility from New York’s male theatrical managers. Her theatre was vandalised, and she lost her lease. Undeterred, she opened the Laura Keene Theatre in a new building in 1856. Well versed in all aspects of her craft, Keene was a highly successful manager who championed emerging playwrights and attracted the brightest stars to her acting company.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Rufus Anson. 'Laura Keene' c. 1855 (detail)

 

Rufus Anson (American, c. 1821-?)
Laura Keene (detail)
c. 1855
Sixteenth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 5.4 × 9.7 cm (2 1/8 × 3 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Acquired through the generosity of Bill and Sally Wittliff

 

John Plumbe, Jr. 'Margaret Fuller' 1846

 

John Plumbe, Jr. (born United Kingdom, 1809-1857)
Margaret Fuller
1846
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Short on funds and waiting to receive a commission from the United States Congress to survey the route for a transcontinental railroad, an idea which he is credited with originating, civil engineer John Plumbe, Jr., took up photography in 1840 after seeing the work of an itinerant daguerreotypist in Washington, D.C. A Welshman by birth, Plumbe opened a gallery in Boston the following year. He eventually maintained galleries in thirteen cities, making his name recognisable in numerous cities across the country. Plumbe opened his Washington, D.C., gallery in 1844, the first in the nation’s capital. By the time he established the National Plumbeotype Gallery of engraved and lithographic reproductions of his own images in 1846, Plumbe had been dubbed “the American Daguerre” by the press. In 1847 Plumbe found himself in financial trouble and he sold his business to his employees. Two years later he gave up photography and retired to Dubuque, Iowa, where [suffering from the prolonged effects of malaria and from acute depression] he met an untimely end by cutting his own throat [at his brother’s residence in Dubuque on May 28, 1857].

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

After working briefly for the Wisconsin territorial legislature in late 1839, Plumbe went east to continue his campaign for a Pacific railroad. He turned to the newly introduced daguerreotype process of photography as a means of support and excelled in that endeavour. Within six years Plumbe had attained a national reputation through photographic competitions and by establishing a chain of 23 galleries. Plumbe’s Dubuque gallery, opened in 1841 and operated by his brother Richard (1810-1896), was the first photographic establishment west of the Mississippi. Plumbe manufactured and imported photographic materials, gave instruction to the first generation of photographers, and published dozens of lithographic prints of noted Americans based on his daguerreotypes. Among his many achievements are the earliest photographs of the U.S. Capitol and White House (exterior and interior), the earliest photograph of a president in office (James K. Polk), and thousands of portraits of the most noted personalities of the era. Plumbe pioneered brand name recognition, obtained patent rights for colour photography, and published a magazine filled with illustrations based on his photographs. By late 1848, however, Plumbe had experienced severe financial reverses due to competition and mismanagement and was forced to sell his galleries to pay his debts.

Text from The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

John Plumbe, Jr. 'Margaret Fuller' 1846 (detail)

 

John Plumbe, Jr. (born United Kingdom, 1809-1857)
Margaret Fuller (detail)
1846
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

The only known daguerreotype of Margaret Fuller.

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850), commonly known as Margaret Fuller, was an American journalist, editor, critic, and women’s rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. …

Fuller was an advocate of women’s rights and, in particular, women’s education and the right to employment. She also encouraged many other reforms in society, including prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Many other advocates for women’s rights and feminism, including Susan B. Anthony, cite Fuller as a source of inspiration. Many of her contemporaries, however, were not supportive, including her former friend Harriet Martineau. She said that Fuller was a talker rather than an activist. Shortly after Fuller’s death, her importance faded; the editors who prepared her letters to be published, believing her fame would be short-lived, censored or altered much of her work before publication.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Olive Oatman' Nd

 

Unidentified Artist
Olive Oatman
Nd
Ambrotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In the spring of 1851, a band of Apache men in present-day Arizona captured thirteen-year-old Olive Oatman and her younger sister. They killed or seriously injured the rest of the family during the attack. At the time, the Oatman family-originally from Illinois-was headed west to California to start their lives anew. Shortly thereafter the Apache sold the two sisters to a Mohave family. While living with this family, Oatman was tattooed on the chin, a custom common among members of the tribe. In 1856, after enduring five years in captivity and the death of her sister, Oatman had her freedom negotiated, and she was given over to authorities at Fort Yuma. Accounts of her release were published widely, and her biography became a best-seller. Though Oatman stated that her Mojave family treated her well, stories such as hers reinforced commonly held assumptions that Native Americans were violent savages.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Olive Ann Oatman (September 7, 1837 – March 21, 1903) was a woman born in Illinois. While traveling from Illinois to California with a company of Mormon Brewsterites, her family was killed in 1851, in present-day Arizona by a Native American tribe. The town of Oatman, Arizona is named after the Oatman family and the massacre which occurred therein. Though she identified her family’s attackers as Apache, they were most likely Tolkepayas (Western Yavapai). This small group of Native Americans clubbed Olive’s family to death. They captured Olive and her younger sister, Mary Ann, and enslaved them for one year. The girls were traded to the Mohave people. Olive spent four years with the Mohave. During her time with the Mohave tribe her sister, Mary Ann, died from starvation. Olive returned to white society five years after the Oatman Massacre, wearing a blue tattoo on her chin as a reminder of her time with the Mohave people.

Following her repatriation into American society, Olive’s story began to be retold with dramatic license in the press, as well as in her own “memoir” and speeches. Novels, plays, movies, and poetry have been inspired by Olive’s story, which resonated in the media of the time and long afterward. She had become an oddity in 1860s America, partly owing to the prominent blue tattooing of Oatman’s face by the Mohave, making her the first known tattooed American woman on record. Much of what actually occurred during her time with the Native Americans remains unknown.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Olive Oatman' Nd (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Olive Oatman (detail)
Nd
Ambrotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In the United States, the rise of studio portrait photography during the 1840s and ’50s coincided with a period of heightened visibility for women, who were emerging as prominent players in arenas including activism, literature, journalism and theatre. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example, sold 300,000 copies across the nation in the first year following its publication, while in 1855, comedic stage actress Laura Keene became the first female manager of a major New York City theatre. These women, as well as others making their mark in antebellum America, increasingly found themselves in front of the camera, posing for portraits to be shared with the public or exchanged among loved ones as tokens of affection.

“Women of Progress” catalogues the stories of 13 such mid-19th century figures through the lens of ten daguerreotypes and two ambrotypes. Some of these individuals remain household names today – Beecher Stowe, Lucretia Mott and Dorothea Dix, for example. Others, including Mary Ann Brown Patten, the first woman to sail a clipper ship around Cape Horn; Charlotte Cushman, a popular actress who played both male and female parts; and Mary Ann Meade, a daguerreotypist in her own right – are lesser known. Regardless, the women are united by both their progressive bent and the fact that their camera likenesses survive as a direct result of the burgeoning popularity of photography.

An 1846 photograph of journalist Margaret Fuller falls into the first of these categories: In a letter to her brother, the writer explains that photographer John Plumbe Jr. asked her to pose for a portrait. The resulting image, a sixth-plate daguerreotype, depicts its sitter reading a hefty tome, seemingly so engrossed in the text that she remains unaware of the camera’s presence. The image was later displayed in Plumbe’s studio to attract future clientele.

The circumstances surrounding the production of an 1851 half-plate daguerreotype of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucretia Mott are far hazier. Taken by photographer Marcus Aurelius Root, the portrait served as the basis for a widely circulated lithographic print by Boston-based artist Leopold Grozelier. Unlike daguerreotypes, lithographic prints could be produced in multiple copies. Lithographs also conveyed a greater variety of tones than earlier printing methods, allowing for more accurate copies of original works such as daguerreotypes and paintings.

Shumard says it’s possible Root’s photograph was taken with the direct intention of serving as the basis for Grozelier’s print. Whereas a daguerreotype sitting typically produced just one plate, lithographs could be easily mass-produced for public purchase. …

To make copies of daguerreotypes, photographers placed original plates on specialised copy stands and then reshot the image – a process known as redaguerreotyping. Although these copies often lacked the level of contrast and subtle gradation seen in the original daguerreotypes, they were more accurate than lithographs and could be circulated on a smaller scale. “Women in Progress” features two copies – an 1852 picture of Beecher Stowe and a half-plate depicting sisters Mary and Emily Catherine Edmonson in a group photograph taken at an 1850 gathering of abolitionists protesting the impending passage of the new federal Fugitive Slave Law. The Edmonsons earned their freedom from slavery with the help of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin author’s brother, Henry Ward Beecher.

Shumard notes that the group portrait had previously been exhibited in relation to two of its better-known sitters, abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Gerrit Smith. Now, however, the scene’s female subjects are the ones commanding visitors’ attention. “In this instance,” she says, “it’s really nice to be able to highlight the Edmonson sisters.” The Beecher Stowe copy, Shumard says, stems from one of several studio sittings that yielded multiple plates ready for reproduction and distribution to an eager public.

The majority of daguerreotypes produced in mid-19th century America were designed for private rather than public consumption. “They are very intimate objects, [made] to be held in your hand and looked at,” says Shumard, or perhaps gifted to a loved one as a personal memento.

The medium’s capacity for conveying familiarity is apparent in an 1855 half-plate of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucy Stone, who took the then-unheard of step of keeping her maiden name upon marrying husband Henry Blackwell. In the portrait, Stone’s features and clothing – including hand-coloured peach-tinted flesh and a pink pigmented skirt – are accentuated in an attempt to make the keepsake image look more lifelike.

Other notable images not to be missed include an 1850 quarter-plate daguerreotype of poet Sarah T. Bolton, who urged readers to “Battle for the right. / And break the chains that bind / the mighty to the few,” and a sixth-plate ambrotype of Olive Oatman, a young woman who was abducted by Native Americans and spent five years in captivity, first as a slave of the tribe that murdered most of her family and later as an adopted member of the Mohave people.

Oatman’s 1856 return attracted national attention. She was the subject of an exaggerated 1857 account, Life Among the Indians: Captivity of the Oatman Girls, and traveled the country on a publicity lecture circuit. Her likeness, meanwhile, was cemented in the public’s imagination by blue markings tattooed across the length of her chin. This facial tattoo, applied with cactus ink, is just discernible in the exhibition ambrotype, which is among the National Portrait Gallery’s most recent acquisitions.

Referencing the Oatman and Brown Patten ambrotypes, Shumard concludes, “I’m so excited that we have these ambrotypes of [women] who are not household names but… who experienced such trying circumstances and managed to survive.”

Extract from Meilan Solly. “How the Camera Introduced American to their Heroines,” on the Smithsonian.com website July 9, 2019 [Online] Cited 12/11/2019

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Dorothea Lynde Dix' c. 1849

 

Unidentified Artist
Dorothea Lynde Dix
c. 1849
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.4 x 24.4 x 1.3cm (6 1/16 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In 1841, teacher, humanitarian, and reformer Dorothea Dix launched a vigorous campaign to secure humane treatment for those afflicted with mental illness. At a time when such individuals were more often imprisoned and abused than cared for and treated, Dix became a tireless advocate for their welfare. Personally investigating the “cages, cellars, stalls, [and] pens” where sufferers were confined, she reported her findings in speeches and articles, as well as in the petitions she submitted to lawmakers. Thanks to her efforts, facilities for the mentally ill were greatly expanded and improved.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019. For more information see the large Wikipedia entry.

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Dorothea Lynde Dix' c. 1849 (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Dorothea Lynde Dix (detail)
c. 1849
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.4 x 24.4 x 1.3cm (6 1/16 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Meade Brothers Studio. 'Mary Ann Meade' c. 1850

 

Meade Brothers Studio
Mary Ann Meade
c. 1850
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 9.6 × 15.9 × 1.6 cm (3 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Emerson Lyons

 

 

A daguerreotypist in her own right, Mary Ann Meade began her career in the successful photography business founded around 1840 by her brothers, Charles and Henry Meade. After Charles’s death in 1858, Mary Ann gained greater visibility in the gallery’s operations. At a time when few women worked behind the camera, she was listed as a photographer in Trow’s New York City Directory (1861-62). In 1861, an article about the Meade Brothers gallery noted, “Mr. [Henry] Meade and his sister attend personally to visitors.” By June 1863, Mary Ann had become the gallery’s director and was billed as “Successor to MEADE BROTHERS.”

Text from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019/

Meade Brothers Studio

The brothers opened their daguerreian gallery in Albany, N.Y., in 1842, and their business later expanded to other cities. They each traveled to Europe and in 1848, Charles Meade became the first American to photograph Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre – the originator of the daguerreotype process. In 1850, the Meade brothers established their flagship American Daguerreotype Gallery on Broadway in New York City, where they photographed such famous subjects as statesman Daniel Webster and entertainer Lola Montez.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

Meade Brothers Studio. 'Mary Ann Meade' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Meade Brothers Studio
Mary Ann Meade (detail)
c. 1850
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 9.6 × 15.9 × 1.6 cm (3 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Emerson Lyons

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Mary Ann Brown Patten' c. 1857

 

Unidentified Artist
Mary Ann Brown Patten
c. 1857
Ninth-plate ambrotype
Case Open: 7.4 x 12.4 x 0.9 cm (2 15/16 x 4 7/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Dorthy Knouse Koepke

 

 

Mary Ann Brown Patten (April 6, 1837 – March 18, 1861) was the first female commander of an American merchant vessel. She was the wife of Joshua Patten, captain of the merchant clipper ship Neptune’s Car. The ship was bound around Cape Horn from New York towards San Francisco when Joshua Patten collapsed from fatigue in 1856. His wife took command for 56 days, faced down a mutiny, and successfully managed to navigate the clipper ship into San Francisco. At the time she was 19 years old and pregnant with her first child.

Text from the Wikipedia website

In 1856, Mary Ann Brown Patten became the first woman to sail a clipper ship around Cape Horn, through the notoriously treacherous waters at the tip of South America. Schooled in navigation by her sea captain husband, she took helm of his ship after he fell seriously ill and the first mate proved untrustworthy. Only nineteen years old and pregnant at the time, Patten captained the San Francisco-bound Neptune’s Car for fifty-one days, during the most hazardous portion of its 15,000-mile voyage. Upon bringing the vessel safely to its destination, she was hailed for her skill as well as her courage.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

 

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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).

.
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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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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