The Civil War occurred right about the time photography became commercially available in the United States. While there a few pictures by intrepid experimenters going back to the late 1840’s, principally Daguerreotypes in Europe. The craze hit the US in the 1850’s, with the development of two other technologies to make prints, the Calotype, and the more commercially successful albumen based technology, initially the Collodion process which led to Ambrotypes and Tintypes by the time of the War. As such, it is possible to roughly date a surviving photograph by the process used. I have one Daguerreotype in my personal collection, of two men, one of which is reputed to be an ggg-uncle, and the other is my ggg-grandfather taken in the 1850’s. I don’t know which is which, nor the circumstances of why the photograph was taken – since at that time a photograph would have cost well over a weeks wages for your average worker. The other oddity is that both men are carrying rifles.
Photographs were still fairly expensive, so the subject matter tended to be people with means. Until the 1870’s when the process became common, and photographers wandered America taking pictures of everything from babies to bad guys. So it is exceedingly rare to find photographs of slaves. Apparently, in this case a slave merchant hit upon the idea of photographing slaves as a methodology to keep records…
Hat Tip – NewsOne!
Rare Slave Photograph Found In North Carolina Attic
RALEIGH, N.C. – A haunting 150-year-old photo found in a North Carolina attic shows a young black child named John, barefoot and wearing ragged clothes, perched on a barrel next to another unidentified young boy.
Art historians believe it’s an extremely rare Civil War-era photograph of children who were either slaves at the time or recently emancipated.
The photo, which may have been taken in the early 1860s, was a testament to a dark part of American history, said Will Stapp, a photographic historian and founding curator of the National Portrait Gallery’s photographs department at the Smithsonian Institution. Read the rest of this entry »