ca. 1860’s, [carte de visite portrait of three young Federal soldier amputees all using hospital issue crutches. The boy at left wears a round metal identification disk pinned to his blouse], W. Snell
via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1860’s, [carte de visite portrait of three young Federal soldier amputees all using hospital issue crutches. The boy at left wears a round metal identification disk pinned to his blouse], W. Snell

via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1860’s, [portrait of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant], Matthew Brady
via the Library of Congress
Today, April 27th, marks Ulysses S. Grant’s 191st birthday. 
Feel free to browse Historical Indulgence’s tagged content featuring him.

ca. 1860’s, [portrait of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant], Matthew Brady

via the Library of Congress

Today, April 27th, marks Ulysses S. Grant’s 191st birthday.

Feel free to browse Historical Indulgence’s tagged content featuring him.

ca. 1860’s, [carte de visite portrait of a dashing General Ulysses S. Grant], Matthew Brady
via Ebay Auctions

ca. 1860’s, [carte de visite portrait of a dashing General Ulysses S. Grant], Matthew Brady

via Ebay Auctions

ca. 1864, [carte de visite portrait of Nellie Grant, daughter of Ulysses S. Grant, as “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”, at St. Louis Sanitary Fair], Nichols and Bros.
via the Missouri History Museum

ca. 1864, [carte de visite portrait of Nellie Grant, daughter of Ulysses S. Grant, as “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”, at St. Louis Sanitary Fair], Nichols and Bros.

via the Missouri History Museum

Today I’ll be celebrating the 190th birthday of the occasionally revered, the presidentially infamous, the often misunderstood Ulysses S. Grant. Although there’s seemingly no particular, exceptional or scholarly reason to be enamored by the gentleman, I find myself fascinated regardless. Our American historical tradition celebrates the natural leader, the one who catapults himself to the top through hard work from the bottom of the barrel. We perpetuate the rags to riches story as the traditional mold of our heroes, and applaud the outspoken men who defy convention.  However, it was the case that Ulysses S. Grant was the antithesis to these expectations.
Possibly, what makes Ulysses S. Grant so special is his uniquely unspecial characteristics. There’s an honesty, an apprehension, a modesty, a humanity to Grant that is so dang relatable among all the overblown, monumental figures in history that it’s hard not to empathize with the gentleman. The seeming paradox surrounding his leadership during the Civil War and lack thereof during his presidential term represents our misreading of him.
As an unexceptional student at West Point with crippling shyness and an apprehension towards command, Grant hardly seemed destined for greatness. A phobic aversion to blood, coupled with his uneasiness in donning military attire, and even in meeting people on mounted horse, seemed to rule the man out of military command. In addition, a somewhat recent study by Duke University’s Jonathan R. Davidson makes a claim of a “social phobia” diagnosis on Grant, definitely adding to the list of unsuitable characteristics for an army commander or President. Yet there he is, celebrated in history texts and lectures, gracing page upon page of military strategy and Civil War books. —and maybe his appointments, elections and all this attention would surprise him, as well.
In his memoirs, Grant writes that “there are many men who would have done better than I did under the circumstances in which I found myself. If I had never held command; if I had fallen, there were 10,000 behind who would have followed the contest to the end and never surrendered the Union.” Some would argue he’s simply putting on a modest air, however, I would contest that he truly felt particularly humbled by his appointment as Commander of the Union Army. After many unsuccessful appointments before him as commander of the Potomac and of the Union army, Grant simply saw success the same way Lincoln envisioned it, and didn’t believe his follow through made him particularly special. I would have argue to against Grant’s assumption in believing anyone could take command-as his swift attacks, continued pursuits and adroit maneuvering shortened, if not ended, the war.
But what matters is how he felt, and it seems he felt he was filling in where people failed before him, and was simply performing his expected duties. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant believed he was acting on behalf of the Union’s indisputably insoluble nature, which therefore called for the practical “unconditional” engagement. Thus, when called out for his fantastic leadership, he didn’t fully agree with the sentiments. Like successful artists and musicians who secretly believe they’re frauds for simply reflecting the world as it is in their particular reality, or respected historians who feel they have no authority in their area of study because of their limitations in others, Grant was humbled by the far-reaching success and praise he felt he did not fully deserve. This, I feel, everyone can relate to. An uneasy acceptance of who you are and what you represent in the world is something everyone experiences, but it’s certainly not often you find a historical figure who struggle with some much difficulty in the same manner.
We can never be certain of all the factors that led to Ulysses S. Grant’s Presidential campaign, but assuredly the President Johnson fiasco had something to do with it. Grant’s campaign of “peace” may have been fueled by his seeming ability to be a bipartisan appeasement to Johnson and Congress with his appointment as Secretary of War replacing Stanton. He wouldn’t make a political enemy of Johnson, but also continued to provide a safe future for the new Reconstruction plan. In addition, similarly to how he filled the Army of Potomac command after a string of obvious mistakes, Grant felt it was a simple duty to restore order to the country and the command.
However, as president, he floundered in fear and vacillation, avoiding radical decision making to avoid confrontation and heat from opponents during a time when the country truly needed “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. I’d like to think it was because he was overly empathetic towards our country’s own precarious, troubled, post-war sentiment, rather than just his shy nature. Although he did destroy the political footing of the KKK in the south for at least some time, he is most known for the corrupt friends he kept in his cabinet. Despite being a well-intentioned, genuinely good, honest guy all around, he was afraid to make enemies, afraid to stand up, and incredibly insecure in his position of authority. Not intending to profit from the laundering, embezzling or any of the other felonies perpetrated by his crew (Grant would never, ever make a profitable business decision unless someone like Mark Twain helped him out, as it happened later on), Grant represents complacency and fear that plagues even the best of us.With some prodding towards the end of his life, Grant began writing his memoirs. His family was in debt and cancer gave him a small window of time to finish. Impressed (characteristically) that he even was offered a publishing deal, and eager to settle his debts, he was prepared to sign on the first dotted line he saw. Luckily, Mark Twain steered him in sound business and literary direction, and Grant worked on his memoirs right up until his death.
Overall, celebrating Grant’s birthday is celebrating the complicated every man. Celebrating his birthday is celebrating the good intentions we all have, even if they are thwarted by insecurity. Today reminds us of the fear of being something more than yourself, but still holding the potential to overcome it. It’s remembering the human heroes who maybe aren’t natural born leaders, the ones who might be afraid of blood, or are a little antisocial. Celebrating Grant is celebrating unease, but also triumph. Whether or not he trusted himself, Grant helped save the Union. He performed where people before him failed.
This is why I hope everyone wishes Mr. Grant a happy birthday this year.

Today I’ll be celebrating the 190th birthday of the occasionally revered, the presidentially infamous, the often misunderstood Ulysses S. Grant. Although there’s seemingly no particular, exceptional or scholarly reason to be enamored by the gentleman, I find myself fascinated regardless. Our American historical tradition celebrates the natural leader, the one who catapults himself to the top through hard work from the bottom of the barrel. We perpetuate the rags to riches story as the traditional mold of our heroes, and applaud the outspoken men who defy convention.  However, it was the case that Ulysses S. Grant was the antithesis to these expectations.

Possibly, what makes Ulysses S. Grant so special is his uniquely unspecial characteristics. There’s an honesty, an apprehension, a modesty, a humanity to Grant that is so dang relatable among all the overblown, monumental figures in history that it’s hard not to empathize with the gentleman. The seeming paradox surrounding his leadership during the Civil War and lack thereof during his presidential term represents our misreading of him.

As an unexceptional student at West Point with crippling shyness and an apprehension towards command, Grant hardly seemed destined for greatness. A phobic aversion to blood, coupled with his uneasiness in donning military attire, and even in meeting people on mounted horse, seemed to rule the man out of military command. In addition, a somewhat recent study by Duke University’s Jonathan R. Davidson makes a claim of a “social phobia” diagnosis on Grant, definitely adding to the list of unsuitable characteristics for an army commander or President. Yet there he is, celebrated in history texts and lectures, gracing page upon page of military strategy and Civil War books. —and maybe his appointments, elections and all this attention would surprise him, as well.

In his memoirs, Grant writes that “there are many men who would have done better than I did under the circumstances in which I found myself. If I had never held command; if I had fallen, there were 10,000 behind who would have followed the contest to the end and never surrendered the Union.” Some would argue he’s simply putting on a modest air, however, I would contest that he truly felt particularly humbled by his appointment as Commander of the Union Army. After many unsuccessful appointments before him as commander of the Potomac and of the Union army, Grant simply saw success the same way Lincoln envisioned it, and didn’t believe his follow through made him particularly special. I would have argue to against Grant’s assumption in believing anyone could take command-as his swift attacks, continued pursuits and adroit maneuvering shortened, if not ended, the war.

But what matters is how he felt, and it seems he felt he was filling in where people failed before him, and was simply performing his expected duties. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant believed he was acting on behalf of the Union’s indisputably insoluble nature, which therefore called for the practical “unconditional” engagement. Thus, when called out for his fantastic leadership, he didn’t fully agree with the sentiments. Like successful artists and musicians who secretly believe they’re frauds for simply reflecting the world as it is in their particular reality, or respected historians who feel they have no authority in their area of study because of their limitations in others, Grant was humbled by the far-reaching success and praise he felt he did not fully deserve. This, I feel, everyone can relate to. An uneasy acceptance of who you are and what you represent in the world is something everyone experiences, but it’s certainly not often you find a historical figure who struggle with some much difficulty in the same manner.

We can never be certain of all the factors that led to Ulysses S. Grant’s Presidential campaign, but assuredly the President Johnson fiasco had something to do with it. Grant’s campaign of “peace” may have been fueled by his seeming ability to be a bipartisan appeasement to Johnson and Congress with his appointment as Secretary of War replacing Stanton. He wouldn’t make a political enemy of Johnson, but also continued to provide a safe future for the new Reconstruction plan. In addition, similarly to how he filled the Army of Potomac command after a string of obvious mistakes, Grant felt it was a simple duty to restore order to the country and the command.

However, as president, he floundered in fear and vacillation, avoiding radical decision making to avoid confrontation and heat from opponents during a time when the country truly needed “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. I’d like to think it was because he was overly empathetic towards our country’s own precarious, troubled, post-war sentiment, rather than just his shy nature. Although he did destroy the political footing of the KKK in the south for at least some time, he is most known for the corrupt friends he kept in his cabinet. Despite being a well-intentioned, genuinely good, honest guy all around, he was afraid to make enemies, afraid to stand up, and incredibly insecure in his position of authority. Not intending to profit from the laundering, embezzling or any of the other felonies perpetrated by his crew (Grant would never, ever make a profitable business decision unless someone like Mark Twain helped him out, as it happened later on), Grant represents complacency and fear that plagues even the best of us.

With some prodding towards the end of his life, Grant began writing his memoirs. His family was in debt and cancer gave him a small window of time to finish. Impressed (characteristically) that he even was offered a publishing deal, and eager to settle his debts, he was prepared to sign on the first dotted line he saw. Luckily, Mark Twain steered him in sound business and literary direction, and Grant worked on his memoirs right up until his death.

Overall, celebrating Grant’s birthday is celebrating the complicated every man. Celebrating his birthday is celebrating the good intentions we all have, even if they are thwarted by insecurity. Today reminds us of the fear of being something more than yourself, but still holding the potential to overcome it. It’s remembering the human heroes who maybe aren’t natural born leaders, the ones who might be afraid of blood, or are a little antisocial. Celebrating Grant is celebrating unease, but also triumph. Whether or not he trusted himself, Grant helped save the Union. He performed where people before him failed.

This is why I hope everyone wishes Mr. Grant a happy birthday this year.

(Source: tuesday-johnson)

ca. 1870-1910, [carte de visite photograph of a gentleman surrounded by variety of spirits; among them George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Queen Victoria, Benjamin Franklin, etc.], John Hollowell
via Stacey Graham, Blogspot

ca. 1870-1910, [carte de visite photograph of a gentleman surrounded by variety of spirits; among them George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Queen Victoria, Benjamin Franklin, etc.], John Hollowell

via Stacey Graham, Blogspot

ca. 1860-70, [tintype cased portrait of General Ulysses S. Grant]
via Heritage Auctions

ca. 1860-70, [tintype cased portrait of General Ulysses S. Grant]

via Heritage Auctions

ca. 1864, [Portrait of Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant], Matthew Brady
via the Cartographic Associates

ca. 1864, [Portrait of Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant], Matthew Brady

via the Cartographic Associates

ca. 1864, [half stereocard of a despondent looking General Ulysses S. Grant]
via Ebay

ca. 1864, [half stereocard of a despondent looking General Ulysses S. Grant]

via Ebay

ca. 1886,  “The Nation Mourns”, [Brass Memorial Plaque for Ulysses S. Grant]
via Heritage Auctions

ca. 1886, “The Nation Mourns”, [Brass Memorial Plaque for Ulysses S. Grant]

via Heritage Auctions

ca. 1870-80, [Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant], Matthew Brady
via the Library of Congress, Brady-Handy Photograph Collection

ca. 1870-80, [Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant], Matthew Brady

via the Library of Congress, Brady-Handy Photograph Collection

ca. 1885, [Ulysses S. Grant and his family & physician, three days before his death from throat cancer], U.S. Instantaneous Photographic Company
via Respiratory Diseases: a Photographic History 1871-1895, The Antiseptic Era, Stanley B. M.D. Burns
On his deathbed, U.S. Grant wrote a note to his doctor:

“I do not sleep, though I sometimes doze a little. If up, I am  talked to, and my efforts to answer cause pain. The  fact is, I think I  am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is  anything that  signifies to be; to do; or to suffer. I signify all three.”

ca. 1885, [Ulysses S. Grant and his family & physician, three days before his death from throat cancer], U.S. Instantaneous Photographic Company

via Respiratory Diseases: a Photographic History 1871-1895, The Antiseptic Era, Stanley B. M.D. Burns

On his deathbed, U.S. Grant wrote a note to his doctor:

“I do not sleep, though I sometimes doze a little. If up, I am talked to, and my efforts to answer cause pain. The fact is, I think I am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; or to suffer. I signify all three.”

ca. 1861-65, [Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant]
via the Michigan State Archives, Civil War Photographs Collection

ca. 1861-65, [Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant]

via the Michigan State Archives, Civil War Photographs Collection

ca. 1860’s, “General Ulysses S. Grant”
via the Wisconsin Historical Society

ca. 1860’s, “General Ulysses S. Grant”

via the Wisconsin Historical Society

ca. 1897, [group of children infront of U.S. Grant’s tomb], Robert Bracklow
via the Museum of the City of New York, Byron Company Collection

ca. 1897, [group of children infront of U.S. Grant’s tomb], Robert Bracklow

via the Museum of the City of New York, Byron Company Collection

"Until the handkerchief of history covers us with its Times New Roman black and white post script..."

This blog is a collection of vernacular photography and ephemera focused mainly within the curious and often misunderstood realm of 19th century America. I have a soft spot for all things silly, antiquated, macabre, and grotesque. The content is from a variety of collections; public, academic, and private. In addition, there's an occasional emphasis on Ulysses S Grant and the Civil War, as well.

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