ca. 1850-60’s, “Old Peter-A slave escaped to home of Slater Brown, supposed to be nearly 100 years old,” [daguerreotype portrait of a gentleman]
via the Daguerreian Society, Greg French Collection

ca. 1850-60’s, “Old Peter-A slave escaped to home of Slater Brown, supposed to be nearly 100 years old,” [daguerreotype portrait of a gentleman]

via the Daguerreian Society, Greg French Collection

ca. 1880’s, [carte de visite political cartoon regarding Jim Crow laws with some sort of advertising for Swarthout Ackerman & Co. Clothiers], I.U. Doust
via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1880’s, [carte de visite political cartoon regarding Jim Crow laws with some sort of advertising for Swarthout Ackerman & Co. Clothiers], I.U. Doust

via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1863, “Before the Proclamation; After the Proclamation”, Morse & Peaslee

These two parodic cartes-de-visite, made by the Morse & Peaslee studio in Nashville, Tennessee, present an extremely simplified story of the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 through the figure of a single black boy. The boy most likely did not know how his image would be used, and the photographer probably staged the photographs by asking the boy to use different facial expressions. “Before the Proclamation,” the boy looks slack-jawed and melancholy; “After the Proclamation,” he wears a broad grin that verges on a leer. While the audience for these cartes-de-visite is not clear, the elements of caricature suggest that together they form a derisive commentary on newly freed slaves, as well as a reflection of white anxiety over the consequences of the Proclamation. Ironically, because Tennessee had been under Union control since early 1862, the Proclamation-which liberated slaves only in actively rebellious states-did not apply there. Nonetheless, Nashville felt the effects of the Proclamation, which destabilized the institution of slavery even where it did not abolish it. Slaves in Tennessee abandoned the plantations in large numbers…by early 1864. 

via the International Center of Photography

ca. 1863, “Before the Proclamation; After the Proclamation”, Morse & Peaslee

These two parodic cartes-de-visite, made by the Morse & Peaslee studio in Nashville, Tennessee, present an extremely simplified story of the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 through the figure of a single black boy. The boy most likely did not know how his image would be used, and the photographer probably staged the photographs by asking the boy to use different facial expressions. “Before the Proclamation,” the boy looks slack-jawed and melancholy; “After the Proclamation,” he wears a broad grin that verges on a leer. While the audience for these cartes-de-visite is not clear, the elements of caricature suggest that together they form a derisive commentary on newly freed slaves, as well as a reflection of white anxiety over the consequences of the Proclamation. Ironically, because Tennessee had been under Union control since early 1862, the Proclamation-which liberated slaves only in actively rebellious states-did not apply there. Nonetheless, Nashville felt the effects of the Proclamation, which destabilized the institution of slavery even where it did not abolish it. Slaves in Tennessee abandoned the plantations in large numbers…by early 1864.

via the International Center of Photography

ca. 1860-70’s, [carte de visite portrait of a casually posed gentleman, escaped from slavery. Inscription on verso reads “Lewis, who came from the south with Langhorn 1863”],  D. Hinkle
via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1860-70’s, [carte de visite portrait of a casually posed gentleman, escaped from slavery. Inscription on verso reads “Lewis, who came from the south with Langhorn 1863”], D. Hinkle

via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1840-50’s, [post mortem daguerreotype portrait of a child, cradled in arms of a woman], W.A. Pratt

 A dramatically lit horizontal post-mortem image of a tiny baby placed upon the aproned lap of an [black] woman, only her hands visible to signify her race. A superb, and cerebral image, that speaks volumes of the complex interelationships between slaves and masters in the Ante-bellum south. 

via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1840-50’s, [post mortem daguerreotype portrait of a child, cradled in arms of a woman], W.A. Pratt

A dramatically lit horizontal post-mortem image of a tiny baby placed upon the aproned lap of an [black] woman, only her hands visible to signify her race. A superb, and cerebral image, that speaks volumes of the complex interelationships between slaves and masters in the Ante-bellum south.

via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1860’s, [ambrotype portrait of a black gentleman in a Confederate jacket]

"Enslaved [black] Americans were often conscripted into service to work on construction projects, and free blacks were sometimes impressed into the same service. Officer’s slaves sometimes accompanied their masters into the field — we believe this image to be representative of such an individual…"

via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1860’s, [ambrotype portrait of a black gentleman in a Confederate jacket]

"Enslaved [black] Americans were often conscripted into service to work on construction projects, and free blacks were sometimes impressed into the same service. Officer’s slaves sometimes accompanied their masters into the field — we believe this image to be representative of such an individual…"

via Cowan’s Auctions

ca. 1864, [carte de visite portrait of Henry O. Nightingale], JNO Holyland Metropolitan Gallery

 An abolitionist, Nightingale joined the Northern army at the start of the Civil War in 1861. In 1862 he joined the 108th New York Infantry Regiment. He fought in a dozen battles, including Gettysburg, and was promoted to corporal on March 1, 1864. 

via the Online Archives of California, UC Merced Special Collections Library, Henry O. Nightingale Diaries

ca. 1864, [carte de visite portrait of Henry O. Nightingale], JNO Holyland Metropolitan Gallery

An abolitionist, Nightingale joined the Northern army at the start of the Civil War in 1861. In 1862 he joined the 108th New York Infantry Regiment. He fought in a dozen battles, including Gettysburg, and was promoted to corporal on March 1, 1864.

via the Online Archives of California, UC Merced Special Collections Library, Henry O. Nightingale Diaries

ca. 1855, [Portrait of Passmore Williamson in Moyamensing Prison, Philadelphia, PA. Abolishionist, imprisoned for assisting runaway slave. Visited by Frederick Douglas. Jail door in background.]
via the Daguerreian Society, Chester County Historical Society Collection

ca. 1855, [Portrait of Passmore Williamson in Moyamensing Prison, Philadelphia, PA. Abolishionist, imprisoned for assisting runaway slave. Visited by Frederick Douglas. Jail door in background.]

via the Daguerreian Society, Chester County Historical Society 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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