Official Dark Boots

How the awesome power of highly caffeinated coffee may continue to shape Union soldiers’ Afterlives.

union161 2
A Union soldier with his hardtack, salted pork, gun, and coffee pot, known as a “mucket.” Courtesy Heritage Auctions.

On a chilly, drizzly day in March 2018, my lifelong boon companion Julie and her daughter, my honorary niece, joined me for a day trip to Gettysburg. My niece had never visited the town or battlefield before. In addition to seeing the historical sites, she was keen to undertake some EVP/ITC recording with her “Weird Aunt,” as I’m known to her circle. That day, we combined the driving tour and the ghost hunting, practicing what I call a “drive-by”—rolling the vehicle to a stop, lowering the window, turning on an iPad ghost box app and digital recorder, and inviting anyone present to speak.

(Electronic voice phenomenon, or EVPs, are recorded human voices that appear with no explanation across the spectrum of audiovisual technologies. The messages are often evidential, personal, and thought-provoking. Instrumental Transcommunication, or ITC, uses various forms of electronic devices, such as the so-called ghost box, to generate white noise or randomly generated phonemes from which it is theorized that spirits can shape speech.)

After purchasing an excellent driving tour CD with the marvelous Stephen Lang narrating, we set off, shortly reaching McPherson’s Ridge and the railway cut near the McPherson farmhouse, which saw heavy engagement during the first day of fighting. Before the battle, the area was excavated, but no rail tracks had been laid. This made a perfect spot for entrenchment by both sides as the battle lines shifted throughout the day.

Continue reading “Official Dark Boots”

In Honor of Juneteenth, Three Images from my Collection

I own just a few early photographs of African-Americans, for they are scarce and much sought after. I present them with love.

18472494001_5f2b547cf6_o
A gelatin silver bromide print of a beautiful African-American woman wearing full mourning. Despite her loss, she was clearly a survivor. Circa 1900.
daga1IMG
Of this enchanting young Creole woman, I know only that she was from New Orleans, Louisiana, and her name was probably Jois. This was likely a wedding photo. Ambrotype, circa 1855.
21506079371_ed5484c3f4_h
Mrs. Della Powell, Post-Mortem Albumen Print, 1894, photographed by William Carroll, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Formerly in the collection of Ben Zigler and now in mine, this rare post-mortem image of an African-American woman, who may have begun her life as a slave, was published in the 2004 book “Mourning Jewelry and Art” by Maureen DeLorme. I’ll be writing more about Della soon. Stay tuned.

Ω

Those I Know Not

A selection of vintage images from my collection featuring sitters whose identities, sadly, are unknown.

daga1IMG_0001
An English matriarch sits resplendent for this tinted 1/6th-plate daguerreotype, circa 1849. It is likely by Beard’s Photographic Institute, London and Liverpool, which was run by Richard Beard (22 December 1801–7 June 1885). Beard enthusiastically protected his business through photographic patents and helped establish professional photography in the United Kingdom. He opened his London and Liverpool studios in 1841. Clouds were frequently painted in as a backdrop by his studio staff.
5286168656_589529ce66_b
A woman wearing spring fashions uses a finger to mark her place in a book in this 1/6th-plate American daguerreotype, circa 1852. Perhaps she wanted to imply that she had been reading outdoors.
16396212482_ce58d82edc_b
I title this American, circa-1858, 1/6th-plate ambrotype “A Man, His Hair, and His Wife.” The husband has a feminine beauty, especially with the delicate tinting of his cheeks. His wife, brooding, intense, and potentially vengeful, may be wearing a large mourning brooch.
14417061311_8e6b8ea017_b
This early English, 1/4th-plate ambrotype features a Victorian teen who could be a character in a Dickens’ novel. She points to an illustration in a book, but I cannot decipher the title or the meaning of her gesture. The image was taken in about 1852.
8284768353_331bc57271_k
As photography matured, it became possible to make copies of early, singular photographic images. In the 1890s, this cabinet card was created of a daguerreotype taken in about 1855.

Ω


All images copyright the Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

You’re A Grand Old Flag

Early images of the Stars and Stripes from the Jack and Beverly Wilgus Collection.

By Beverly Wilgus

BlueCoat_CW
The earliest flag image in our collection is this ambrotype of a young Civil War soldier standing before a painted military backdrop of tents and an American flag. By necessity, it dates from the years of the conflict, between 1861 and 1864. He wears an enlisted man’s trousers, a blue-tinted cape coat, and a regulation enlisted man’s dress Hardee hat bearing the insignia “H” and “81” inside a brass infantry bugle. Five states had an 81st Infantry: Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. This fierce and determined Union soldier joined up from one of them. 
KittyFlags
This albumen stereoview card is from the 1871 “Kitty At Play” series by John P. Soule of Boston.

Continue reading “You’re A Grand Old Flag”

A Soldier’s Comfort?

“Many cultures accept the faulty nature of memory. They know even the photograph only gets it halfway right. They believe there is only one way to bring the dead back to life, story.”― Jon Chopan

4938256475_e2c14598a7_b
Unidentified subject, sixth-plate ambrotype. Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

This beautiful young woman was photographed somewhere in the antebellum United States in about 1852—a date I assign for two reasons. First, the fashions she wore, which include a distinctive corset type, ribbon choker, and an open-front bodice—all styles that were enormously popular in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Second, ambrotypes, which are produced by a wet-plate collodion process invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer, became commercially available in 1852, so the image cannot date any earlier.

The subject was surely not more than about 18 years old when photographed and she appears to wear a wedding ring, making it possible that this is a bridal image. At some point, a large curl of her thick brown hair, still as glossy as the day it was cut, was tucked behind the ambrotype packet between slips of newspaper. The text of the newsprint is largely advertising for several companies in northern states, but there is also a mention of the Union occupation of Memphis, Tennessee, which began in June 1862. Together, these facts make it likely the young woman belonged to a northern family.

4938239419_b190f9ba04_b
The ambrotype packet and case contents.

Continue reading “A Soldier’s Comfort?”

On This Day for Mothers

“Mothers, I believe, intoxicate us. We idolize them and take them for granted. We hate them and blame them and exalt them more thoroughly than anyone else in our lives. We sift through the evidence of their love, reassure ourselves of their affection and its biological genesis. We can steal and lie and leave and they will love us.”—Megan Mayhew Bergman

4715860088_170bbac360_o
From left, my grandmother, Lillian Marie Fox; my great-grandmother, Rebecca Murdock Fox; and my great aunt, Rebecca Fox, posed for this tintype in about 1901. Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.
11178332634_3e9d60169a_o
This tintype’s sitters were a beautiful turn-of-the-century mother and daughter who appear to be African-American. Courtesy Jack and Beverley Wilgus Collection.
5099229059_1a590a3bd5_o
An American mother sat outside with her children for this ambrotype taken on a clear day in about 1880. Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.
3360043331_837fa3d3cd_o
An adoring, late-Victorian mother and delighted child were the subjects of this albumen print on cardboard. Photo Courtesy Price and Zimmer Collection.
15981569687_60f65482d1_k
An unknown lady tenderly holds her baby in this circa-1875 carte de visite by Hills & Saunders, Oxford, England. Courtesy James Morley Collection.

Ω


I wish all mothers a happy day of love and peace. For all you have done and will do, you are saluted.

Men of Mystery

A selection of unidentified daguerreotype and ambrotype portraits.

5679251533_186706854b_o
A very early daguerreotype of a personable young man that dates to about 1843. Courtesy Price and Zimmer Collection.
5693420331_498234a042_b
The rugged and remarkable older gentleman who sat for this ambrotype in about 1852 probably first opened his eyes to the world in the 1780s or 1790s. Courtesy Price and Zimmer Collection.
20477909888_2eb9174f52_o
A painterly 1/6th-plate daguerreotype of a breathtaking young man. His fashions date this portrait to about 1850. Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.
2465492782_412c6d8937_o
An unusual profile daguerreotype taken in about 1850. Courtesy Jack and Beverly Wilgus Collection.
15387966094_29d327bfee_k
A 1/4th-plate ambrotype of an unknown man intently focused on a point in the distance. Taken circa 1860. From the James Morley Collection.
5417551681_21bebe0d15_b
A man and his dog, whose front paws were held to keep them from moving during the long exposure. This 1/6th-plate ambrotype, probably from the late 1850s, is courtesy of the Caroline Leech Collection.

Ω