Sunday, February 24, 2008

Can You Identify This Location?

David Cress emailed me with a question about a compelling outdoor carte de visite by Armstead & Taylor of Corinth, Miss. According to Cress, "I contacted an architectural historian for the state of Mississippi who did his master's thesis on the buildings of Corinth c1860 and he is positive the photo was not taken in this area. He suspects the photo may have been taken in Tennessee or Georgia while the photographer was traveling with the army," and added, "Do you know anyone who has expertise in the Southwestern theater of war who might be able to help identify the location? Any help would be appreciated."

If you have any ideas, please leave a comment. Here are additional scans that reveal details of the image:
1. Full image
2. Foreground building detail
3. Detail of soldiers
4. Tents in background
5. Farm house and outbuildings
6. Armstead & Taylor backmark

Friday, February 22, 2008

Charles Weitfle, Civil War photographer

Received an email from Paul Weitfle, Jr. His great-grandfather, Charles Weitfle, was a Civil War photographer associated with the First and Third Divisions of the Union army's Sixth Corps. According to Paul, his great-grandfather, "At one time he used the White Oak Church as his gallery." Paul also added: "Many of his CDVs carry a backing that reads 'Weitfle and Wright.' He typically used a plain backdrop for portraits of officers, but used a very distinctive backdrop for enlisted men."

Paul is searching for examples of his ancestor's photographs. If you have any, please leave a comment.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Faces of War on YouTube

My initial effort on YouTube, Faces of War, is a version of the book trailer I created for Union Faces. I am excited to have a presence on the site, and plan to add more videos in coming months.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Daniel Lorello Thefts and eBay

News of the arrest of veteran archivist Daniel Lorello, who admitted to stealing hundreds of historic items from the New York State Library, was brought to my attention in yesterday’s mail. I received a letter from the New York Attorney General’s Office. It provided basic details about the case, including an examination of eBay records, which appears to have been his preferred method of disposing of the stolen property. Three carte de visite photographs that I purchased in the last two years came from Lorello, all identified soldiers from New York regiments.

I replied immediately by email, explaining that the images are in my possession, safely stored in archival materials, and that I would cooperate fully with the investigation.

My first and foremost desire is to restore these photographs to their rightful owners — the citizens of New York.

I am profoundly disturbed by the conduct of Mr. Lorello. To violate the trust that comes with his position for personal gain is unconscionable. Lorello’s actions disrespect his fellow citizens, educators and historians, and, perhaps most importantly, future generations of Americans who will seek to understand and appreciate our past.

While eBay served as a sales tool for stolen property, it also led to Lorello’s arrest after an alert eBayer found a one-of-a-kind letter signed by John C. Calhoun — a document that the eBayer learned had belonged to the state.

Cartes de visite are not one-of-kind documents. Their original popularity is due to the fact that multiple prints could be made from a single glass negative and were sold by the dozen. A surprising number of prints survive. For this reason, they are easier to sell or otherwise dispose of than an original Calhoun letter.

Regardless, we have a responsibility to be watchful for stolen items, as well as counterfeits and other forgeries. I’ve seen all of this during my experience as a collector. I always have, and will continue, to see that justice is done and that these unique relics are in their proper, legal place.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Trimmed CDV

Most carte de visite enthusiasts understand that trimmed corners and edges was the work of the original owners, who made the cuts so that the photographs would fit easily into the heavy cardboard pages of the period photo albums. Some might not have guessed that they did so at the written request of the album manufacturers, as the instructional paper inserts pictured here state. Both of these examples were found in original albums.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Flickr Discussion Group: Share Civil War Photos, Stories

David Foster has added a discussion group to Veterans of the American Civil War, a collection of photographs on Flickr. According to David, “Hopefully the group will facilitate the sharing of photos and stories of Civil War veterans from individuals who probably would not join a formal Civil War group. The concept of the group was developed when it appeared there was no group in Flickr dedicated only to the Civil War Vets.”

David has invited me to moderate the discussions, and I encourage you to join and participate in the conversation.