|These past few months have provided a bit of excitement in the library for those of us interested in photography. Usually "finds" come to us from outside sources such as donors, collectors, or auction houses. Lately however, treasures have come to light from within our own collections.|
One of the most recent discoveries was made in the Books Division where two photographs were found pasted into a volume of pamphlets on the phosphate industry in South Carolina. Taken ca. 1869-1870, one photograph shows men digging in a phosphate field and the other shows a mill in the Charleston area. The latter is such a clear image that one can see how the phosphate went into the mill and how it came out. Any back marks or notes are covered by the pages to which they are glued, but judging by dates and quality of images, we believe they may have been taken by George N. Barnard who was working for Quinby & Co. in Charleston. Whoever the photographer, these images are some of the few known photographic images of the phosphate industry in South Carolina.|
Recently, Henry Fulmer from the Manuscripts Division brought to my attention a box of Sams Family photographs filed with the papers of that collection. Harvey Teal and I went through the box and found an uncased ambrotype with "Jeffers" stamped on the metal mat. A native of Troy, N.C., George A. Jeffers came to Georgetown in 1856 and worked with a photograpser named Doty. He moved to Charleston that same year and worked as Jeffers & Co. until spring of 1857. It was probably there that the ambrotype was made. This image, as far as Harvey knows, is the only known example of Jeffers's work.
The Photograph Collection itself has yielded some nice surprises. While working with the cased images, I found a daguerreotype by J. T. Zealy, bringing to three the number of Zealy images in the collection. Zealy worked in Columbia and was well known for the quality of his photography. Arguably his most famous photographs were commissioned as part of an anthropological study and consist of a series of daguerreotypes showing various body features of slaves from a plantation near Columbia. These daguerreotypes, some of the earliest photographic images of slaves, are owned by Harvard University.
|Matthew Brady |
was about 16 years
was invented, yet
he did not
|At the same time I found the Zealy, I also noted a case marked "M.B. Brady, Casemaker, N.Y." It was not until Harvey showed me a recent article on Brady cases, however, that the significance of this find was fully understood. According to the author, Matthew Brady was about 16 years old when photography was invented, yet he did not immediately enter the profession. Instead he learned the art of miniature casemaking, which by 1840 was a highly desirable trade due to demand from daguerreotypists.|
|Brady opened a case shop in 1843 in New York City and continued in this work until about 1845. He used two different motifs on his cases: a lyre and a decagon; he also signed his cases, which was unusual at the time. The case in our collection has a lyre design and Brady's signature mark and is for a single image sixth-plate daguerreotype. At the time of the article's publication, the author had found only ten Brady cases held privately or by institutions; thus ours is number eleven. Brady's interest in photography grew through his business dealings with photographers, and by 1844 Brady opened a daguerreotype gallery near his case shop and his well-known career as a photographer began.|
|One final treasure I want to mention is a daguerreotype the library recently purchased with Society funds. It is a beautiful image of two young men, identified as "Hazard and Sisson," taken by W.A. Wellman, 1 December 1852. This is a particularly important addition to the collection because it is the only known work by Wellman. Research needs to be done yet to try to determine the identity of the individuals. Look for a full description in the 1998 program.|