Rare Images of Antietam and the Photographers Who Took Them

Thanks to a Hagerstown pal, I’ve acquired and am devouring Steve Recker’s wonderful new book Rare Images of Antietam and the Photographers Who Took Them.

A Washington County native, Recker has researched the lives of all the major photographers who took photos of Antietam battlefield: Elias Marken Recher, David Bachrach, W. B. King, J. H. Wagoner, and more.

Recker carefully investigated how each photographer came to take their pictures, and has painstakingly worked to understand what is depicted in each. Also included are some rarely-seen images of the photographers themselves. Some of these cartes de visite and stereoviews have never been seen before.

And you can’t get it on Amazon–only at area bookstores and at Recker’s site, Virtual Antietam. So virtually run, don’t walk, to his site and grab a copy before they sell out.

Read a Q & A with the author on John Banks’ Civil War Blog.

Read an article about Recker and his career in the Hagerstown Daily Mail.

Standing Where Jefferson Stood: William M. Chase Stereoview of Jefferson Rock

Stereoview of Jefferson RockThe excitement I felt upon acquiring this circa 1870s view of a man standing on Jefferson Rock above Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia was not really about the location. It was about the man. The stereoview was published by William Moody Chase (1817-1901), and the man in the view is the prolific Baltimore purveyor of stereoviews himself.

I would not have known what William M. Chase looked like if it were not for the work of Ross Kelbaugh. His invaluable Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900 includes rarely seen reproductions of some of the works in his own collection.

One of Kelbaugh’s stereoviews depicts William M. Chase and his younger colleague and sometime collaborator and partner David Bachrach encamped on a stereoview photography expedition. Chase’s long beard, lanky figure, and the distinctive straw hat he wore all match those seen in this view, as well as in the view of Chase and Bachrach’s “Artist Corps” encampment at Niagara Falls.

Those familiar with Harper’s Ferry and with Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia know the shale outcropping became a place of pilgrimage because Jefferson is believed to have stood on this rock in October 1783 while looking out upon the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. In the 1780s he famously wrote that:

“the passage of the Patowmac through the Blue ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature. You stand on a very high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain an hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac, in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their juncture they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea” (Notes on the State of Virginia, p. 27).

The eye was then drawn, says Jefferson, eastward down the Potomac toward the lovely and fertile lands around Frederick, Maryland:

“The distant finishing which Nature has given to the picture is of a very different character. . . . It is as placid and delightful as that is wild and tremendous. For the mountain being cloven asunder, she presents to the eye, through the cleft a small catch of smooth blue horizon, at an infinite distance in the plain country, inviting you, as it were, from the riot and tumult roaring around, to pass through the breach and participate of the calm below” (Notes, pp. 27-28).

Historian Pamela Regis places Jefferson’s book at the heart of “American self-creation and self-definition” (Regis, Describing Early America: Bartram, Jefferson, Crevècoeur, and the Influence of Natural History, Northern Illinois University Press, 1992, p. 3).

“The country itself,” says Regis, “needed to be written into existence,” and the Notes, she argues, were among a small but influential group of such fundamentally creative early American prose works (Describing, p. 3).

Jefferson described the view in terms that an educated 18th century gentleman would understand: America was a worthy location for the rebirth of republicanism because it  fulfilled the highest aesthetic standards of the era.

The view was sublime and beautiful, full of both the wildest and noblest scenery, but also of useful rivers, abundant natural resources and broad, fertile lands ready for the plow.

Jefferson’s artful eye and pen composed the view into a land that had all that was required for the establishment of a new society grounded in the best traditions of the old world–a society that would be egalitarian, educated, prosperous and self-governing. Together, says Regis, texts such as these constituted “the description of a ground on which [republican] politics could hold sway” (Describing, p. 4).

With the spread of railroads and middle class prosperity, the shale rock formation that Jefferson is believed to have stood upon became an early tourist attraction. The depredations of weather and visitors necessitated stabilization, and between 1855 and 1860 the uppermost slab of the formation was placed on four stone pillars (“Thomas Jefferson at Harpers Ferry,” National Park Service).

After the Civil War, Jefferson Rock became subsumed into a larger tourism that included pilgrimages to “John Brown’s Fort” and wealthy visitors escaping the heat of the Washington, DC summer to enjoy the mountains, walks and scenery around the town (Paul A. Schackel, Archaeeology and Created Memory: Public History in a National Park, New York: Klewer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2000, pp. 66-68).

Stereoviews of John Brown’s “Fort,” the ruins of the government armory, and other Harper’s Ferry sites made famous by the war joined views of Jefferson Rock in appealing to middle class hunger to see the places that made America a nation.

In standing where Jefferson stood, seeing what Jefferson made visible, William Chase took part in Jefferson’s descriptive creation of the nation.  Mass reproduction of Chase’s views enabled Americans in all walks of life, north and south, to do the same in a time when the nation sorely needed to recall a common vision of itself.

The “Artist Corps” at Work: Chase and Bachrach at Niagara Falls

After reading David Bachrach’s memories of outdoor work during and after the Civil War, it was exciting to acquire an actual image of him in the wild.

This stereoview of Bachrach (seated) and William Moody Chase (standing) shows them with their outdoor studio, the Niagara Falls railroad suspension bridge on the horizon. Upon the tent a sign reads “Artist Corps, Chase’s American Scenery.”

The scene gives life to Bachrach’s sketchy  recollections in volume 53 of The Photographic Journal of America:

“About a year after the war I fell in with Mr. William M. Chase, a former army officer of volunteers, afterward a sutler, from Massachusetts, who went into the publication of stereoscopic views, very popular at the time. I made the negatives for him for about two years, over 10,000 of them . . . We went all over Maryland, the Cumberland and Shenandoah Valleys, in the Alleghenies, Washington, D.C., on the Hudson and Niagara Falls” (“Over Fifty Years of Photography,” Part III, The Photographic Journal of America, Volume 53, February 1916, pg. 71).

Bachrach had developed his skills at outdoor work during the war, “in portable dark rooms, both with horse teams and for small work with those carried by hand.”

Success often required what he calls “dodges”–improvised methods for keeping the plates wet and for capturing the spray of falls and rapids.

Bachrach’s memoir places these two years between 1865 and 1868, when he and Chase traveled to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis to photograph the graduating class there–the first time such as thing had been done.

David J. Bachrach (1845-1921) is buried in Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery, Baltimore, Md.; William M. Chase (1817-1901) is buried in Worcester Rural Cemetery, Worcester Co., Massachusetts.

Read  three parts of David Bachrach’s four-part memoir, “Over Fifty Years of Photography,” free on google books, in The Photographic Journal of America and Wilson’s Photographic Magazine. Part I is found in The Photographic Journal of America, volume 52, December 1915, pp. 578-579; Part II in volume 53 pp. 18-20, January 1916; Part III in volume 53 pp. 71-73 February 1916;  and Part IV in Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, volume 53 pp. 117-119 March 1916.

© waldonia 2012

Soldier in a Sylvan Glade

I don’t know enough about military dress to tell if this soldier’s uniform is post- or ante-bellum, but this Bachrach & Bro. cabinet card portrait has the look of late 19th century studio style.

The not-quite-young man attempts a relaxed stance, leaning casually upon a ludicrously unrealistic papier mache – er – rock? Behind him is a misty forest backdrop.

A few things about his uniform stand out: He wears a forage cap with artillery insignia, possibly with one row of braid. Perhaps a 1st lieutenant? His sack coat is quite tight and short–not sure it’s Civil War style.

Three aspects of this portrait date it to 1875 or after: The cabinet card size, use of painted background and papier-mache props, and the name of the studio.

The cabinet-size portrait became popular just after the Civil War, as demand for the carte de visite portraits fell off.

“Several sizes were suggested among the professionals,” writes photo historian Robert Taft, “but the one which soon caught public favor was commonly credited to G. Wharton Simpson, the editor of one of the British photographic journals. It made its appearance in this country in the fall of 1866. . . . The cabinet size (for it was soon known by that name in this country) rapidly achieved popular favor” (Photography and the American Scene, p. 323).

New York theatrical portraitist Jose Mora is credited with popularizing painted backgrounds and a new variety of props in the 1870s (Taft, 350-51).

In this he was abetted by L. W. Seavey of New York. “To Seavey, in large measure” writes Taft, ” must go the credit, or the blame, for the introduction of the painted background. He rose to fame during the seventies, making a specialty of manufacturing accessories for the photographic gallery” (Taft, 352).

Soon studios all over the country were employing a wide variety of accessories, such as papier mache rocks, stumps, fences and gates, paper flowers and vines, imitation balustrades and porticos, etc.

Another feature that dates the photo is the studio’s name. David Bachrach (1845-1921), whose descendants continue as portrait photographers today, took his younger brother Moses into the business in  1875, and the studio then became known as “Bachrach & Bro.” until about 1910 (Photographic Journal of America, v. 53, n. 3, March 1916, p. 117).

Also worth noting is the composition of the card mount. The fraying at bottom right shows that the mount is made of paste board, made by pasting multiple sheets together; according to William C. Darrah,  it was introduced about 1870.

The subject’s jacket  is short and tight-fitting, , and worn buttoned to the neck, in the style that became popular after 1880.

But the crease in the trousers may be the best aid to dating this portrait: Men’s pants did not begin sporting a crease until the advent of the wooden trouser  press ca. 1890.

“Mr. Fugle, Mother’s Employer”

James Fugle (1836-1910), described in the 1880 Federal census of Baltimore as a “keeper of ladies emporium,” appears in Baltimorean Elizabeth Gaither Summers‘ photo album as “mother’s employer.”

But which mother? Elizabeth worked as a sales lady before her marriage. Her mother-in-law, Anna Louise Ross Summers, who lived with Elizabeth and Charles D. Summers, worked as a seamstress and dressmaker.

James and his brother Frederick Fugle (b. abt. 1845) were English; James emigrated in 1867 and Frederick three years later. James may have been the “James Fuggle,” “draper’s assistant,” born in Sevenoaks, Kent, listed in the 1851 and 1861 censuses of England. They may have been the sons of Sevenoaks tailor Samuel Fuggle (b abt. 1800). The houses where they lived, “Taylor’s Cottages,” on 55 Akehurst Lane, Sevenoaks, are still in existence.

James’ Baltimore concern on North Charles Street (later West Townsend Street) was known as Fugle & Co. Dry Goods or just James Fugle & Co. An 1890 directory of Baltimore lists their merchandise as “cloaks, furs, costumes, etc.”

Advertisements from the 1870s and 1880s call for skilled “cloakmakers”–seamstresses–and cloth-cutters to work in their shop, so they were not only selling but producing ladies’ clothing.

Talking up Baltimore goods to the Baltimore SUN in December 1889, Fugle is decidedly a “go-er,” as they might once have said: a self-confident merchant and manufacturer surveying his sales floor with satisfaction as the holiday shopping season begins:

“When you see a man’s clerks on the jump, as you see them here, and you hear him complain about dull times put him down as a chronic kicker, whose life is a burden to him. . . . Do you know that Baltimore is the cheapest market in the United States for fine goods? Now, in the matter of riding habits, where everything must be of the best, we can sell them just as good in every particular, as Redfarn of New York, and at one-half of his prices.”

The Fugles became wealthy enough to travel to Europe, and to keep a  summer home in the Waverly area of Baltimore County.

James Fugle died at his Arlington, New Jersey home of pneumonia in February 1910, and is buried in Baltimore’s Green Mount Cemetery.

He and his wife, Laura Walsh Fugle, had three children: Hellen (“Nellie;” later Mrs. George D. Thompson); Frederick Walsh Fugle, who settled in Montclair, New Jersey, married Nellie LaSalle Canton, daughter of sculptor John LaSalle, and worked in a paper and twine business; and Edyth, who married Canadian furrier George K. Campbell and settled in Kearny, New Jersey.

James and his brother  Fred C. Fugle apparently parted ways, and Frederick did not share in the prosperity of his elder brother. He remained in Baltimore, employed in a series of sales jobs.

Fugle thought well enough of “mother” to give her a portrait of himself. It’s a classic Bachrach portrait of the early 20th century: a dignified head and shoulders against a tasteful neutral background, on the new larger mount–cut down, no doubt to fit in the album.

Meet Mr. Willard C. Kefauver, Motorman

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Again I found two portraits of the same person in a group of card photographs. One was identified on the back as Willard C. Kefauver. Both were taken at  Bachrach and Bro. studios; the one on the left, with the dark chocolate mount, lists the address as “S.E. Corner Eutaw and Lexington.”

With a name like Willard Kefauver, he wasn’t hard to trace. Kefauver was born in 1861, probably in Frederick County, to Mary J. Dudrear (1837-1882) and Daniel Carlton Kefauver (1835-1914). Willard had a twin sister, Margaret Kefauver.

Daniel Kefauver was possibly the eldest of at least ten children of well-to-do Middletown, Frederick County farmer Henry Kefauver (1810-1876). The family spent at least some time living in Washington County. Henry, Daniel, Mary J. and other Kefauvers are buried in the cemetery of Christ Reformed Church, Middletown, Frederick Co., Maryland.

Willard did not remain in Frederick County. He moved to Baltimore, where he found work  as a motorman on railroad and the new electric trolley lines. He and his wife had a son, Russell Carlton Kefauver (b. 1890 or 1891, Baltimore), who also worked as a motorman.

Kefauver’s place of residence reflects the expansion of the city westward out Edmondson Avenue. In 1900, he and his family lived at 614 N. Payson Street, just north of Edmundson Avenue, several blocks west of Harlem Square, an area of modest but pleasant two-story, three bay brick row houses, many  built by prolific residential developer James Keelty.

I think it’s fairly safe to date both photographs to the 1880s. Mr. Kefauver is clearly younger and slimmer in the left-hand portrait. Darrah says rustic props such as the tree and bench were popular 1877-1885, and papier mache props–which these might be–were common 1880-1888.

The sitter appears  still young but definitely more well-fed in the left-hand portrait. The operator used a seated pose, with the bust filling most of the image area, common through 1890.

The chocolate mount with its elaborate advertising filling the entire card back places this photograph in the late 1880s-early 1890s. Ross Kelbaugh has documented Bachrach and Bro. at this location, Eutaw and Lexington, up to 1885.

What is indisputable is that the operator has caught something of the essence of the sitter’s character in the later portrait. Instead of a solemn youth awkward among contrived props, the camera  has now caught a mischievous twinkle that suggests a man who laughs often and enjoys life.

William M. Chase, View of Baltimore Harbor from Federal Hill

According to the Maryland Historical Society, this stereograph by William Moody Chase (1817-1901) was taken ca. 1875. Chase included it in several series of stereographs, including American Views and United States Views. The reverse lists 30 or so available cards in this subset, Metropolitan and Suburban Scenery, Baltimore, Md.

Ross Kelbaugh’s biographical sketch relates that Chase learned photography after the Civil War in the studio of R. D. Ridgeley. Chase’s  stereograph publishing company  was located at the corner of Lexington Avenue and Eutaw Place from 1872 to 1888.

During his long career, Chase photographed and/or published hundreds of stereoviews, including views of Washington, D.C., views along the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad and the Philadelphia and Baltimore Central Railroad, and the series Art and Scenery of Central Park, New York and The Wide Wide World, and Picturesque Views of All Countries, which included images of notable scenes abroad. Among those who worked with him was a young David Bachrach.

Born 1 Dec 1817 in Shirley, Mass., to March Chase and Hepzibah Gleason Chase, William is believed to have enlisted in a Massachusetts regiment at the outbreak of the Civil War, but quickly became disabled and instead was appointed sutler (supplier) of the regiment. In 1894, Chase retired to his home state of Massachusetts. He died at his home in the Dorchester Heights, Boston, in November 1901. He is buried at Worcester Rural Cemetery, Worcester, Mass.

William traced some of his family’s history in a pamphlet entitled Reminiscences of the family of Moody Chase, of Shirley, Massachusetts. William’s father, March Chase, and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Salmon Portland Chase (1808-1873), may have been related.

David Bachrach at the U.S. Naval Academy

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In 1868, David Bachrach, in the employ of stereographer William Chase, was requested by the commandant of the U. S. Naval Academy, David Porter, to photograph the graduating class.

“The people there built a studio for us,” recalled Bachrach in his 1916 memoir, Over Fifty Years of Photography, “and there I was really for the first time proprietor of a studio where only a good class of portraiture was made.”

This may be a portrait of an instructor, as the unidentified subject’s coat sleeves have the five strips of gold that indicate the rank of commander (Uniform Regulations, 1864,  United States Navy).

A naval historian who was able to examine the US Naval Academy’s class of 1868 album at the US Naval Academy Archives suggests that the officer in this photograph may be Robert F. R. Lewis (b. abt. 1828, Washington, DC; d. 23 Feb 1881) .

“Lewis at the time was a senior instructor in seamanship” at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, holding the rank of commander, he says, “and towards the end of this tour at the Naval Academy, he was advisor to the Superintendent on buildings and grounds.”

Lewis was attached to the Academy from 1866 to 1868. He was promoted to commander in 1867.

In 1869, he joined the command of the Resaca, in the Pacific Squadron.  At the time of his death at sea, Lewis held the rank of captain of the United States Steamship Shenandoah, part of the South Atlantic Squadron.

If this man really is Robert F. R. Lewis, then one can understand his grim expression. Lewis was appointed Midshipman in 1841, when he was about 14 years old.  The boy grew to manhood in on board ships and was schooled in battle before he was 20 , distinguishing himself in the Mexican War of 1848.  In 1849, he was ordered to the Academy to be examined. He passed, and immediately took up a post on the Vixen in the West Indies.

Lewis distinguished himself  during the Civil War, aiding in blockades at the mouths of the Mississippi and the St. Johns River,  off the coast of Texas, and at Charleston harbor.

Read more about Capt. Lewis’ career in two books available on Google Books:

The records of living officers of the US Navy and Marine Corps, 1870

The records of living officers of the US Navy and Marine Corps, 3rd edition, 1878

These excellent reference volumes were compiled by Lt. Lewis R. Hamersley, US Marine Corps, retired.

In William C. Darrah’s discussion of backmarks, this card’s reverse, with its “ornate groundwork” and “ovoid area for imprint” is located  ca. 1864-1870 (Darrah, Cartes de Visite in Nineteenth Century Photography).

A William Ashman Woman

Born in Maryland in 1863, William Ashman (1863-1902) learned his trade from his uncle, William M. Chase. After a stint with David Bachrach’s studio, Ashman left to start his own portrait business in 1877.

The studio continued to operate under the management of Ashman’s associate, Oregon M. Dennis, after Ashman’s death in Saranac Lake, New York.

This is my favorite Ashman cabinet portrait. He has posed her so that light throws the lines of her face into relief, illuminating  a middle-aged woman’s subtle, fading beauty.

William Ashman is buried in Druid Ridge Cemetery, near Pikesville, in Baltimore County, Maryland.

The Retouching Debate

We take retouching for granted today. When retouching of the positive image was introduced in the 1850s, it was a controversial practice. In the 1870s, as the practice of retouching negatives became widespread, retouching “became one of the major controversies of the decade” among photographers (Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. 1).

Retouching stimulated trade by giving portrait photographers a new tool for producing flattering images and hiding technical defects.

The practice required skill, however. The eyes of the gentleman in the albumen cabinet photo above, taken sometime after David Bachrach brought his brother into his business in 1875, demonstrates how bad retouching could ruin a portrait–even at a studio that became as highly regarded as Bachrach & Bro.

In his memoirs, David Bachrach recalls that he began sending out retouching work around 1872 when his nascent studio began making enough–about $200 a week–to support a printer and a receptionist. Before 1872, Bachrach did his own retouching (“Over Fifty Years of Photography,” Part IV, in The Photographic Journal of America, March 1916). Perhaps we cannot hold him wholly responsible for this crude effort.