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Daddy’s Girl: a Valentine

A long time ago I had a boyfriend who used to unconsciously signal that he was about to deliver unwelcome news by saying, “ya gotta love this…” As it turned out, I didn’t gotta, and his “love” was a hollow thing. A more solid love – in this case, a father’s love for his daughter – is this post’s Valentine offering.

Beecher, Henry Ward. 1834 Standing portrait The “valentine” (as I think of it) came to us in 2007 as part of a generous gift from Bruce Gimelson of letters and photographs relating to Henry Ward Beecher, Class of 1834. To reduce a huge life to a few sentences, Beecher (1813-1887) was a wildly popular preacher at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn (1847-1887), a rebellious son of Calvinism, an eloquent anti-slavery advocate, and the 50-year husband of Eunice Bullard, by whom he had 11 children, 7 of whom died early.

The Beechers had a troubled marriage and Henry was rumored to have had several affairs, the first as early as his ministry in Indiana during the 1840s. According to Debby Applegate’s superb biography of Beecher, The Most Famous Man in America, the minister may also have been the father of Violet Beach, who is on paper the daughter of Moses Sperry Beach, publisher of the newspaper “The Sun” and son of the founder, Moses Yale Beach, of the Associated Press. Applegate’s biography considers the affair between Henry and Moses’ wife Chloe and the likelihood that Henry was Violet’s father. While we might wish for DNA evidence, what we have in this case is photographic and manuscript evidence. Among the former is this:

Violet Beach, ca. 1890

Violet Beach, ca. 1890

Beecher, Henry Ward. ca. 1840

Henry Ward Beecher, ca. 1845

 

Henry Ward Beecher & Violet Beach, ca. 1875

Henry Ward Beecher & Violet Beach, ca. 1875

In addition to the convincing documentation of the relationship between Chloe Beach and Beecher that Applegate assembles in her biography, we also have evidence of Beecher’s attachment to Violet Beach in 12 letters that were part of Gimelson’s gift. In 8 of the letters, Beecher signs off as “grandpa,” which he means “in spirit”; in the other 4 letters, he is “Henry Ward Beecher,” safer still. But in a letter signed with his full name in the spring of 1885, Beecher refers twice to a “daughter” and writes with good-humored outrage as a protective father whose child has been slighted. Surely this energetic letter soothed Violet’s wounded heart and made her laugh too. What more could Beecher do, what more could Violet ask? Maybe it doesn’t matter whether he was her “real” father or not.

Beecher-Beach-1885-Apr-8 Beecher-Beach-1885-Apr-8-contd My dear Violet –
You are quite right in all you say about Will’s engagement, but you don’t go half far enough. It is a crime that cannot be excused, nor can language be found that will make it more odious. I am ready to stab him & poison her. Should such conduct go unpunished, the whole world might catch the infection & grow as wicked as they were before the flood. For is it not said that they were “marrying & giving in marriage” – until the flood came & swept them all away” & served them right too! I don’t know – I fear stabbing will be too good for Will. It will let him off too soon. Let’s see if we can’t think of some choice torment. What say you to letting him marry this outrageous sweetheart, & be compelled to live with her? And then, in about 25 years let them have some good for nothing fellow walk up & marry their daughter. Yes, that will be better.

But nourish your wrath. Don’t let it go out. I will send you a vocabulary of words, & a few oaths suited to this occasion – and you can copy them off & recite them morning & evening instead of the good prayers in the Episcopal Book – which are weak & cool affairs whereas you want damnatory & red hot petitions. Trust Providence, my dear. Read the Objurgatory Psalms. Begin with Psalm 137:7-9, Psalm 69: 22-28, Ps. 59: 10-17. But, above all, that choice Psalm 109.

I would suggest, also, that for a while I would let the New Testament alone – as it may somewhat interfere with the sentiments expressed in the psalms.

I will try to help you all I can, & will invent a few new oaths by the time the old [staple ones] get cool.

Yours in the bonds of an Everlasting hatred of all who get married to anyone’s daughter.

Henry Ward Beecher
Apr 8, 1885, three days after Easter

This letter sent me scurrying to find Psalm 109* and vowing to add “objurgatory” to my regular vocabulary.

"New English Bible: The Old Testament," Oxford University Press, 1970.

96 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn

96 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn

I wish I knew who the odious Will was. I wish I knew whether it was on account of the inexcusable little cur that Violet never married. Instead, she lived out her life in her family’s palatial apartment at 96 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, and died in 1946 two days after Valentine’s Day.

******************************************************************

*Psalm 109 from the “New English Bible: the Old Testament,” Oxford University Press/Cambridge University Press, 1970.

In honor of the upcoming Global Divestment Day urging institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies and the work being done on the Amherst Campus in support of divestment from coal, I thought we should take a moment to look back at an earlier time that Amherst divested its investment holdings on ethical grounds. I’m referring, of course, to the international campaign to pressure the South African government to dismantle its apartheid system in the 1970s and 80s (although Amherst also divested from Sudan in 2006 on ethical grounds).

Picketers outside the fall Board of Trustees meeting, 1977

Picketers outside the fall Board of Trustees meeting, 1977

The first official action on South Africa by the trustees was at their fall 1977 meeting. Following some years of talks, debates and student organizing, a petition was presented to the Trustees at this meeting demanding that the college seek “corporate withdrawal from South Africa.” During the meeting around 70 students picketed Alumni House, while two spokesmen were invited to speak at the meeting.

During the meeting, the Trustees adopted a “Trustee Statement Concerning Investment in South Africa,” which referenced the ethical investment policy adopted by the college in 1972 and decided that the college would not divest outright, but would use its shareholder power to attempt to change the practices of companies that operated in South Africa. They were following what were known as the Sullivan principles.

Following a packed open meeting held by the Board of Trustees and the South African Support Committee in February, the Board again took up the question of divestment in their spring and fall 1978 meetings, affirming their previous decision both times. Divestment was one of the major topics on campus in the academic year of 1977/78, it was front page news in a quarter of Amherst Student issues and by November 1978, President Ward was able to state regarding the previous two years, “there has not been a meeting of the board in that time when the investment in corporations doing business in South Africa has not been a matter for discussion.”

Divestment remained a hotly debated, much committeed, and frequently demanded subject in the following years, throughout a great deal of turmoil and change at the college. In June 1985, following the lead of Reverend Leon Sullivan, President Pouncey and the Board of Trustees issued a statement that Amherst College would divest from South Africa if it had not made “significant progress toward eliminating statutory apartheid” within two years and instructed the College’s investment managers to prepare for such an eventuality.

Students encircle the Alumni House in a silent vigil during the October 1985 Trustees meeting

Students encircle the Alumni House in a silent vigil during the October 1985 Trustees meeting

Just four months later, in October of 1985, the Trustees made the unexpected decision to divest completely.

Ending apartheid in South Africa was a fraught and complicated topic, as President Ward said in a talk on divestment in Johnson Chapel in spring of 1978, it is not easy “for someone on either side to be confident about what actions one might take that would work toward betterment of the society.” Climate change and fossil fuel divestment are very different (some would say simpler) than the issues of institutionalized racial violence and inequality being addressed by the anti-apartheid movement, but we can hope for ongoing action and debate on campus that echos the passion, broad engagement, and thoughtful deliberation of this earlier era… and perhaps it will serve as inspiration the next time that Amherst has the opportunity to use its fiscal weight to leverage ethical change.

(For additional material on South African divestment at Amherst and much, much more, visit Archives and Special Collections for our upcoming “Race and Rebellion at Amherst College” exhibition planned for late February through June)

Ben Fiedler and Blair Kamin in the common room of Mayo-Smith dormitory (formerly Chi Psi Lodge),  January 2015. (Photo by Janna Joassainte'17/Amherst College, Office of Communications)

Ben Fiedler ’17 and Blair Kamin ’79 in the common room of Mayo-Smith House (formerly Chi Psi Lodge), January 2015. (Photo by Janna Joassainte’17/Amherst College, Office of Communications)

Leave me alone, I’m on deadline!

During the college’s Interterm session that just ended, I enjoyed participating in a one-week class that made extensive use of the College Archives. “The Houses of Amherst College” was an intensive architectural appraisal of the thirteen former fraternity houses on campus. It was led by Blair Kamin ’79, the award-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune. Blair is in the process of writing a comprehensive architectural guide to Amherst College, to be published in 2018 as part of the Campus Guide series by Princeton Architectural Press. All of the students in the class (including myself) wrote a brief essay on one of the houses, which will provide material for the published guide.

Seligman House, formerly Theta Delta Chi. Putnam and Cox, architects, 1921.

Seligman House, formerly Theta Delta Chi. Putnam and Cox, architects, 1921.

The class provided the students with an opportunity to learn about some of the buildings we walk by (and, for some of us, live in) every day, and to appreciate them from an architectural point of view. This means carefully seeing the buildings in a new way and asking hard questions: not just “What is its predominant style?” and “What do you call that kind of pillar?” but more searching questions like “Is this building ‘successful’?,” “Have subsequent renovations retained a sense of aesthetic integrity?” and “How does the building contribute to, or detract from, the built environment of Amherst College?” These are some of the questions architecture critics wrestle with every day. Hence the class also gave us a taste of what it’s like to think and write like an architectural journalist.

Seelye House, formerly Psi Upsilon. Putnam & Cox, architects, 1913.

Seelye House, formerly Psi Upsilon. Putnam & Cox, architects, 1913.

The Amherst campus is a beautiful educational setting — exquisitely beautiful, in my opinion, at certain times of the year. And it is also quite historic, reflecting the influences of many notable architects and landscape designers such as McKim, Mead and White, Frederick Law Olmsted, Benjamin Thompson and Edward Larrabee Barnes. In the 19th century, like most colleges, Amherst had to rely on upper-class students to find their own living arrangements. This they did, almost assuredly with great pleasure, mainly by living in fraternity houses. This arrangement allowed upperclassmen to enjoy more autonomy away from the often oppressive rules and oversight of the college administration.

Porter House, formerly Delta Upsilon Delta. Allen Cox, architect, 1916.

Porter House, formerly Delta Upsilon Delta. Allen Cox, architect, 1916.

The fraternity houses were usually impressive large residences, and without exception they could be described as “homey” or indeed “palatial” in comparison to the cookie-cutter boxy sameness of institutional dormitories. Alumni fraternity brothers raised large amounts of money to erect these houses — even in the worst economic times — as a token of love and brotherhood as well as a showpiece announcing their exclusivity, success and refinement.

Plimpton House, formerly Delta Kappa Epsilon. Allen Cox, architect, 1916.

Plimpton House, formerly Delta Kappa Epsilon. Allen Cox, architect, 1916.

Beginning in the early 20th century and lasting several decades, Amherst’s fraternities embarked on a house-building spree that produced many of the fraternity houses that still grace the campus — and which serve, since the abolishing of fraternity houses in 1984, as college residence halls. The building program was fueled in no small part by competition among the fraternities — if one house had by far the most comfortable, luxurious, impressive furnishings, then all the others would be at a disadvantage in attracting the kind of men they wanted to join their ranks. So from 1913 to 1940, the frats built.

Newport House, formerly Phi Delta Sigma. Allen Cox, architect, 1913.

Newport House, formerly Phi Delta Sigma. Allen Cox, architect, 1913.

Many of the houses shared the same architect, Allen Cox of the Boston firm of Putnam and Cox. Not surprisingly, therefore, they show different permutations of the same elements from several architectural traditions — neo-Georgian, neo-Classical and Colonial Revival — that were popular in the early 20th century.

Mayo-Smith House, formerly Delta Chi Psi. Herbert Wheeler, architect, 1923.

Mayo-Smith House, formerly Delta Chi Psi. Herbert Wheeler, architect, 1923.

The sameness was broken by Herbert Wheeler in his design for Chi Psi Lodge in 1923 (above), a lovely work of Tudor/Renaissance Revival that is one of the first college houses to greet visitors arriving at the college from the west.

In 1929, a skillful neo-Classical facelift was pulled off at Calvin Coolidge’s former fraternity house, Phi Gamma Delta:

Marsh House, formerly Phi Gamma Delta. Robert Cutler, builder, ca. 1835; significant renovation by Karl S. Putnam, architect, 1929.

Marsh House, formerly Phi Gamma Delta. Robert Cutler, builder, ca. 1835; significant renovation by Karl S. Putnam, architect, 1929.

The rest of the houses are pictured below. Undeniably, all of these buildings raise up the architectural quality of the Amherst campus. The college has recognized this fact by embarking on a renovation campaign in recent years to save them from the predations of decades of hard use by the fraternities, and to adapt them to the much-changed social and technological needs of the modern-day college. But five former fraternity houses have still not undergone renovations. Clearly the funds to preserve them will be money well spent!

Tyler House, formerly Delta Tau Delta and Kappa Theta fraternity. J.D. Leland, architect, 1932.

Tyler House, formerly Delta Tau Delta and Kappa Theta fraternity. J.D. Leland, architect, 1932.

Lipton House, formerly Phi Chi Phi fraternity, then Hamilton House. Allen Cox, architect, 1918.

Lipton House, formerly Phi Chi Phi fraternity, then Hamilton House. Allen Cox, architect, 1918.

Humphries House, formerly Alpha Theta Xi fraternity. Architect unknown, 1891; reconstructed facade, C.H. Sherwood, architect, 1940.

Humphries House, formerly Alpha Theta Xi fraternity. Architect unknown, 1891; reconstructed facade, C.H. Sherwood, architect, 1940.

Hitchcock House, formerly Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. Maurice B. Briscoe of Andrews, Jones, Biscoe, and Whitmore, architect, 1928.

Hitchcock House, formerly Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. Maurice B. Biscoe of Andrews, Jones, Biscoe, and Whitmore, architect, 1928.

Garman House, formerly Beta Theta Pi fraternity and Boltwood House. Allen Cox, architect, 1916.

Garman House, formerly Beta Theta Pi fraternity and Boltwood House. Allen Cox, architect, 1916.

Drew House, formerly Phi Alpha Psi/Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Built 1866; remodeled by Allen Cox, architect, 1922.

Drew House, formerly Phi Alpha Psi/Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Built 1866; remodeled by Allen Cox, architect, 1922.

Christmas came early to the Archives & Special Collections when we received two boxes of books by Native American authors from Amherst College alumnus Peter Webb (Class of 1974) just before we closed up shop for our holiday break. There are many exciting items in this very generous gift, including copies of some of Charles Eastman’s books in their original dust jackets, but this item eclipses all the others:

Samson Occom. A Sermon... (1772)

Samson Occom. A Sermon… (1772)

Hmmm…a piece of an old newspaper?

Samson Occom. A Sermon... (1772)

Samson Occom. A Sermon… (1772)

Someone used the first page of the October 14, 1783 issue of the Connecticut Courant and Weekly Intelligencer to make a protective cover for their copy of the 1772 first edition of Samson Occom’s Sermon. Not only are we delighted to now hold a true first printing of this important work, but that wrapper tells us that just over a decade after it was printed, someone thought it was worth wrapping up for a little extra protection. Most likely that person was in the vicinity of Hartford, CT, but it’s almost impossible to be certain — newspapers certainly traveled far and wide, and the only certainty about the date the Courant was sewn to the Sermon is no earlier than October 1783.

I am at the start of a more extensive research project into the publishing history of this sermon and its many reprintings, which I will report on in the months ahead. For now, it brings me great bibliographical pleasure to see these search results in our online catalog:

Occom Catalog

In addition to the generosity of our alumni, we also depend on the wonderful world of the antiquarian book trade to build our collections. This week it was Tom Congalton of Between the Covers Rare Books who called an amazingly rare item to our attention: The Experience of George A. Spywood.

The Experience of George A. Spywood.

The Experience of George A. Spywood.

As you can see from the cover, this pamphlet was printed to raise money to save George A. Spywood’s house. One reason I love booksellers so much is that they often save us a lot of work by doing extensive research about their books. Here is a very helpful excerpt about this item:

“Spywood happily pursued the sailor’s trade until after several voyages his friend, the captain, took ill and died. He later renounced his vices and took to the ministry after a vision. In 1844 he was given the pastorship of the Colored M.E. Church of Hartford, Connecticut, and took an active part in precipitating the schism of the A.M.E. Zionists from the Weslyans. It is possible that Spywood stressed his Native American heritage over his African for the purposes of this pamphlet, anticipating more sympathy if he hid his African ancestry. Perhaps most likely he was of mixed Native American and African ancestry. Carter G. Woodson references him as a Bishop in the Zionist faction in his study The Negro Church without referring to his ethnicity, and he is mentioned in several other histories of the Church. OCLC locates a single copy with the above publishing information, but this issue appears complete (collating 1-28pp., with separate wrappers) and contains no printing information. While we obviously have a vested interest in establishing the precedence of this version of the pamphlet, we strongly conclude that this copy has the feel of fulfilling the object of a mendicant pamphlet, and is likely both earlier than the 1843 version, and may indeed be unique. In any event it is rare.”

And here is the first page of the memoir:

Spywood 2

I had a brief conversation with Native Studies professor Lisa Brooks earlier this morning and her reaction is that Spywood’s specificity regarding his tribal ancestry — naming the “Marshpee” and the “Pumham” — suggests he is being honest about that heritage. False claims of Indigenous ancestry are usually more vague. Lisa’s other comment was that we may very well be able to track down Spywood’s descendants, or some traces of them.

This book will soon be added to our online catalog and we will also add it to our queue for digitization.

Newest Additions to ACDC

Our digital collections are growing with regular ingests of digitized material from the Archives & Special Collections.  Past highlighted ingests have included our Emily Dickinson manuscripts, selections from the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection, material from the Doshisha Collection, Amherst College Olios and Catalogs, and more.

This month marks the addition of the William E. Barton Walt Whitman Collection and more of the Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Collection.

Hitchcock

Edward Hitchcock

whitman

Walt Whitman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series 8 of the Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Collection, now accessible in ACDC, contains more than a dozen distinct images of Hitchcock, in a range of formats including engravings, lithographs, and albumen prints. Many of the portraits were taken for yearly Class Albums compiled for the students at Amherst College. All the images are of Hitchcock as an adult.

hitchcock_house

Series 8 also includes snapshots of Hitchcock’s family homes and a photograph of Hitchcock’s gravestone.

photoalb

There is also one photograph album which includes identified photographs of Edward and Orra White Hitchcock and some immediate family members.

whit2

The William E. Barton Walt Whitman Collection contains prints, photographs, post cards, and correspondence.

cardwhit

whitman3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walt Whitman Collection also includes original prose manuscripts and galley proofs collected by William E. Barton (1861 – 1930).

whit1whitproof1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These digitized items and more from the Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Collection and the William E. Barton Walt Whitman Collection can be found in the Amherst College Digital Collections, and of course the originals are located in the Archives & Special Collections.

Twelfth Night program coverI hope that Sarah Werner at the Folger Shakespeare Library believes that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Her blog post in The Collation yesterday inspired me to share these images and reviews from the production of Twelfth Night staged by Amherst College students in March and April of 1907.

You can see the originals on display for a bit longer in our current exhibit, Shakespeare’s Desk. As always, click on the images to see larger versions.

The cast in all their glory

The cast in all their glory

Cast list from program

Cast list from program

Below is a review from the March 23, 1907 issue of The Amherst Student. On the second page, note the additional short article that lists all of the places the Dramatics association would be performing the play in the coming weeks, including: “After the Easter trip, the cast will appear at Greenfield April 17th, Brattleboro, Vt., April 24th, Walpole April 29th and Wellesley April 27th. Performances will also be given the last of April at Springfield, Easthampton and the Academy of Music, Northampton. and the first part of May there will be presentations at Hartford, New Britain, Worcester, Ware and Chicopee.”

1907TwelfthNight007

1907TwelfthNight009

Further information about “the Easter trip” performances in various Connecticut, New York, and even Pennsylvania towns appeared in the April 13, 1907 issue:

1907TwelfthNight010

1907TwelfthNight011

The cast picture in the program

The cast picture in the program

Daguerreopalooza

"2000 times square ball at waterford" by Hunter Kahn (talk) 02:57, 8 October 2008 (UTC) - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2000_times_square_ball_at_waterford.

Make room in Times Square: the Class of 1852 is ready to party with you and ring in 2015 dressed in spanking new glass.

This group of 42 men has been the subject of two posts, the first about their wild and crazy Philopogonian ways, and the second about a project to reseal the individual daguerreotypes from the class. I recently resealed the last daguerreotype in the group, so we begin 2015 with a sparkling set of nice, clear photographs.

D. J. Sprague: plate showing photographer J.D. Wells stamp at bottom right.

D. J. Sprague: plate showing photographer J.D. Wells’ stamp at bottom right.

First, a few details about the daguerreotypes themselves: All 42 daguerreotypes are sixth plate size (approx 2.75″ x 3.25″). The plates have a variety of damage but most looked pretty good after merely replacing the old cover glass (with its fascinating variety of gunk) with new Electroverre low iron glass that I cut to size. I do not rinse or otherwise treat the plate except to gently blow off dust. Class member Daniel J. Sprague’s plate had the photographer’s name (J.D. Wells) stamped on the plate itself — an unusual practice — and another plate had Wells’ name on the mat. All others were unmarked but most were also probably by Wells.

Title page of "Pebbles from the Lake Shore," by Charles Leland Porter

Title page of “Pebbles from the Lake Shore,” by Charles Leland Porter

In working with the daguerreotypes, I of course wanted to know more about the subjects and so turned to their biographical files as well as the 1973 Biographical Record (Class_of_1852_record). Of the members of the class, at least 6 served in the Civil War: Almy, who was a quartermaster and whose biographical file says that he designed the regimental flag for the 24th Connecticut Volunteers; Cheavens, who fought on the Confederate side and left a journal of his experiences; Kimberly, a surgeon in the war; Larned, whose wartime career is colorful and well-documented; Littlefield, who served in the war 1861-65; and Porter, who was also a teacher and poet — his book Pebbles from the Lake Shore is in the collection.

8 members (Benjamin, Blair, Dudley, Glenn, Kies, Kingsbury, Roel, and Root) — about fifth of the class — died within a decade, 7 of them by 1856 of (among other things) typhoid, cholera, scrofula, and tuberculosis.

3 members of the class were longtime missionaries, Allen, Barnum, and Bliss. The latter was also the founder of the Syrian Protestant College, now the American University of Beirut. All three men spent decades in the Middle East and chose to retire and be buried there.

Other especially interesting members of the class include William Goodrich, who had a long career in the law; Brainerd Harrington, who was a good friend of the Dickinson family; Henry Root, another friend of the Dickinsons as well as of Helen Fiske (Helen Hunt Jackson), and William Rankin, born in “Little Chucky,” Tennessee, who self-reported to the biographical record that he was “exiled to New York for Union Sentiments.” He had a long, active career, including a period as president of Washington Female College.

Earlier in this post I used the highly technical term “gunk” to describe some of what I found on the old glass covering the daguerreotypes. In the before-and-after pictures below you can see some of the variety of gunk that forms on glass over the course of 162 years, as well as some of what remains on the plate when the glass is removed. In one or two scans I removed some of the brown stains covering the face, but in other cases I left them as is.

Theodore Benjamin, d. 1855.  His bio file includes a moving note from his father written after Theodore's death, as well as the text of Theodore's graduation speech, in which he says goodbye to Amherst.

Theodore Benjamin, d. 1855. His bio file includes a moving note from his father written after Theodore’s death, as well as the text of Theodore’s graduation speech, in which he says goodbye to Amherst.

George H. Coit, minister and for a few years President of Furlow Masonic Female College in Georgia.

George H. Coit, minister and for a few years President of Furlow Masonic Female College in Georgia.

William W. Goodrich, lawyer in New York specializing in maritime law

William W. Goodrich, lawyer in New York specializing in maritime law.

Henry Kies, licensed to preach but died in 1855 before he had much of a chance at it.

Henry Kies, licensed to preach but died in 1855 before he had much of a chance at it.

Augustus G. Kimberly, surgeon in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, with a long medical career thereafter.

Augustus G. Kimberly, surgeon in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, with a long medical career thereafter.

Sidney K. Smith, teacher and analytical chemist.

Sidney K. Smith, teacher and analytical chemist.

Daniel J. Sprague, businessman, publisher, President of Pelham and Port Chester RR.

Daniel J. Sprague, businessman, publisher, President of Pelham and Port Chester RR.

In my previous post about the class (linked above), I included a scan of the group daguerreotype. Here it is again next to a version made from the 42 resealed individual daguerreotypes. Note that the new image shows the sitters facing in the opposite direction from the original. However, because of the nature of camera lenses in the period, the version on the right shows how they were actually facing when they sat for their photographs.

Group daguerreotype for the Class of 1852: resealed original at left and a new image created by merging the 42 individual daguerreotypes into one in Photoshop.

Group daguerreotype for the Class of 1852: resealed original at left and a new image created by merging the 42 individual daguerreotypes into one in Photoshop.

Row 1: Joseph Manly Clark; Mason Moore; Daniel Jay Sprague; Henry Moore; Charles Henry Payson; Fayette Maynard.
Row 2: Henry Kies; Henry Root; Edward Spalding Larned; William Bradshaw Rankin; Daniel Bliss; Ambrose Dunn.
Row 3: Elijah Shumway Fish; William Winton Goodrich; Brainerd Timothy Harrington; John Humphrey Almy; Henry Martyn Cheavens; Henry Sabin.
Row 4: George Nelson Webber; Charles Leland Porter; Orson Parda Allen; Gorham Train; Theodore Hiram Benjamin; William Grassie.
Row 5: Don Carlos Taft; James Austin Littlefield; Franklin Perry Chapin; Benjamin Easton Thurston; William Ewing Glenn; Sidney Kelsey Smith.
Row 6: Edward Phillips Burgess; George Henry Coit; William Horatio Adams; Charles Wood Kingsbury; John Fuss Buffington.
Row 7: Sylvanus Baker Roel; Austin Cary Blair; Ebenezer George Burgess; Augustus Greene Kimberly; Lewis Warfield Holmes; George Lewis Becker.

The image below can be enlarged to show more detail for each member of the class. As you can see at once, poor Henry Root’s daguerreotype (second row down, second from left) sustained more damage than that of anyone else. The Tutt Library at the Colorado College has a copy of this daguerreotype: Root must have requested two and then given one to his friend Helen Fiske, known more familiarly as writer Helen Hunt Jackson. Tutt Library’s daguerreotype looks like it’s in good shape beneath the old, clouded glass. I messed with ours a bit in Photoshop, removing what looked like a big cold sore from his lip, for example, but there’s more damage here than my Photoshop skills can fix. Perhaps sometime Tutt Library will reseal theirs and then we’ll have a clear view of Henry.

Class of 1852, large file, arranged in the order of the original group daguerreotype.

Class of 1852, large file, arranged in the order of the original group daguerreotype.

I loved every moment of this project and wish we had sets of daguerreotypes for every mid-nineteenth-century class. My one regret, though, was that I was unable to locate a photograph of any kind for George Dudley, who commissioned the group daguerreotype and who is probably also responsible for our having the individual ones. As I noted in my previous post on the subject, Dudley chose to have Austin Cary Blair in the photograph rather than himself — a nice gesture considering that Blair died in 1854 and this is probably the only photograph of him. On the other hand, Dudley himself died in 1860, and while there may be a photograph of him somewhere, we have yet to see it.

A word about daguerreotypes: “First, do no harm.” If you’ve inherited or purchased daguerreotypes, you shouldn’t attempt to reseal them unless you’ve had some training. I was lucky to have some training with Mike Robinson of Century Daguerreotypes, but I’m still practicing and working on my technique. It’s not that it’s particularly difficult to reseal a daguerreotype, but the photographic plate itself is extremely fragile – if you touch it, you scratch or wipe off the image – and it’s too easy to do permanent damage. Additional information about daguerreotypes may be found at the Daguerreian Society website, especially at their faq page, as well as at other sites via a simple search.

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