Friday, November 02, 2012

New and Noteworthy---The Very Remarkable Civil War Photographs of the Maryland Historical Society

Maryland's Civil War Photographs: The Sesquicentennial Collection, Ross J. Kelbaugh, Maryland Historical Society, 228 pages, 475+ photographs and images, black/white/color/colorized, appendices, index, 2012, softbound, $30.00.

In a very remarkable collection, the Maryland Historical offers 450+ photographs that are black and white, or colorized black and white.  Commemorating the sesquicentennial, this finely bound and printed book presents the work of skilled photographers who captured  soldiers and civilians, prisoners of war and working artisans while they were at the studio, on the battlefield, in the campsite, the hospital and the home front. These visual records have been preserved by institutions and private collectors and this edition presents the stories behind the subjects and the photographers. Editor and narrator, Ross J. Kelbaugh, founder and CEO of, is a veteran collector, interpreter, and educator. Over four decades, he has assembled the largest private collection of vintage Maryland photographs and related material in the state.

The first photograph is a wonderfully detailed image of William Weaver's photographic studio and gallery located at 147 Baltimore Street, Baltimore. Four stories tall, with a second story porch, a third story dormer and a fourth story mansard roof with a floor to ceiling window that likely shone light on to the third story studio, Weaver's store/gallery/studio appears majestic. The book's introduction is a clear and concise introduction to photographic processes, formats, sizes, papers and traveling studios of the era. In 16 chapters Kelbaugh presents and describes familiar and rarely scene photographs related to Maryland.

Among these non-Maryland subjects by non-Maryland photographers is Pennsylvanian and African America Nicholas Biddle, 'the first man wounded in the Great American Rebellion' who suffered his wound in Baltimore on April 18, 1861.  W.R. Mortimer of Pottsville, Pennsylvania is the photographer. Biddle is the credited with being the first African America to be pictured on a carte de visite that was mass-produced for sale.

In the book are rarely seen locations that are very important to Civil War history such as Baltimore's Front Street Theatre, the location of the second [Rump] 1860 Democratic Party presidential nominating convention, Baltimore's Pratt Street at which the 6th Massachusetts was attacked April 19th, 1861, and West Patrick Street in Frederick which the Army of Northern Virginia used during its two invasions of the North and which the Army of the Potomac used during its pursuit.

Included in the Antietam chapter is photograph that is a view that may have been included in Mathew Brady's October 1862 farmhouse exhibition of the Dead at Antietam. This image is in the author's private collection; this might be its first publication.  "In the rarest of the series and the only known period print, Gardner recorded Confederate dead near what is believed to be the Mumma family cemetery." On two board, a body may have been in the process of being moved to a grave. A hat has been laid over the corpse's groin.

Nineteenth century photograph enthusiasts, military and civil Civil War reenactors, historians of material and popular culture, architecture preservationists and historians of  African American history will find treasures throughout Maryland's Civil War Photographs: The Sesquicentennial Collection which is reasonalby priced considering the treasures it holds.

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