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Guide to the Imperial Portrait Photograph File
[1856-1870]
 PR 210

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Sandra Markham

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on December 13, 2011
Description is in English.

Container List

Series I: Portraits by Mathew B. Brady

Scope and Contents note

Series I. Portraits by Mathew B. Brady holds salted paper and albumen prints of several notable men and two women who lived in New York, or passed through the city in their travels. It is arranged in four subseries: Individuals; Groups; Composite Portraits; and Published Imperials. The bulk of the individual portraits came to the Society in 1905 within a group of thirty-one photographic portraits given by Daniel Parish. Parish was a collector of Americana, and though it is not known when or how he acquired the photographs - all of which are Brady portraits, although not all Imperial format pictures - each was marked in the same manner, with a typed paper strip label on the verso giving the sitter's name, and various ink and pencil inscriptions.

The sitters represent well-known nineteenth-century New Yorkers involved in business, politics, and religion. Two men who offer a combination were ex-mayors of New York, publisher James Harper and sugar manufacturer William Havemeyer. Another combination is Rev. Stephen W. Tyng, Jr., who left the church to become a businessman in Paris. Other local religious leaders include the Rev. Drs. William Adams, James Alexander, Henry Bellows, Samuel Burchard, and Francis Vinton. Prominent businessmen found in Series I are Samuel Colt, Horace Day, Cyrus Field, Robert Stuart, the famed New York billiardist and billiard parlor owner Michael Phelan. There are four portraits of members of the Steinway family, New York residents known for their fine pianos. Politicians include United States Attorney General Jeremiah Black, and President James Buchanan; publishers and writers include William Prescott, Justus Redfield, William Winston Seaton, and Nathaniel Willis.

International figures include General Jose Antonio Paez, the President of Venezuela who lived in New York several times between his terms in office, and the ambitious American adventurer William Walker, who captured Nicaragua and set up a short-lived government there prior to his execution before a Honduran firing squad. A portrait of William Smith O'Brien, popularly known as Smith O'Brien, was made during that Irish patriot's tour of the United States in the spring of 1859. O'Brien arrived in New York in late February and departed in May after a full schedule of public events and private receptions held by the Irish and Irish-American communities in New York, Boston, Toronto, and Detroit.

While each portrait is labeled, there are two sitters that remain unidentified. The first is a case of misidentification: a Mr. Witmore, whose portrait was labeled "Prosper Wetmore" on a typed paper label, and "M. Witmore" in pencil. Comparisons with other photographs and a painted portrait of Prosper Wetmore show that the Imperial is not Wetmore, and no further identification has been possible. The portrait of the otherwise unidentified "Mrs. Steinway" may possibly be Johanna, the wife of Christian F. Theodore Steinway, though another image of her could not be located for comparison.

A number of the Imperial portraits in the Individuals subseries were photographed and issued as carte de visite prints. Portraits of Rev. Dr. William Adams, Cyrus Field, William Noyes (a retouched version), Smith O'Brien, Jose Antonio Paez, Winfield Scott, and William Winston Seaton (a retouched version with a painted-in background), for example, can be found in the Print Room's PR 011 Carte de Visite File.

The Groups subseries holds a variety of portraits, ranging in subject from two New York families, the Heckshers and the Henriques (or Hendricks) to the military "family" of General Winfield Scott, who were photographed during the General's waning days at West Point, New York. Britain's King Edward VII toured the United States in the fall of 1860. The popular young Prince of Wales, as he was then known, stopped at the Brady Studio at Broadway and Tenth Street during his time in New York; the resulting portrait of him and his suite of attendants was repeatedly advertised in the New York Times as "on view at Brady's Gallery. Copies in every style of the art for sale." The chronologically latest photograph in the collection is a group portrait of the officials of the Commission on the Treaty of Washington, or the "Alabama Claims" treaty, that settled claims against Great Britain arising during the Civil War; that portrait is dated a decade later.

A set of two mounted salted paper sheets make up the Composite Portraits subseries, one each of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. In both cases, the images are made up of small, individual bust-length portraits arranged in a group and rephotographed on a negative of approximately 20 x 16 inches.

Last in the series are four examples of a type of image distributed by the Brady Studio in the late 1850s. These "published" Imperial prints were announced in the New York Times on August 11, 1858: "Brady has just commenced the publication of a series of imperial photographs. The first of the series is an excellent portrait of John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky . . ." a copy of which is found in Box 5, folder 21. At 12 x 9-5/8 inches, they were smaller than Brady's sumptuous Imperial photographs, and issued on paper mounts engraved with the Brady studio location and, sometimes, with the name of the figure pictured. In presentation and style, they resemble mezzotint portraits of earlier centuries. A reduced step from the custom Imperial portrait, though still a photographic process, this new "imperial" format could be mass-produced by the studio and sold commercially to anyone who might like to own a portrait of a famous American statesman.

Mathew B. Brady (ca. 1823-1896), the best-known American photographer of his generation, operated portrait studios in New York from 1844 to 1875. Brady began his career as a daguerreotypist. He was located at 205-207 Broadway (at Fulton Street) from 1844 until 1858, ran a second New York studio at 359 Broadway (between White and Franklin Streets) from 1853 through 1860, and a third studio at 643 Broadway (at Bleecker Street) from 1859 to 1860. All New York operations were consolidated in the fall of 1860 in Brady's fourth and final studio, named the "National Portrait Gallery," located at 785 Broadway (at Tenth Street). Brady generally did not take the photographs himself, but employed teams of uncredited camera operators, processors, and colorists in each of his studios who produced the actual images for which he is famous. Brady also operated studios in Washington, DC, and is known for the hundreds of celebrity portraits he produced during his career, though perhaps as well known for the hundreds of images made during the American Civil War (1861-1865) by other photographers that were issued by the Brady Studio.

Individuals

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Adams, William, Rev. Dr. (1813-1897)

General note

salted paper photograph, 18 x 15 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Alexander, James Waddel, Rev. Dr. (1804-1859)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 18 1/4 x 14 5/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Bellows, Henry Whitney (1814-1882)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 17 3/4 x 14 1/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Black, Jeremiah S. (1810-1883)

General note

salted paper photograph, 19 x 15 3/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Brown, William (1784-1864)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph on engraved studio mount, 18 1/4 x 15 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Buchanan, James (1791-1868)

General note

salted paper photograph, 19 1/4 x 15 3/4 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Burchard, Samuel Dickinson, Rev. Dr. (1812-1891)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 17 3/4 x 15 1/2

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Colt, Samuel (1814-1862)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 17 3/4 x 14 1/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Day, Horace H. (1813-1878)

General note

salted paper photograph, 16 1/2 x 13 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Dupont, Samuel F. (1803-1865)

General note

salted paper photograph, 17 1/4 x 13 3/4 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Field, Cyrus West (1819-1892)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 18 3/8 x 15 3/8

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Field, David Dudley (1805-1894)

General note

salted paper photograph, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Forrest, Edwin (1806-1872), as Macbeth

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 20 x 15 3/8 in.

[1860]
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Francis, John Wakefield (1789-1861)
[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Harper, James (1795-1869)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 18 1/2 x 15 1/4 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Havemeyer, William F. (1804-1874)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 17 3/4 x 14 1/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Irving, Washington (1783-1859), from a miniature

General note

salted paper photograph, 14 x 12 5/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Jerome, Lawrence R. (1820-1888)

General note

salted paper photograph, 16 1/8 x 12 5/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Noyes, William Curtis (1805-1864)

General note

salted paper photograph, 18 1/4 x 15 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 9 O'Brien, William Smith (1803-1864)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 18 3/8 x 15 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Paez, Jose Antonio (1790-1878)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 17 5/8 x 13 3/4 in.

[1860]
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Phelan, Michael (1817-1871)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph on engraved studio mount, 18 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.

[1858]
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Prescott, William Hickling (1796-1859)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 18 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Redfield, Justice Starr (1810-1888)

General note

salted paper photograph, 15 1/2 x 11 5/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Roosevelt, James (1795-1875)

General note

salted paper photograph, 9 1/4 x 7 3/8 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Scott, Winfield (1786-1866)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph on engraved studio mount, 18 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 12 Seaton, William Winston (1785-1866)

General note

salted paper photograph, 19 1/4 x 15 1/2 in

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 12 Steinway, Christian F. Theodore (1825-1889)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 17 3/4 x 14 1/4 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Steinway, Henry Engelhardt (1797-1871)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 18 1/4 x 14 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Steinway, Julianne (1804-1877)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 18 x 15 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Steinway, Mrs.

General note

salted paper photograph, 16 1/4 x 13 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 14 Stuart, Robert Leighton (1806-1882)

General note

salted paper photograph, 15 1/4 x 12 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 14 Tyng, Jr., Stephen W., Rev. (1839-1898)

General note

salted paper photograph, 18 x 14 3/4 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 15 Vinton, Francis, Rev. Dr. (1809-1872)

General note

salted paper photograph, 16 1/2 x 12 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 15 Walker, William (1824-1860)

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 17 3/4 x 14 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 16 Willis, Nathaniel P. (1806-1867)

General note

salted paper photograph, 12 1/2 x 8 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 3 Folder : 16 Witmore [?], Mr. (misidentified on verso as Prosper Wetmore)

General note

salted paper photograph, 16 1/4 x 12 1/2 in.

[1856-1870]

Groups

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 17 Commission on the Treaty of Washington ["Alabama Claims"]

General note

albumen photograph, 13 3/4 x 16 1/4 in.

[1870]
Box: 4 Folder : 17 General Winfield Scott and his staff at West Point, NY

General note

salted paper photograph, 14 1/4 x 19 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 4 Folder : 18 Heckscher family

General note

salted paper photograph, 11 1/4 x 14 3/4 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 4 Folder : 18 Hendricks family

General note

salted paper photograph, 8 3/4 x 15 in.

[1856-1870]
Box: 4 Folder : 19 Edward VII, King of Great Britain (1841-1910) and suite

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 9 1/2 x 17 5/8 in.

1860 Oct.
Box: 4 Folder : 19 [United States Sanitary Commission?]

General note

retouched salted paper photograph, 7 1/4 x 19 3/8 in.

[1856-1870]

Composite Portraits

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 20 [United States] House of Representatives

General note

salted paper photograph, varnished, on engraved studio mount, 18 3/8 x 15 1/2 in.

[1860]
Box: 4 Folder : 20 United States Senate

General note

salted paper photograph on engraved studio mount, 18 x 14 3/4 in.

1860

Published Imperials

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 21 Crittenden, John Jordan (1786-1863)

General note

albumen photograph, 12 x 9 5/8 in. on 19 x 15 in. studio mount

1858
Box: 5 Folder : 21 Douglas, Stephen A. (1813-1861)

General note

albumen photograph, 12 x 9 5/8 in. on 19 x 15 in. studio paper mount

[1856-1870]
Box: 5 Folder : 21 Seward, William H. (1801-1872)

General note

albumen photograph, 12 x 9 5/8 in. on 19 x 15 in studio paper mount

[1856-1870]
Box: 5 Folder : 21 Wise, Henry A. (1806-1876)

General note

albumen photograph, 12 x 9 5/8 in.

[1856-1870]

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