Freelance Historian
The World of Historical Manuscripts and Ephemera

Posts Tagged ‘research’

Civil War Chaplain Photo Archive

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on September 16th, 2011


My most recent job for a client was scanning and researching what is possibly the largest collection of Civil War chaplain carte de viste photos ever assembled by one person, and perhaps the largest in existence. Notable inclusions are several veterans of Gettysburg, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor;  Henry Trumbull of the 10th Connecticut, who was taken prisoner at Ft Wagner when attempted to rescue wounded soldiers after a battle;  Hiram Eddy of the 2nd Connecticut, captured at First Bull Run with a rifle in his hand and became the first POW of the Libby Prison in Richmond; and John Van Petten of the 34th New York, who ended the war as a brevet Brigadier General!

These are just a few of the captivating stories of the men of the cloth featured in this collection. Click the “Civil War Chaplains” link at the top of the page for the tales of many more! Please note that this archive may have already been sold, but I will forward any messages to the client upon request. I am available for research on historical documents, manuscripts and photos ranging from colonial times to the 20th Century. If you are looking to sell, I have many contacts in the field, and can help you maximize your proceeds.

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Why Good Research Matters

Posted in Shop Talk  by Steven on October 30th, 2009

Here’s an example of why the quality of your research (and researchers) makes a difference.

While browsing a recent auction at a noted auction house, I came across the following:

Timothy Pickering Autograph Letter Signed T. Pickering” as secretary of state. One page, 9.75″ x 8″, January 10, 1799, n.p. The letter, addressed to Dwight Foster, asks, “Have you got the Bridget? – Please let me know by the Beaver.” Both the Beaver and the Bridget were undoubtedly ships. At the time Pickering was involved in procuring ships for the United States Revenue Cutter Service to limit smuggling. Folds and wax seal marks, else fine. Estimate: $400 – $600.

Screen shot of listing at Heritage

Screen shot of listing

Now, aside from the fact that the Secretary of State wouldn’t likely be out buying ships for the Treasury Department (the US Revenue Cutter Service was started by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in 1790,) it took ninety seconds of research to determine that the recipient of this letter is Congressman Dwight Foster of Massachusetts, Chairman of the House Committee on Claims, thereby illuminating the correct reading of the letter:

“Have you got the Budget? Please let me know by the Bearer (of this letter)”

Scan of letter from heritage website

Scan of letter from auction website (click for full size)

Pickering was known for his strong pro-British sympathies, and was negotiating with Britain regarding the claims of Loyalists who lost property when run out of the Colonies during the Revolutionary War.  He is writing Foster, who as Chairman on the Committee on Claims, has finalized the budget for settling this year’s claims.  Coincidentally, the closest Pickering came to involvement with the US Revenue Cutter Service was having a cutter named for him since he was Secretary of State at the time it was built.

Unsurprisingly, the letter did not sell.

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Things I learned this week

Posted in Shop Talk  by Steven on September 25th, 2008

One of the neatest parts about this job is learning new things all the time.

While researching lots this week, I learned;

  • A “matross” is the old term for artillery crewman- he helped load, fire and sponge out the cannon.
  • “Diorama” was originally traveling theater presentation using painted linen panels and lighting to produce what was for then a stunning three-dimensional effect.
  • and I learned about the “Freedman’s Bank” established to help ex-slaves learn how to save and manage their money after the Civil War. It unfortunately collapsed, as so many banks did back then, from chicanery and fraud.

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