When Scott Valentine began collecting identified Civil War cartes de visite in the pre-digital age, he felt a desire to tell the stories behind the faces. The search for information about individual soldiers proved a daunting task, as knowledge of and access to primary source materials was limited and time consuming to track down. Communications with fellow collectors who might help were also limited compared to today’s internet and social media.
Valentine expanded his reach beyond collector’s shows and mail catalogs with a novel idea—The Regimental Gazette, a quarterly publication mailed to a select group of collectors. The compelling soldier stories he published started him on a storytelling journey that led to becoming a contributing editor to Military Images. Here, Valentine talks about how his start as a collector, writer and publisher began and evolved.
Q: How did you conceive the idea of The Regimental Gazette and what were your primary goals?
I created The Gazette because I wanted to connect with other collectors to exchange ideas and perhaps do some trading. In writing The Gazette, I didn’t want to present the big picture. I felt that it would desensitize the reader. Instead, I thought a small moment in time—a brief vignette—would humanize the Civil War for the reader and pay tribute to the individual soldier.
Q: Tell readers more about an issue. How many pages, stories, etc. When were the years of publication and how many issues did you produce?
The Regimental Gazette made its debut in the fall of 1993 and was thereafter published quarterly until the summer of 1997. In all there were 16 issues. It was initially a single sided page with a photo insert.
After about the second year of publication I expanded some articles to the other side of the sheet when merited. It contained a brief vignette of one soldier, a short blurb saying the image featured was available in trade and another blurb mentioning how I’d like to hear from other collectors.
Q: You mentioned how The Gazette started as an outgrowth of your collecting. How and when did you get started on your collecting journey? What became your focus?
I can’t remember not being interested in the Civil War. But I do remember, when I was about 18 or 19 years old, going to an antique mall and coming across an old leather carte de visite album with some Civil War images in it. The antique dealer said I could have the cartes for 50 cents each but if I wanted the album, it would cost $10. I think there were about 7 or 8 images in the album, and I bought them all, but didn’t buy the album. It was the start of my collection.
Up until then, I had only seen Civil War photographs in history books. It was a kind of an epiphany of sorts. I suddenly realized that you could own real Civil War photography.
When I bought my first identified carte de visite, I felt the need to research the soldier’s background, no easy task in the pre-digital age. From then on, I collected for the most part cartes that promised to tell a story.
Q: Your writings have appeared in numerous issues of MI. Tell readers about how you started writing for the magazine and any connections with The Gazette.
Well, as an early subscriber to MI, I initially sent some cartes de visite to [founding Editor and Publisher] Harry Roach for publication. After reading some of the articles in MI, I realized that it was my obligation to write about the soldiers in my collection. I sent Harry some short vignettes and next thing you know they were in print. Later, I sent Harry some of my Gazette articles for publication. I continued sending articles to Editors Phil Katcher and Dave Neville during their tenure and now it is my pleasure to send them to you.
Q: Who are your collecting mentors?
Henry Deeks, John Sickles, Ronn Palm and Mike McAfee. I learned a lot from these fine gentlemen. Made some good trades with them all and bought a bunch of stuff from Henry. The first photo show I went to at the old Pennsylvania Hotel across from Penn Station in New York City was where I met Henry for the first time. I got to see Ronn and Mike at numerous militaria shows and corresponded with them both. Regretfully, I never got to meet John face to face, but we spoke on the phone often.
Q: How did The Gazette shape you as a collector?
Producing The Gazette made me appreciate the hardship and the sacrifice of the men who fought in the Civil War, and made me realize how important it was to write about these gallant men. I value and hold dear the cartes de visite I have in my collection and miss the ones I’ve traded or sold. But for the most part, The Gazette helped me to meet other collectors and share “war” stories about collecting, preserving, and writing.
Q: What were the biggest challenges publishing The Gazette?
While The Gazette was a publication on a much smaller scale than MI, I think you can appreciate how difficult it is to write an article, edit the article, have the article printed up, and get it out on time. But I think the biggest challenge was conceptualizing the story I wanted to tell my audience and keep it short enough to fit on one page.
Q: Greatest joys?
To have created something from scratch that allowed me to get to know some real fine people and enjoy doing it.
Q: The Digital Age dramatically impacted collectors before the internet came along. How did it change you? Did it impact your work with The Gazette?
It became easier shopping online then hunting down images at shows and shops, although I do miss going to small antique shops and haggling with antique dealers. The Gazette, by the time I got up and running digitally, had already been put to bed.
Q: Why did you decide to end the publication?
After writing for MI for a while, I realized my articles were reaching a much larger audience, and I felt The Gazette had become superfluous.
Q: The Gazette is an important contribution to Civil War writings. Are the issues available?
Digital issues of The Regimental Gazette are available upon request. The cartes de visite are no longer available for sale or trade.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about you as a collector or your publication of The Gazette?
Over the years I’ve come to realize how important it is to tell as many stories as I could of as many of the brave men, North and South, who served in the Civil War. They deserve to be remembered. The Regimental Gazette was a labor of love; who knows, it may prove to be the seed for new endeavors.
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