At the Franklin Show last December, I had the opportunity to hold a newly discovered ambrotype of a soldier posed with a “Jeff. Davis and the South!” placard. The owner of this rare image, Josh O’Keefe, told me how he came to find it in the contents of a storage unit he won at auction. Josh, who is not an image collector, sought more information about the tintype, and his photo sleuthing led to our meetup in Franklin. His story of discovery, and the rarity of the portrait, inspired Rick Brown and me on our own journey to take a fresh look at this unique group of images. You can learn more about Josh’s find, and the results of the survey, in this issue.
In January, collector Mark Jones emailed me about his new find, a previously unknown and unpublished stereo card of the band of the 3rd Vermont Infantry at Camp Baxter in St. Johnsbury. Mark’s enthusiasm captured my attention, and led to him sending an insured priority mail package containing his discovery. You can see the image in our Stragglers section.
The stories of Mark and Josh remind me of the boundless energy that binds the collecting community. I marvel over the notion that 160 years after the nation plunged into civil war, and 60 years after the birth of the modern collecting movement, we’re still unearthing photographic treasures to document those turbulent, troubled times.
What makes a photographic treasure? It’s in the eye of the beholder. A son of the South with a placard. New England musicians. A sharpshooter holding his trusty rifle. Unusual bits of material culture. Distinctive uniforms. Rare weapons. An ancestor. The list goes on and on.
Researching and publishing these treasures adds to their intrinsic value and our understanding of the Civil War period. We are history detectives, driven by our innate curiosity to follow a trail of evidence and solve mysteries.
This column is a shout out to everyone who keeps history alive and the collecting community vibrant. Your thrill of the hunt, your joy of discovery, lie at the core of what we do. Onward!
Ronald S. Coddington
Editor & Publisher
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