both 13.5 x 11.5", containing 45 exquisitely hand-tinted 6 x 8" albumen photographs, each mounted to heavy cream-colored cardstock with gilt edges. Each image captioned in inked manuscript hand. These images document the uniforms of the various branches of the United States Army -- Infantry, Artillery, and Cavalry.
The origins of these images are not well known; they are exceptionally rare, but at the same time well-known to many collectors and scholars. Illustrations made from these plates appear consistently in the literature describing uniforms and equipment of the Union. Most of these are included in a reprint edition of the Uniform Regulations for the Army of the United States 1861(Howell, 1961).
In his introduction to the reprint, Howell notes that the 38 glass plates curated at the National Museum of American History (a Smithsonian division) were transferred from the Quartermaster General's office "many years ago" with no other provenance. Neither the photographer, nor the place of the studio in which the photographs were taken is known. Based upon interviews with other scholars, Howell suggests that they may have been taken in Philadelphia. This is entirely logical.
Uniform production and manufacture had been located at the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia since the War of 1812. During the Civil War, various Union Depots employed more than 10,000 seamstresses and tailors. Howell and others have suggested that the images offered here may have been made to supply contractors with a "template" to ensure quality control.
While the photographs are undated, many of the images depicting various Cavalry uniforms show the model holding a Spencer repeating carbine, which did not come into favor with the Ordnance Department until 1863 (Woodhead 1998:60-61). Marcot (1990:66) notes that the first 3000 Spencer carbines were not delivered to the Ordnance Department until October, 1863.
At least one of the images shows an infantry private prominently displaying a Model 1864 cartridge box. Assuming the images display the most "up-to-date" equipment of the Army, the photographs were probably taken in 1863-1864.
A stunning and incomparably rare compilation. A sample of the images are shown here; the remainder are viewable at www.Cowans.com.
Both volumes rebound in contemporary buckram. Tonality of images and hand-coloring is excellent.
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