Our buddy, Dr. Dale, is a man of many interests, one of which is all things Civil War. He knows the stories, has visited the battlefields and even owned guns, photographs and other memorabilia from the War. He's done a little family history research in the hopes of finding an ancestor who served in the War as he loves that era but so far his search has turned up empty.
As with many collectors, things have their seasons. He had quite the collection of Civil War era guns at one time but he's pretty much out of the business now. And he recently decided he was ready to sell two antique photos so some other collector could hold and treasure them for a while. When he encountered difficulty getting good pictures of them for his listing, he called on us. It was a job Wayne was happy to turn over to me and my DSLR with the macro lens.
The two items are photos of Union soldiers mounted in small cases held together with the tiniest hooks and eyes you've ever seen. The whole case is only about 3" high and perhaps .5" thick. If I learned my lesson right from Dr. Dale when I returned them, this one is an ambrotype where the photography image is produced on a glass plate. In fact, they're referred to as 1/9th plates as apparently the photographer was able to get nine images on one glass plate then cut them apart, thus making the small size.
I was amazed at all the detail in the small metal frame that holds the photograph. In addition to the phrase "The Union now and forever," there's a drum, sword, cannon and cannon balls. The embossing on those items is quite subtle but the decorative edge at the sides is far more pronounced.
This one required more work to get an acceptable image. This photo is a tintype so it was much darker to begin with and probably more faded as well. I could actually use the scanner on it then manipulate it in Photoshop to bring out as much of the photo as possible. And while this frame is embossed as well, the design is just decorative...nothing scenic about it.
For each of the two cases, I did front, back and standing views then the one detail view on the frame with words.
It was cool to be able to do this...hold history in my hands. It's no secret that I have a thing for old photographs anyway but to stare into eyes looking back at me from roughly 150 years ago is amazing. The cases and photographs are in remarkable condition given their age. And like too many of the really old photos we have, I longed to know who these men were and what their stories were. That, of course, isn't going to happen but I still enjoyed the chance to see them and learn about the process behind them. And, of course, to do a favor for a friend. It made for an interesting twist on an otherwise ho-hum day.