GENERAL HORACE PORTER, CIVIL WAR HERO, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR, AND DIPLOMAT


The subject of this cabinet card was a victim of mistaken identity. The gentleman in this image was identified as the ninth Governor of the state of Pennsylvania, David R. Porter. The previous owner of this photograph made the identification. After I purchased the card, I did some research and learned that David Porter was born in 1788 and died in 1867. The style of this photograph originated long after Porter’s death and I became upset at myself for beginning the identity confirmation process after paying for the photograph rather than before making the purchase. I had violated one of my basic rules for purchasing photographs of famous people. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Further research determined that the subject of the photograph is actually David Porter’s son, Horace Porter, who also was quite an accomplished man. The reverse of the photograph has an inscription “Amb. Porter” and this was the lead I followed to make the correct identity. The whole process was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I went from feeling foolish, as well as angry at the previous owner’s unintentional incorrect identification; to feeling happy about identifying the subject as a man who played an integral part in American history. Horace Porter (1837-1921) is most well known for his activities during the civil war. He served as a Lieutenant Colonel, Ordnance Officer, and Staff Officer in the Union Army. In 1866 he was appointed brevet Brigadier General in the U. S. Army. He was also personal secretary to General and President Ulysses S. Grant and to General William Sherman. Later, he was the Vice President of th Pullman Palace Car Company and the United States ambassador to France (1897-1905). Horace Porter was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. As stated earlier, he was the son of David R. Porter who who served as Pennsylvania’s Governor. His cousin, Andrew Porter was a Mexican-American War veteran and Union Army Brigadier General. Horace Porter was educated at Harvard University and graduated from West Point in 1860. He was distinguished in the Battle of Fort Pulaski (Georgia), Chickamauga, the Battle of the Wilderness, and New Market Heights. He received the Medal of Honor for his efforts at Chickamauga. He later wrote a memoir “Campaigning With Grant” (1897). The name of the photographer of this image is uncertain. It is difficult to decipher his printed name on the bottom of this photograph.  Owners of other images produced by this photographer refer to him as “Pessford”.  The script on the photograph could also be interpreted as “Bessford”.  There was a photographer in Hudson, Wisconsin listed by the 1880 census as James Bessford, but no evidence could be found linking him to this photograph. POSTNOTE: The photographer has been identified by a cabinet card gallery visitor as Joseph G. Gessford. Check out this entry’s comment section for the visitor’s informative and interesting  contribution.

FAMOUS CIVIL WAR PHOTOGRAPHER CAPTURES TWO WOMEN MAKING A FASHION STATEMENT IN SNOWY PAINESVILLE, OHIO

This cabinet card features two woman dressed in their winter cloaks and hats. They are in the studio of G. N. Barnard in Painesville, Ohio. The photograph has some special effects in the form of fake falling snow. The factor that makes this photograph most special, is the photographer’s life story. George N. Barnard (1819-1902), was a pioneer of nineteenth century photography. At age 23 he was producing daguerrotypes and four years later he opened his first studio in Oswego, New York. An 1853 grain elevator fire occurred in Oswego, and Barnard captured the fire with his camera. Some historians consider these photographs the first news photography in history. In 1854 he opened a short lived studio in Syracuse, New York. He then moved to New York City where he worked on stereoscopes for Edward Anthony’s Studio in 1859 .Soon, he was hired by Matthew Brady as a portrait photographer and Brady sent him to Washington D.C. to photograph Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration as President of the United States. He later became part of “Brady’s Photographic Corps” to photograph the Civil War. Barnard is best known  for his work in the civil war (1861-1865). He was the official army photographer for the Military Division of the Mississippi, commanded by Union General William T Sherman. Barnard’s book “Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign” is a photographic record of Sherman’s destructive Atlanta Campaign and subsequent March to the Sea. After the war, Barnard opened a studio in Chicago in 1869. The studio was destroyed in the “Great Fire” of 1871. He proceeded to take photographs of the rebuilding of Chicago over the next few years; providing a terrific record of that process. In 1884, Barnard opened his Painesville, Ohio studio; which brings us back to the cabinet card image of the two ladies in the snow.

LITERARY MAN STANDING NEXT TO ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN HAYWARD, WISCONSIN

Ok. So, he’s not exactly standing next to Abraham Lincoln but he is standing next to Abe’s picture on the binding of a very well known book of the time. The title of the volume is “Giants of The Republic”. The book was written by a “Corps of Competent Biographers” and covers the “lives, deeds and personal traits of eminent men and women” in American history. Some of the subjects profiled are Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Charles Sumner, William Sherman, Robert Fulton, John Jacob Astor, and Edgar Alan Poe. The well dressed gentleman in this cabinet card photograph must have thought that the book had historic potential or at the least, was worth remembering. It is unusual to see someone posing with a specific book title (unless its the bible). The book in this photograph is clearly meant to play a prominent role in the photograph. The photographer of this cabinet card is G. H. McElroy of Hayward, Wisconsin.