SIXTH PLATE AMBROTYPE OF YOUNG DRUMMER IN ZOUAVE UNIFORM

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Item Code: 1138-1927

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Elmer Ellsworth’s 1860 tour of the country with his United States Zouave Cadets set off a craze for zouave fashion in general and their light infantry style drill among militia units in particular. This youngster is uniformed very closely to the style and color pattern of Ellsworth’s company as portrayed widely in newspaper illustrations and popular sheet music celebrating that tour and accompanying drill competitions.

No more than seven years old or so, he wears a kepi with red top and lower band of darker color, with a zouave jacket faced in red and piped in yellow, with a multitude of buttons down each edge of the open lapels and with tall pointed plackets with chevrons on the cuffs. Like his cap and jacket trim, his pants have been expertly colored a brick red and the body of his drum has a reddish-brown tint. He holds drumsticks and his snare drum, appropriate to his size, hangs from a plain white sling, positioned ready to play. Under the sling you can make out a zouave style vest, or shirt patterned to suggest one.

The plate has some minor scattered rubs, but nothing that can detract from the image. It is matted, glassed, framed, and housed in a leatherette case that seems to be the original one for it. The boy’s name, Eli H. Michael, is written in period pencil in the back of the case, which is copied in a more modern notation on a piece of tape on the back of the image. We have found a couple of candidates in census records in both northern and southern states, but nothing definitive. It is a strong image regardless, a combination of innocence and evocative of the period with the approaching national crisis. [sr] [ph:m]

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