STRIKING SIXTH PLATE DAGUERREOTYPE OF AN AMERICAN MILITIA DRUMMER

$1,500.00

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Item Code: 2021-789

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This is an intensely interesting daguerreotype dating about 1852-55. It has all the clarity and contrast that you expect in a good daguerreotype and uses a dark background cloth to emphasize the single figure. The subject is a young man with serious expression and pretty new mustache looking off to the viewer’s right. He wears US 1851 pattern shako with US eagle plate at top center. Instead of a U.S. regulation pompom, he sports a plume of dark feathers. The front of the shako has a regulation infantry hunting horn insignia, over which are three letters designating his unit, which, allowing for reversal of the image, seems to be “SBB.” He wears a dark frock coat with lighter color lapel, cuff and collar trim, the latter two also having some sort of embroidered or applied insignia in the angles of the piping, which might be large stars. He has narrow shoulder straps, likely for a pair of full-dress epaulets he has not worn to the photographer’s studio.

Around his shoulders, our man wears wide drum sling, that is probably a thick web and multicolor: two wide stripes and slightly narrower central one run along the sling’s length. The stripes appear to have a very thin, red tint delicately applied by the artist, as do the drummer’s cheeks.

The drummer holds his sticks against the head of the drum, ready to play, and the drum, a typical rope-tension snare drum of the period, is angled for play. Most unusual, however, is the drum’s painted decoration, which seems to be a large, frontal bust portrait of a native American. A number of fraternal organizations adopted Indian nicknames, but we can’t think of another such painted representation on a drum other than as part of a state seals. Of course, this might well be specific to the drummer’s particular band unit, rather than a larger fraternal or militia group with which it functioned. In any case, it is quite remarkable and worth pursuing, perhaps in representations of militia units and bands on contemporary sheet music.

The image is cased in simple leather covered folding hard case with lyre clasp. It is fully glassed and the simple mat seems contemporary with the image, which we would date to the early-to-mid 1850s.  [sr] [ph:m]

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