Myrtle Avenue Clothiers presents:
A Closer Look...
with Jason Wickersty and Marc Hermann
GREETINGS, readers, and inquisitive viewers. Welcome to the first online edition of "A Closer Look." In this space, we will challenge the myth that photographs from the Civil War era are doomed to be faded and grainy. Naturally, they will be so after being reprinted generation after generation, but fortunately we are able to see many of these images as they originally were. The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division has thousands of original glass plate negatives which have been scanned in to computers at a high resolution, allowing us to see details many of us never dreamed of seeing.
As living historians, this information is invaluable to us as we endeavor to not only fine-tune our military and civilian impressions, but also because it helps us learn a thing or two about material culture and life in general of the mid-19th century.
Our first offering is "LC-B817- 7718", showing the headquarters of the U.S. Christian Commission at 8th and H Sts. NW in Washington, D.C., taken around April, 1865.
AREAS OF DETAIL.
1. Documentation of the first "Take Your Children to Work" Day? Here we see some fashions characteristic of younger people in 1865. Note the shawl and hat of the girl at far left, and the lengths of the skirts. The shoes are pretty interesting, too.
2. What have they got in there, anyway? Looking through the window we can see piles of folded blankets? Clothes? Keep that view in mind, we get another look in there later.
3. Is it a federal offense to read other people's crates? Here is a view of how care packages and crates distributed through the U.S.C.C. might have been addressed. Could the recipient of this box possibly be Daniel Day of the 2nd NJ Cavalry? Maybe not, there was also one in the 9th Illinois Cavalry! Either way, it's pretty clear that he's "dismounted" now.
4. Expect to do a lot of prayin' when the Chaplain's around. And the fellow on the right has come prepared -- just in case his wrists are exposed too long, he won't have to worry about being cold!
Quite a crowd, indeed -- but it gets busier later in the day, as we see in "LC-B817- 7720."
AREAS OF DETAIL.
1. It's everywhere you want to be. Adams Express delivers again! And what is in that haversack? You gonna eat all that?
2. She'd be in the way if she weren't so pretty. Through the doorway, we get another look at what the U.S.C.C. had on its shelf. And, as long as she's there, we can admire the lady's spoon bonnet and the trim on her skirt.
3. This poor fellow who has lost a leg is interesting because of what he's wearing. It looks to be a variation on the New York State jacket, which is popularly believed to not have been issued or worn as late as 1865, when this image was taken!
4. Ron Howard?? No, probably not. But a stylish young fellow. Note the "bowler" manner in which he wears his hat, which will soon come to be the predominant fashion for men's casual hats. Also, the sack coat worn buttoned at the top.
5. Please be mindful of your personal belongings! Perhaps we shouldn't complain about this encumbrance on the sidewalk, as we see an interesting bedroll consisting of a gum blanket and straps.
And, a bonus image for those who, like us, are nitpicky about the minutiae of military drill. This one comes from "LC-B811- 201," which was taken by Timothy O'Sullivan at Port Royal, South Carolina.
Note the position of the stock -- parallel to the outer side of the left hip -- and the straightness of the piece. The weapon is carried in an almost perfectly vertical manner.
Check this page every few weeks where we'll be putting more images under the microscope!