Underground Railroad items auction alert by Jean Libby, editor, Allies for Freedom
June 1, 2008
A group of artifacts are on auction at Wes Cowan auction house that are possibly a collection relating to the Underground Railroad. The auction house doesnt seem to know their American history well enough to describe them as such. Even more important than the salt print of bearded John Brown that is #629 in the June 5 auction catalog http://www.cowanauctions.com/upcoming_dates_view_item.asp?ItemId=59990&AuctionName=Western ) is a nine-piece lot daguerreotype, tintype, and associated images of an African American woman described as a slave mother who is clearly a free woman. She is also in male dress as would be used by an Underground Railroad Conductoror as a disguise in well-known incidents of freedom-seekers http://www.cowanauctions.com/upcoming_dates_view_item.asp?ItemId=61369&AuctionName=Western The John Brown photograph and slave mother (the same person in a male overcoat is identified as her son by the catalog writer) are close
together in the Lot numbers -- #627 and #629.
What is in a collection is as important as single artifacts, we learned when researching the collection of Civil War era guns in a Catonsville attic that formed the base of John Brown Mysteries by Allies for Freedom. Cowan does not identify the image sources, but nearby in Lot #s is a daguerreotype of Thaddeus Stevens and a fugitive slave advertisement, as well as more material about the Harpers Ferry raid (the Voorhees statement about John Cook). It must be that these were purchased
together. The owner and descent of the owner is equally important. I request Wes Cowan Associates to identify the owner or owners of these daguerreotypes, tintypes, and original prints of Thaddeus Stevens, John Brown, and African Americans which are listed together.
The salt print of John Brown that is #629 was spotted by a collector who wrote to me for information. That print is indeed a duplicate of the copyright registration print of the bearded photograph at the Library of
Congress. But it gets better: it is still in a mounting that identifies the image as photographed by Black and Batchelder of 173 Washington St. in Boston in 1858 and registered in the District Court of Massachusetts . The same salt print registered at the Library of Congress on December 12, 1859 by Black & Batchelder has the mounting removed.
You will notice that the catalog description by Wes Cowan Associates is very sloppy in copying and inaccurate of what is actually written on the mounting.
I have no sympathy for this inaccuracy by the Cowan Associates, who proclaim a Ph.D. in anthropology as its base and has been the recent seller of the daguerreotype of John Brown purchased by the Hall Foundation for the Nelson-Atkins Museum which came from the legacy of descendants of Annie Brown Adams to help with needed medical expenses.
Many of you are involved in the photo chronology of John Brown that is being prepared for presentation at the 150th anniversary of the Brown raid in October 2009. It is based on my published study in The Daguerreian Annual 2002-2003 and later research which is available online at the home page of www.alliesforfreedom.org as the John Brown photo chronology.
The study will be conducted by public history workshop groups around the country this fall. I am preparing packets of the photographs, a CD of the images, and documentation for the workshops for this project this summer. The workshop groups who are participating (and will have their own conclusions and experiences to be presented at the 150th) )are: Civil War Round Table in Santa Clara , California (Jean Libby organizer); Underground Railroad Workshop in Albany , New York (Paul Stewart, organizer);
Jefferson County Historical Association in Shepherdstown , West Virginia ( Evelyn M.E. Taylor, organizer).
Individual historians and photo experts are also on the research trail. We especially need a workshop done in Akron or Hudson , as the photographer of important images is
Benjamin Battels. There are art prints of two of these images at museums in Akron which are being studied by Dr. Theresa Leininger of the University of Cincinnati .
Please see the complete document, with references attached.
that an African American museum or archive can acquire the Underground Railroad artifacts and the collection will not be broken.
Jean Libby, editor
Allies for Freedom