A circa 1860 studio camera that was used by Mathew Brady, the quintessential Civil War photo-documentarian and one of Americas greatest photographers, has been offered by Heritage Auctions
on Nov. 30 as part of its Americana & Political Memorabilia Signature® Auction.
Virtually every public figure of the Civil War era passed through Mathew Brady's Washington studio, said Tom Slater, Director of Historical Auctions at Heritage, and its thrilling to imagine that many of his iconic photographs may well have been taken with this very camera. Its a museum piece in the truest sense of the word.
Although no manufacturer's label is present on the camera itself, it is similar to examples made by H. J. Lewis of New York, circa 1860. The dark wood camera is fitted with a Petzval-type brass barrel lens bearing the serial number 1195. The Brady provenance is iron-clad.
Its accompanied by photocopies of original Bankruptcy Court records signed by Brady dating from April 1873, when he filed for bankruptcy, said Slater, listing this lens with its serial number in an inventory of his Operating Room equipment. The camera was also notably featured in a Sept. 23, 1957 Life Magazine article titled In Image of the Master, the Famous Photographs of Mathew Brady Are Matched Today with Pioneer's Own Camera.
Life photographer Ed Clark used this very camera to replicate Brady photos with modern equivalents. On page 124, Clark is shown using it to photograph President Eisenhower in a pose similar to a familiar Lincoln image taken by Brady during the Civil War. An original copy of that Life Magazine accompanies this lot. This camera is also pictured in full color on the inside back cover of Mathew Brady and His World, produced by Time-Life Books from pictures in the Meserve Collection. The picture is identified in the book as follows: This camera was used by Brady in the 1860's. To make an exposure, a prepared collodian negative was placed in a lightproof holder. The holder was placed in the camera and a panel removed to let the light in. A copy of the Time-Life volume based on the Meserve Collection referenced above is also included.