Yale’s Beinecke Library Buys Vast Collection of Lincoln Photos


Abraham Lincoln last visited New Haven in March 1860, when, as a likely presidential candidate, he gave a speech on slavery. He is now set for a triumphal return.
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Libraryat Yale University will announce Monday that it has purchased one of the largest private collections of 19th-century American photography, devoted primarily to Lincoln and the Civil War, from the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation, run by the family that has collected and preserved the material for five generations.
The Meserve-Kunhardt Collection, with more than 73,000 items, includes 57,000 prints, as well as thousands of books, pamphlets, maps and theater broadsides. “It is of enormous value,” said James M. Cornelius, the curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. “Without question, it has the largest holdings of images of Lincoln and his circle that we know of.”
Among the highlights are a large-format albumen portrait of Lincoln in 1863 by Alexander Gardner, a vintage print of Mathew Brady’s “Cooper Union” portrait of Lincoln, a Gardner print of Lincoln’s second inaugural that shows John Wilkes Booth in the crowd, and a glass negative of Brady’s portrait of Lincoln with his son Tad. The collection also includes other Lincoln artifacts, such as the library from his Springfield home and Lincoln family scrapbooks.
“This is not an area we had focused on,” said George Miles, the senior curator at the Beinecke Library. “But because the collection is so comprehensive, it allows us to go from being weak to remarkably strong in one acquisition.”
Peter W. Kunhardt Sr., a board member with the family foundation, directed by his son Peter W. Kunhardt Jr., said: “We knew the foundation could do a good job of preserving and cataloging the collection, but not for the long haul. It needs to be housed in an institution under better conditions.”
Since 2009, the collection has been stored at the art museum and library at Purchase College, part of the State University of New York. Six weeks ago it was moved to the foundation’s new offices in Pleasantville, N.Y., which also house the photographic archive of Gordon Parks.
The opening of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, a research and conservation center on Yale’s West Campus, was a powerful incentive to place the collection with the university, as did plans to add a research center for photographic conservation, the Lens Media Laboratory. Because Yale has both a rare books library and an art museum, the material will be divided accordingly this fall.
Yale purchased the collection with support from the Rice Family Foundation, which brought the two parties together. “We’ve committed a very significant part of our acquisition budget to this,” said Mr. Miles, who declined to give the purchase price or the size of the acquisition budget. The Kunhardt family also declined to discuss the price paid for the collection.
It comes with a family story that begins on the battlefields of the Civil War. William Neal Meserve, a Union soldier, was wounded twice at Antietam and served in the Wilderness Campaign under Ulysses S. Grant, rising to the rank of major. Along the way, he kept a diary in a series of small notebooks.
“After the war, he suffered from what we would call post-traumatic stress,” Mr. Kunhardt Sr. said. “He was on track to become a dentist, but he lost it. He became a traveling preacher and deserted his family.”
In the late 1890s, Frederick Hill Meserve, William’s son, tried to re-establish a relationship. Writing to his father in California, he proposed a joint project. If his father would transcribe the diaries and Frederick would find the photographs to illustrate the text, which ended up filling two large volumes.
In 1897, at Bangs auction house on Lower Fifth Avenue, Frederick paid $1.10, sight unseen, for a package of 100 salt prints made in the late 1850s and early 1860s. It contained portraits of eminent figures like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert E. Lee, all in pristine condition. “That night I had my first experience of the sensation of intoxication, the only kind I have ever experienced, that comes with the possession of a rare find,” he later recalled.
The fever was stoked when he visited a warehouse in Jersey City that contained thousands of discarded glass negatives from Brady’s studio, most of them used to make the small, inexpensive portraits known as cartes de visite. The trove included seven life negatives of Lincoln.
He bought them all, more than 10,000 plates. Nearly 5,500 of them went to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington in 1981, including the famous “cracked plate” portrait of Lincoln, a one-off outtake by Gardner, one of Brady’s operatives. Taken on Feb. 5, 1865, the portrait has a horizontal line running across the top third of the photo, reproducing a crack in the photographic plate.
The Lincoln material seized Frederick’s imagination. He set the goal of acquiring and cataloging every Lincoln photograph in existence. In 1911, he published “Photographs of Abraham Lincoln,” a landmark work with 100 portraits. “It was the lodestar for understanding Lincoln’s visual presence,” said Mr. Cornelius, the Springfield curator.
Frederick’s Lincoln collection had already provided the image on the 1909 Lincoln penny and its photographs would later be used for the engraving on the $5 bill, the statue in the Lincoln Memorial and the giant Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.
To place Lincoln in context, Frederick began gathering photographs that would illustrate the era. In time, he amassed about 8,000 portraits in 28 volumes, starting with Lincoln’s cabinet and his political contemporaries, and expanding to include the entire officer corps of the Union Army (and all but three of the Confederacy’s), along with actors, writers and notables from all walks of life. He called it “an American national portrait gallery.” The family calls it “the opus.”
 “He saved from utter destruction and loss thousands of glass-plate negatives and prints from Brady and other photographers of the era,” Mr. Cornelius said. “This, at a time when collecting Americana was a low-grade activity.”
Virtually anything that pertained to America in the 1860s made its way into the collection, including handwritten daily meteorological observations for Washington, compiled for the Smithsonian Institution. One day is missing: On April 15, 1865, the day Lincoln died, part of the entry reads: “This horrible transaction made such an impression on me that I neglected to record the temperature at 2 and 10 p.m.”
On the flip side of a carte de visite with the portrait of Booth, an unknown hand inscribed the following order: “Do recognize him somewhere and kill him.” The origin of the card is unclear, although William Meserve, in charge of a fort near Washington, took part in the manhunt for Booth and his accomplices the night of the murder.
Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt, Frederick’s daughter, worked closely with her father for years and made some key discoveries along the way. She found 600 volumes from Lincoln’s personal library in a used bookstore in Springfield and through a caretaker of Lincoln’s Springfield home she obtained his family scrapbooks. Dorothy was also a highly successful author of children’s books, including “Pat the Bunny.”
Succeeding generations have used the collection as the basis for nearly a dozen books and several documentaries, produced by Mr. Kunhardt’s company, Kunhardt Films. “The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln” has just been published by Steidl. “Living With Lincoln,” an hourlong documentary about the Kunhardt family and the collection, will be broadcast April 13 on HBO.

Jeff Rosenheim, the curator in charge of the department of photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used the collection extensively for his 2013 exhibition “Photography and the American Civil War.” “There are archives that change what you think you know,” he said. “This is one of them.”

Gambino betting ring leads to guilty plea

Posted on March 26, 2015 | By Michael P. Mayko

STAMFORD-A New York City bookmaker’s involvement in a mob-controlled gambling operation here now faces a year in prison and a loss of $160,988.
Salvatore Ferraioli, 33, of Staten Island, N.Y. pleaded guilty to failing to file a wagering tax return in 2011 during proceedings Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in the Hartford federal courthouse.
Bryant set sentencing for June 17. At that time, Ferraioli faces not only a year in prison but an order to pay back taxes, penalties and interest.
Court documents disclose that Ferraioli was part of a multi-million dollar gambling operation headed by Dean DePreta of Stamford and Richard Uva formerly of Trumbull.
DePreta has been described as the “titular head” of the Gambino crime family’s operation in southwestern Connecticut. He was sentenced to 71 months in prison for his role in the operation. Uva, DePreta’s long time friend who federal prosecutors described as “the chief operating officer” for the Gambino betting ring was sentenced to 46 months in prison for his role.
The gambling operation involved an internet website in Costa Rica and gambling houses in Stamford and Hamden.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hal Chen and Peter Jongbloed. The FBI and IRS Criminal Division along with the Bridgeport, Stamford and State police.

State Mulls Ban on Sale of Ivory Products

by Jordan Fenster

A public hearing was held Wednesday on a bill that would prohibit the sale in Connecticut of products made out of ivory and rhinoceros horn.

A federal ban on elephant ivory enacted in 2014, puts some limitations on the commercial sale and non-commercial possession of ivory products, but Connecticut’s bill, Raised Bill No. 6955, would go significantly further.

As written the measure specifies that “No person shall import, sell, offer for sale, purchase, barter or possess with the intent to sell, any ivory, ivory product, rhinoceros horn or rhinoceros horn product.”

The bill defines ivory as “any tooth or tusk, or any part thereof, that is composed of ivory from any animal, including, but not limited to, any elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, narwhal, walrus or whale or any piece thereof.”

Animal-rights activists spoke vociferously in favor of the measure, and though antique dealers and museum operators testifying before the legislator’s Environment Committee were sympathetic to the plight of elephants and rhinos, they urged lawmakers to alter the proposal.

Charles Mathes, president of Visibles Inc., a publisher and licenser of fine art, said the measure would “literally take money out the pockets of collectors.”

“Of course everyone wishes to save the elephants, but making it impossible to buy or sell ivory that was made into artifacts a hundred years ago benefits no one — including elephants,” he said.

Susan Talbott, director and CEO of Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, suggested the bill be tweaked to allow museums to acquire antique ivory artwork, and to redefine the term antique, as it relates to ivory-based products, to objects created prior to 1976.

Should the bill pass as it is written, “The Wadsworth Atheneum would not be able to acquire important artworks made with or from ivory, nor would the institution be permitted to participate in international exhibitions and loans with foreign lenders,” Talbott told committee members.

Connecticut has a long and complicated history with ivory, as Jody Blankenship, executive director of the Connecticut Historical Society told committee members Wednesday.

“In the 1700s lasting through World War II, the village of Ivoryton and other areas in the lower Connecticut River Valley held a monopoly on the importation and manufacture of ivory products in the United States,” she said. “This industry led to the exploitation of the African Bush Elephant and enslavement of thousands of humans. Our history reveals the negative outcomes of the ivory trade and how consumer demand for ‘exotic’ materials can lead to the endangerment of a species.”

Amy Gagnon, a historian from New Britain, told committee members that local towns with a history in the ivory trade have attempted to make “reparations” for acts she called “inhumane and illegal.”

“A little over a century ago, 90 percent of the nation’s ivory came into the country via Deep River and Essex. In these quaint Connecticut towns at the mouth of the river, thousands upon thousands of tusks made their way to our shores and people made fortunes from this ivory,” she wrote. “Today, we witness the consequences of this on a regular basis as town leaders, residents, and descendants of the families who facilitated the ivory business in Deep River and Essex strive to make reparations to this dark history through education, programs, and awareness.”

Allen Sandico, CEO of the Seattle-based Tusk Task Force, said in written testimony that the black market in ivory has helped fund terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.

“Connecticut has the tremendous opportunity to mitigate the funding of terrorism by banning all commerce related to ivory and rhino horn,” he said.

Both New York and New Jersey already have bans on ivory products in place. Several other states, including Oregon and California, are considering a similar ban.

Noted in passing

Angelo Santaniello (90) retired Connecticut Supreme Court justice who wrote more than 100 majority opinions during his nine years on the high court. Santaniello became a state judge in 1966 and served on the Supreme Court from '85–94. He was especially noted for his work settling cases at the appellate level. He died in New London, Connecticut on March 1, 2015.

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Connecticut Historical Society wants kids to submit objects that represent their Connecticut experiences

By John Burgeson

From a press release:
Hartford – While adults’ Connecticut experience may be represented by a family heirloom, a community symbol or a meaningful document, product or photo, kids have their own great ideas of what makes our state special.
As part of Connecticut: 50 Objects/50 Stories, its crowdsourced history treasure hunt and upcoming exhibit, the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) is reaching out to families, schools and community organizations. With support from their families and teachers, they’re encouraging kids ages 4-14 to submit their special object or story for the Connecticut Kids: Your Objects, Your Stories project.
The objects that Connecticut kids submit to the exhibit could be related to a special memory. They could represent unique or fun aspects of where their families live in Connecticut. The object could represent family traditions, or a favorite hobby or activity.
CHS will choose a selection of kids’ objects to appear in a pop-up exhibit at their 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, museum on Saturday, June 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. That day, children and their families are invited to see the objects and participate in activities that celebrate the kids’ stories.
Under a parent or guardian’s supervision, kids can submit the object through CHS’s online form at chs.org/ctkids. The deadline for submission is April 30.
Want to learn what objects have been suggested to date from across the state? Check them out in CHS’s 50 Objects Gallery at http://chs.org/50objects/.

For more information on the Connecticut Kids: Your Objects, Your Stories exhibit, email the Connecticut Historical Society at ask_us@chs.org or call 860-236-5621.

Facts About Connecticut History: 6 Things You Might Not Know

 By Jason Gray

The Constitution State has a long and colorful history. However, the state seems more known these days for being home to more insurance professionals per capita than any other state in the country as well as the headquarters for ESPN. But some of the other facts about Connecticut will surprise even the most die-hard New Englander.

1. The first nuclear submarine was launched in Connecticut.
The Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, built the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear powered submarine, in 1954. The submarine made history by being the first ship to cross the North Pole. The sub is now part of the Submarine Force Museum in Groton. Electric Boat, now part of General Dynamics, remains the top submarine shipbuilder for the U.S. Navy.

2. Connecticut has always been the "Arsenal of the Nation."
The nuclear submarines of Electric Boat or the attack helicopters of United Technologies trace their roots in Connecticut culture back to native son Samuel Colt's Hartford-based gunsmith company. Eli Whitney developed a way to make muskets from interchangeable parts in 1798, which led to a federal order for 15,000 muskets, according to the Connecticut Post. The Gatling Gun and Tommy Gun were also developed and built in Connecticut.

3. The Constitution State nickname doesn't refer to the U.S. Constitution.
The Fundamental Orders of 1639 was the first written constitution of a democratic government. It remained the colony's law for 23 years and provided for election of a governor and six magistrates, according to the Bill of Rights Institute.

4. I'll drink to that: Connecticut one of only two states that voted against Prohibition.
Connecticut and Rhode Island were the only two states to reject the 18th Amendment and prohibition at first. Connecticut eventually ratified it after it had already been adopted by the U.S. Constitution, but it failed its first vote in the state Senate by a vote of 20 to 14.

5. Naming the state after the river.
 The word “Connecticut” comes from the Algonquian “Quinnitukqut,” which means “at the long tidal river,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. It is one of eight state names that come from Algonquian language roots. Luckily for people trying to remember how to spell it, Noah Webster of his eponymous dictionary was born in Connecticut.

6. Home of the second largest casino in the country.
Mashantucket, Connecticut, is home to the Foxwoods Resort Casino and its 344,000 square feet of gaming space. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe owns the casino, which is located on their reservation land.
Twenty-five percent of slot machine revenue goes to the state, resulting in more than $3.2 billion in state revenue since Foxwoods added slot machines in 1994, according to the Harford Courant.

Foxwoods' record as the largest casino was lost in 2013 when the WinStar World Casino expansion opened in Thackerville, Oklahoma. 

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