Found in the LOC: 7 Augustus Washington Daguerreotypes

It’s unclear what ambitions Augustus Washington had growing up in Trenton, NJ, circa the 1820s and 1830s. It definitely wasn’t daguerreotypist. But a daguerreotypist he became – in 1843, to pay for his tuition at Dartmouth.

While growing student debt forced him from school one year later, daguerreotypes stuck, and became Washington’s bread and butter: He opened his own studio in Hartford, CT, in 1846, where he spent the next handful of years taking pictures of locals looking to experience his new-fangled technology.  Below you see an ad for said studio, with the caption, “Washington is at home, and daily executing beautiful and correct Miniatures, equal to any in this country, at his uncommonly cheap prices.”

But Washington was more than a talented artist. He was an activist. The son of a former slave father and an Asian mother, Washington fought racial injustice his whole life. But “that curious institution” of slavery was still extremely entrenched in the 1840s and 1850s; Washington was well aware he and his allies faced an uphill battle, and at times he felt hopeless, an emotion evident in this 1851 quote Washington gave the New York Tribune:

“Strange as it may appear, whatever may be a colored man’s natural capacity and literary attainments, I believe that, as soon as he leaves the academic halls to mingle in the only society he can find in the United States, unless he be a minister or lecturer, he must and will retrograde.”

Washington grew so frustrated with America’s intractable discrimination that in 1853 he moved his family – a wife and two children – to Liberia, where many like-minded black Americans were establishing their own nation.

Once there, Washington took his place behind the camera again, this time turning his lens to burgeoning Liberia’s political, military, and social elite. Below are a few of those images. In each and every one we see self-assuredness, independence and pride, all evidence of the subjects’ and Liberia’s determination to create something beautiful, a new world, from something grotesque, old hate.

These are some of Washington’s last professional images. He transitioned from daguerreotypes to the more lucrative sugar cane business in the late 1850s, and then to politics: He was both a congressman and senator in the 1860s, including a stint as speaker of Liberia’s House of Representatives, from 1865-1869. Washington died in 1875, having never again setting foot inside the States.

Here, in case you’re interested – and you should be – are lucky number 7 of Washington’s daguerreotypes, all taken during his early years in the then-new nation of Liberia, and all Found in the LOC.

  1. Unidentified man, half-length portrait, three-quarters to the left:

 

2. Stephen Allen Benson, head-and-shoulders portrait, three-quarters to the left:

 

3. Urias A. McGill, half-length portrait, facing front:

 

4. Unidentified man with beard, half-length portrait, full face:

 

5. Unidentified woman, probably a member of the Urias McGill family, three-quarter length portrait, facing front, holding daguerreotype case:

 

6. Jane Roberts, three-quarter length portrait of a woman, full face:

 

7. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, half-length portrait, full face:

Found in the LOC: 13 Woodcuts from 1720

For this week’s Found in the LOC, I present 13 gorgeous woodcuts by Tachibana Morikuni.

Information on Morikuni is few and far between, but I learned he was born in 1679 in Osaka, and was trained in the art of woodcutting by a man named Tsuruzawa Tanzan. I also discovered Morikuni published three books: 1714’s Ehon kojidan (Old Stories about Illustrated Picture Books), Ehon utsushi takarabukuro (A Treasure Pouch of Picture Book Sketches) in 1720, and Unpitsu soga (Strokes of the Brush and Rough Pictures), posthumously, in 1749, one year after his death.

His legacy, however, lived on his apprentice and son, Tachibana Yasukuni, whose work is also in the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress dates the Morikuni images here circa 1720. Featuring foxes, rams,  horses, cats, and even boars, Morkikuni’s art is quite the menagerie. Above you see “Domestic cat nursing kittens.” Some beauty never goes out of style.

And click here for more Found in the LOC.

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Found in the LOC: 13 Bill Perkins Costume Designs

For 2019’s first Found in the LOC, feast your eyes on these 13 thirties-era costume sketches by designer William Perkins.

I haven’t found too much  information about Perkins, but he clearly had a knack for the theatric and an eye for alluring style. Below, you’ll find costumes Perkins designed for a production of William Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, as well as some for Jack Erman’s  The Mystery of the Broadwalk Asylum, a sci-fi tale that, if the notes are correct, starred Martha Wright before she became Broadway sensation.

Most notable are Perkins’ designs for the 1938 premiere of activist Arthur Arent’s One-Third of A Nation.

Produced by the New Deal-era Federal Theater Project, One-Third condemned political leaders for the affordable housing crisis in New York City and other urban areas. The general message: slums and other dilapidated dehumanized and endangered innocent people for capitalist gain. It drew 270,000 viewers in the city alone, and even more once it toured across major urban areas.

You can imagine how this went over in DC: Conservative lawmakers were so incensed that they rallied their forces against the Federal Theater Project and forced its closure the next year.

Above, Perkins’ 1937 sketch of Winter’s Tale‘s Antigonus, the poor schmuck who gets eaten by a bear while abandoning a baby on the king’s orders. But at least he was wearing a gorgeous robe before becoming the beast’s dinner!

See more of Perkins’ mesmerizing sketches AFTER THE JUMP.

And click here for more Found in the LOC.

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Found in the LOC: 11 Winter Scenes for the Solstice

“Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Frozen ground,” Marjory Collins, 1943

Winter has arrived, and while the days will now get longer, the season’s here to stay for a minute.

To prepare us what’s to come, here are eleven gorgeous winter scenes captured between 1860-1943, including a shot from ICYI favorite Marion Post Wolcott, a few of a frozen-solid Niagara Falls, two showing the eerie, frost-bitten aftermath of the 1912 Equitable Building fire, and a 1901 shot of DC under deep freeze, which is perfect considering we’re currently this close to a government shutdown.

Ch-ch-check out all the frosty shots AFTER THE JUMP.

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Found in the LOC: 20 Old Newsstands, 1937-1943

(“Chicago, Illinois. Newsstand in Union Station train concourse, 1943,” Jack Delano)

Newspapers have played a central role in the American narrative since colonial days, when editors, writers, and just plain average folk used the media to make change. And papers remain just as important to our democracy today, as Trump and his allies try to twist reality to their own interests. And the American people know this; that’s why, even as print versions suffer and shutter, digital subscriptions to outlets like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal continue to soar – We want the truth!

To celebrate the newspaper and its essential place in our culture, here are 20 images of newsstands across America, from 1937-1942, taken by some of the greatest names in photography: Marjory Collins, Russell Lee,  Edwin Locke, Arthur Rothstein, and John Vachon.

What’s so incredible here is the wide, only-in-America spectrum of representation: From Japanese Americans reading magazines to Mexican Americans selling diarios, from Baltimore workers reading news about World War II to a New Yorker newsie lost in dozens of titles; from Minnesota to Memphis, Texas to Oregon, these are snapshots of America as it is and as it should always remain.  And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for some early editions of Detective Comics and Action Comics!

(“Los Angeles, California. Newsstand on a street corner, 1942,” Russell Lee)

Check out the whole collection AFTER THE JUMP!

And click here for more Found in the LOC!

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Found in the LOC: 15 Walker Evans ‘Praise’ Shots

Building off Tuesday’s post on James Agee, today’s Found in the LOC features 15 Walker Evans images taken for the men’s mutual project, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Evans (1903-1975) never dreamed of photographing the down-and-out while growing up in Chicago’s affluent suburbs. His first love was French literature, and it was that subject that consumed his early, and brief, college education at Williams College. Frustrated by American academia, Evans left Massachusetts to spend 1925 in Paris before returning to the US, specifically New York City, where he worked as a Wall Street clerk.

It wasn’t until 1928 that Evans began taking photos, and it began as just a hobby –  snapping the Brooklyn Bridge and historic Boston homes. But things got more serious as the decade drew to a close, and in 1931, Evans shot the images for Carleton Beals’ The Crime of Cuba, about life on the island under Gerardo Machado’s iron fist. This work caught the attention of officials at the New Deal government’s Resettlement Administration, which in 1935 dispatched Evans to cover the Great Depression in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. This role in turn led Evans into the Farm Security Administration, for which he did similar work, only in the South, paving the way for Evans’ work with James Agee on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and the production of singular images that became as synonymous with the era’s trials and tribulations as Dorothea Lange’s.

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Found in the LOC: “Thanksgiving Maskers”

Here’s a fun Thanksgiving fact: American kids used to celebrate the holiday by dressing as bums and other vagrants and went around the neighborhood asking for pennies, candy, and other treats. But it wasn’t as sweet as it sounds.

Check out some images from “Thanksgiving Masking” days past, AFTER THE JUMP.

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Found in the LOC: Cândido Portinari

For this week’s Found in the LOC, here are four neo-realism murals Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari completed for the Library of Congress’ Hispanic Reading Rooms in 1942. The LOC has way more detailed information than I can provide, and I encourage you to check out their essay.

“Discovery of the Land”

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Found in the LOC: 1970 Cartoon Looks, Sounds Like Trump

Illustrator Robert Osborn couldn’t have known in the early 1970s that Donald Trump would become president. At that point Trump was busy dodging Vietnam.

It’s therefore pretty incredible that today, hours after the New York Times published an op-ed from a Trump staffer claiming to be standing between our deranged president and chaos, I searched “incompetent” on Library of Congress’ website and found, first thing, this 1970-1973 Osborn drawing entitled “The Incompetent Carried by the Underlings.”

There’s no indication the titular incompetent is the President of the United States, but I couldn’t not make the connection, especially after reading this description: “A large, erect, Frankenstein-like creature stand[ing] with arms folded, carried by an army of small men who act as his feet.”

The resemblance is uncanny.

Here’s a detail. I would download a better quality image, but the file is only available at the actual LOC: