World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Mathew Brady

Article Id: WHEBN0000440855
Reproduction Date:

Title: Mathew Brady  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: U.S. presidents on U.S. postage stamps, William Tecumseh Sherman, 19th century, John Bell (Tennessee politician), Jacob Collamer
Collection: 1822 Births, 1896 Deaths, 19Th-Century American Journalists, 19Th-Century Journalists, 19Th-Century Photographers, Abraham Lincoln in Art, American Male Journalists, American People of Irish Descent, American Photographers, American Photojournalists, Burials at the Congressional Cemetery, People from New York City, People from Warren County, New York, People of New York in the American Civil War, People of Washington, D.C. in the American Civil War, Pioneers of Photography, Portrait Photographers, War Photographers, World Digital Library Related
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mathew Brady

Mathew Brady
Mathew Brady in 1875
Born (1822-05-18)May 18, 1822
Warren County, New York, US
Died January 15, 1896(1896-01-15) (aged 73)
New York City, New York
Occupation Photographer, photojournalist
Nationality American
Spouse Juliette Handy Brady


Mathew B. Brady (May 18, 1822 – January 15, 1896) was one of the first American photographers, best known for his scenes of the Civil War.

He studied under inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, who pioneered the daguerreotype technique in America. Brady opened his own studio in New York in 1844, and photographed Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, among other celebrities. When the Civil War started, his use of a mobile studio and darkroom enabled vivid battlefield photographs that brought home the reality of war to the public. Thousands of war scenes were captured, as well as portraits of generals and politicians on both sides of the conflict, though most of these were taken by his assistants, rather than by Brady himself.

After the war, these pictures went out of fashion, and the government did not purchase the master-copies, as he had anticipated. Brady’s fortunes declined sharply, and he died in debt.


  • Early years 1
  • Civil War documentation 2
  • Later years and death 3
  • Legacy and people photographed 4
  • Photography exhibition: "The Dead of Antietam" at Brady's New York gallery October 1862 5
  • Related images 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early years

Brady was born on May 18, 1822 in Irish immigrant parents, Andrew and Samantha Julia Brady.[1] At age 16 he moved to Saratoga, New York, where he met famed portrait painter William Page. Brady became Page's student. In 1839 the two traveled to Albany, New York, and then to New York City, where Brady continued to study painting with Page, and also with Page's former teacher, Samuel F. B. Morse.[2] Morse had met Louis Jacques Daguerre in France in 1839, and returned to the US to enthusiastically push the new daguerreotype invention of capturing images. At first, his involvement was limited to manufacturing leather cases that held daguerreotypes.[3] But soon he became the center of the New York artistic colony that wished to study photography. He opened a studio and offered classes; Brady was one of the first students.[4] In 1844 Brady opened his own photography studio in New York,[5] and by 1845 he began to exhibit his portraits of famous Americans, including the likes of Senator Daniel Webster and poet Edgar Allen Poe. He opened a studio in Washington, D.C. in 1849, where he met Juliet (whom everybody called 'Julia') Handy, whom he married in 1851 and lived with on Staten Island. [6] [7] Brady's early images were daguerreotypes, and he won many awards for his work; in the 1850s ambrotype photography became popular, which gave way to the albumen print, a paper photograph produced from large glass negatives most commonly used in the American Civil War photography. In 1850 Brady produced The Gallery of Illustrious Americans, a portrait collection of prominent contemporary figures. The album, which featured noteworthy images including the elderly Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage, was not financially rewarding but invited increased attention to Brady’s work and artistry.[2] In 1854, Parisian photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri popularized the carte de visite and these small pictures (the size of a visiting card) rapidly became a popular novelty as thousands of these images were created and sold in the United States and Europe.

In 1856 Brady placed an ad in the New York Herald paper offering to produce "photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes."[8] This inventive ad pioneered, in the USA, the use of typeface and fonts that were distinct from the text of the publication and from that of other advertisements.[9]

Civil War documentation

Soldier guarding arsenal Washington, D.C., 1862.

At first, the effect of the Civil War on Brady's business was a brisk increase in sales of cartes de visite to transient soldiers. In fact, Brady readily marketed to parents the idea of capturing their young soldiers' images before they might be lost to war by running an ad in The New York Daily Tribune that warned, "You cannot tell how soon it may be too late."[3] However, he was soon taken with the idea of documenting the war itself. He first applied for permission to travel to the battle sites to an old friend, General Winfield Scott, and eventually he made his application to President Lincoln himself. Lincoln granted permission in 1861 with the proviso that Brady finance the project himself.[1] His efforts to document the American Civil War on a grand scale by bringing his photographic studio right onto the battlefields earned Brady his place in history. Despite the obvious dangers, financial risk, and discouragement of his friends, Brady is later quoted as saying "I had to go. A spirit in my feet said 'Go,' and I went." His first popular photographs of the conflict were at the First Battle of Bull Run, in which he got so close to the action that he barely avoided capture. While most of the time the battle had ceased before pictures were taken, occasionally Brady actually came under direct fire, as was the case during battles such as Bull Run, Petersburg, and Fredericksburg.

He employed

In October 1862 Brady opened an exhibition of photographs from the Battle of Antietam in his New York gallery titled "The Dead of Antietam." Many images in this presentation were graphic photographs of corpses, a presentation new to America. This was the first time that many Americans saw the realities of war in photographs as distinct from previous "artists' impressions".

Mathew Brady, through his many paid assistants, took thousands of photos of

External links

  • Panzer, Mary (1997). Mathew Brady and the Image of History. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books.  TR140.B7 P36 1997 LCC  
  • Wilson, Robert (2013). Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation. London: Bloomsbury, 2013, ISBN 978-1-62040-203-0.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b Pritzker, Barry (1992). Mathew Brady. East Bridgewater: JG Press.  
  2. ^ a b Smith, Zoe C. (February 2000). "Brady, Mathew B.". American National Biography Online. Retrieved 25 January 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Crain, Caleb (4 August 2013). "How Soon It May Be Too Late". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  4. ^ The tuition was fifty dollars, which Brady earned by working as a clerk for department store tycoon Alexander Turney Stewart.
  5. ^ "Photograph of President Abraham Lincoln".  
  6. ^ The couple had no children, but lavished their attention on Julia's nephew, Levin Handy, who would continue to run Brady's studio after Brady's death.
  7. ^ Wilson, Robert. Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation Bloomsbury, 2014, pages 27, 117, 241
  8. ^ Volo, James M. (2004). The Antebellum Period. Greenwood Press. p. 106.  
  9. ^ Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850–1920 – Duke Libraries. (2010-03-16). Retrieved 2 September 2011
  10. ^ a b "Antietam, Maryland. Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Major General John A. McClernand: Another View".  
  11. ^ The National Archives. "Ingersoll, Jared, (1749–1822)". US Government: National Archives. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  12. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum. (2006-05-16). Retrieved 2 September 2011
  13. ^ Horan, James D. (1988-12-12). Mathew Brady: Historian With a Camera. New York: Random House.  
  14. ^ Smith, Zoe C. (February 2000). "Brady, Mathew B". American National Biography Online. Retrieved January 25, 2009. 
  15. ^ Macy, et al., "Macy Photographic Studio's Dispatch, The", Northampton MA, Spring–Summer 1913, pp. 2–3
  16. ^ The Photographic History of the Civil War, in Ten Volumes, Francis Trevelyan Miller, editor-in-chief, and Robert S. Lanier, Managing Editor, The Review of Reviews Co., New York, 1912, p. 52
  17. ^ Kinship of the soul – 1993 Commencement address by filmmaker Ken Burns, University of Delaware Messenger — Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 6, Summer 1993. Accessed June 2011
  18. ^ a b "Matthew Brady Antietam Photography Exhibit From 1862 Recreated At National Museum of Civil War Medicine (PHOTOS)". Keedysville, Maryland. 5 October 2012. 
  19. ^ "Brady's Photographs: Pictures of the Dead at Antietam". New York: New York Times. 20 October 1862. 
  20. ^ Although Brady was photographed wearing a sword under his linen duster and claimed to have received the weapon at First Bull Run from the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment—see Miller's Photographic History of the Civil War Vol 1 p. 31—there is doubt as to whether he took pictures at the battle. See Frassantito's Antietam (reference only).


See also

Related images

On September 19, 1862, two days after the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of combat on U.S. soil with more than 23,000 killed, wounded or missing, Mathew Brady sent photographer Alexander Gardner and his assistant James Gibson to photograph the carnage. In October 1862 Brady displayed the photos by Gardner at Brady's New York gallery.[18] The New York Times published a review.[19] In October 2012, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine displayed 21 original Mathew Brady 1862 photographs documenting the Civil War's Battle of Antietam.[18]

Photography exhibition: "The Dead of Antietam" at Brady's New York gallery October 1862

Following considerable controversy around the racist history of city founder W. Tate Brady, for whom a major street and neighborhood was named, the City Council of Tulsa, OK on August 15, 2013, voted to retain the name Brady Street, but that it would now honor Mathew B. Brady instead.

Some of the lost images are mentioned in the last episode of Ken Burns' 1990 documentary on the Civil War. Burns claims that glass plate negatives were often sold to gardeners, not for their images, but for the glass itself to be used in greenhouses and cold frames. In the years that followed the end of the war, the sun slowly burned away their filmy images and they were lost.[17]

Brady and his Studio produced over 7,000 pictures (mostly two negatives of each). One set "after undergoing extraordinary vicissitudes," came into U.S. government possession. His own negatives passed in the 1870s to E. & H. T. Anthony & Company of New York, in default of payment for photographic supplies. They "were kicked about from pillar to post" for 10 years, until John C. Taylor found them in an attic and bought them; from this they became "the backbone of the Ordway–Rand collection; and in 1895 Brady himself had no idea of what had become of them. Many were broken, lost, or destroyed by fire. After passing to various other owners, they were discovered and appreciated by Edward Bailey Eaton," who set in motion "events that led to their importance as the nucleus of a collection of Civil War photos published in 1912 as The Photographic History of the Civil War.[16]

As perhaps the best-known US photographer in the 19th century, it was Brady's name that came to be attached to the era's heavy specialized end tables which were factory-made specifically for use by portrait photographers. Such a "Brady stand" of the mid-19th century typically had a weighty cast iron base for stability, plus an adjustable-height single-column pipe leg for dual use as either a portrait model's armrest or (when fully extended and fitted with a brace attachment rather than the usual tabletop) as a neck rest. The latter was often needed to keep models steady during the longer exposure times of early photography. While Brady stand is a convenient term for these trade-specific articles of studio equipment, there is no proven connection between Brady himself and the Brady stand's invention circa 1855.[15]

Brady is credited with being the father of photojournalism.[13] He can also be considered a pioneer in the orchestration of a "corporate credit line." In this practice, every image produced in his gallery was labeled “Photo by Brady;” however, Brady dealt directly with only the most distinguished subjects and most portrait sessions were carried out by others.[14]

Brady photographed Abraham Lincoln on many occasions. His Lincoln photographs have been used for the $5 bill and the Lincoln penny. One of his Lincoln photos was used by the National Bank Note Company as a model for the engraving on the 90c Lincoln Postage issue of 1869.[12]

On the Confederate side, Brady photographed Jefferson Davis, P. G. T. Beauregard, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, Lord Lyons, James Henry Hammond, and Robert E. Lee (Lee's first session with Brady was in 1845 as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, his final after the war in Richmond, Virginia).

Brady photographed and made portraits of many senior Emory Upton, James Wadsworth, and Lew Wallace.

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln taken by Brady on the day of Lincoln's Cooper Union speech.

The thousands of photographs which Mathew Brady's photographers (such as Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan) took have become the most important visual documentation of the Civil War, and have helped historians and the public better understand the era.

Brady photographed 18 of the 19 American Presidents from John Quincy Adams to William McKinley. The exception was the 9th President, William Henry Harrison, who died in office three years before Brady started his Photographic Collection.

Legacy and people photographed

Levin Corbin Handy, Brady's nephew by marriage, took over Brady's photography business after his death.

Brady's funeral was financed by veterans of the 7th New York Infantry. He was buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

During the war, Brady spent over $100,000 to create over 10,000 plates. He expected the U.S. government to buy the photographs when the war ended, but when the government refused to do so he was forced to sell his New York City studio and go into bankruptcy. Congress granted Brady $25,000 in 1875, but he remained deeply in debt. Additionally, most of the public was unwilling to dwell on the gruesomeness of the war after it had ended, and so private collectors were likewise scarce. Depressed by his financial situation, loss of eyesight and devastated by the death of his wife in 1887, he became very lonely. He died penniless in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City on January 15, 1896, from complications following a streetcar accident.

Mathew Brady's grave at the Congressional Cemetery (notice incorrect death year).

Later years and death

Following the conflict, a war-weary public lost interest in seeing photos of the war, and Brady’s popularity and practice declined drastically.

[11] The photographs include Lincoln, Grant, and common soldiers in camps and battlefields. The images provide a pictorial cross reference of American Civil War history. Brady was not able to photograph actual battle scenes as the photographic equipment in those days was still in the infancy of its development and required that a subject be still in order for a clear photo to be produced.[10]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.