Make a Portrait …Before It's Too Late

Civil War photographer Matthew Brady began taking photographs years before the war, and made a good living taking portraits. In one upstate New York town, he was only approached by one reluctant customer after the man's son died. He was desperate for an image of the boy to remember him by.

The tale is retold by Robert Wilson, the editor of The American Scholar, in “Mathew Brady,” his patient and painstaking new biography of the portraitist and Civil War photographer. Brady wasn’t one to overlook a sales tool. “You cannot tell how soon it may be too late,” he warned in an 1856 ad that ran in The New York Daily Tribune, advising readers to come sit for a portrait while they still could. When the Civil War began in 1861, thousands of new soldiers and their families became acutely aware that it might soon be too late. They were willing to pay a dollar apiece for tintypes, and Wilson reports that at Brady’s Washington studio, “the wait was sometimes hours long.”

Brady's portrait studio was even decorated somewhat like a funeral parlor. But he had several tricks up his sleeve to drum up business even before the war. Read more about Brady and the new book about him at the New York Times. Link -via 3 Quarks Daily

(Image credit: Matthew Brady/Library of Congress)

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