Mar 29, 2018 - Sale 2471

Sale 2471 - Lot 313

Price Realized: $ 2,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(PHOTOGRAPHY.) 3 photographs of Henry Green, longtime servant to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, with a letter to him. 5 items, various sizes; photographs in strong condition, the letter with a closed tear through the first leaf and lacking most of the second leaf below the signature, passport worn with a complete tear along the center fold. Vp, circa 1867-77

Additional Details

Henderson Trent, better known as Henry Green (circa 1844-1911), was born into slavery in Virginia. During the Civil War, he escaped to freedom and became the servant for a young Union cavalry lieutenant, Thomas Glastonbury Welles (1846-1892). He soon came into the employ of Thomas's wealthy father Gideon Welles (1802-1878), then Secretary of the Navy, and when Welles left the government in 1869, Green went on with the family to their home in Connecticut. Green spend the rest of his life as head servant and coachman in the Welles family. He was buried in Hartford's Cedar Hill Cemetery, final resting place of the city's elite, and was thought to be the first African American thus honored. See Woodward, "Henry Green and the Final Underground," in Connecticut Explored 12:3 (Summer 2014).
The best-documented of the three photographs is a carte-de-visite of a seated Green shot by the Benque-Sebastianutti firm in Trieste (then in Austria, now in Italy). Green was then accompanying Thomas G. Welles as servant on the USS Franklin's tour of Europe. The ship stopped in Trieste from 14 to 27 September 1868. Additional documentation is provided by the original passport issued to "TG Welles & Servant" dated at Naples, 16 March 1868, included with this lot.
Another photograph depicts Green with another family servant, believed to be James Smith; it was likely taken on the same European tour of the USS Franklin. Among the Welles family papers is a letter (not present) noting that Smith had alerted the Welles children on the night of the Lincoln assassination.
The final photograph is a 6th-plate tintype, 3 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches, of Green holding an infant, identified by the family as Hubert Gideon Welles (1876-1892), the oldest son of Thomas G. Welles, placing the date at circa 1877.
The letter is addressed by Mary Jane Hale Welles to Henry Green, and is dated Washington, 12 August 1867; it is just over 2 pages long on one folding sheet. She forwards a letter (no longer extant) from Green's brother announcing the death of his mother: "I am very glad that you saw your mother so lately. Well, you must mind what she said on her death-bed, and don't grieve too much. . . . It is strange they did not write to you sooner. Your mother died on the 6 June, almost a month before you left." She also discusses his recent boat trip--he had perhaps gone to the Welles family home in Connecticut--and mentions fellow servants Evans and John Smith. She concludes warmly "All the girls wish to be remembered to you. May God bless you & comfort you, your true friend, Mary J. Welles." Offered with a sheaf of related research notes on Green. Provenance: consigned by a descendant of Thomas G. Welles.