Mar 24, 2022 - Sale 2598

Sale 2598 - Lot 14

Price Realized: $ 4,750
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 7,000 - $ 10,000
(SLAVERY & ABOLITION.) Charles Paxson, photographer. Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans. Albumen carte-de-visite photograph, 3 1/4 x 2 inches, on original captioned mount with photographer's backmark, numbered 8 in the series; moderate foxing, slight loss in upper corner of photograph, minor wear to mount. New York: H.N. Bent, [1864]

Additional Details

Wilson Chinn is depicted with instruments of torture used to punish enslaved people, including shackles, a nail-studded paddle, and a brutal spiked collar. This was part of a small series of disturbing images which were produced to raise funds, as stated on verso: "The nett proceeds from the sale of these Photographs will be devoted exclusively to the education of colored people in the Department of the Gulf, now under the command of Maj. Gen. Banks."

Wilson Chinn was born into slavery in Kentucky circa 1803, and then sold as a young man to a particularly brutal sugar planter near New Orleans. Chinn and many of his compatriots were branded with the owner's "V.B.M." initials--some of them including Chinn on their foreheads. After the Union troops arrived, Chinn and several other New Orleans freedmen went north to help publicize the abolitionist cause. A group engraving with biographical information on Chinn appeared in Harper's Weekly on 30 January 1864.

This is the less well-known image of Chinn wearing this collar; he also posed facing the camera in an image credited to Myron Kimball. We trace only two other examples of the present image in institutions, at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County.

WITH--carte-de-visites 3, 4, and 5 from the same series: "Charley," "Rebecca, Charlie & Rosa," and "Oh! How I Love the Old Flag. Rebecca, a Slave Girl from New Orleans," all depicting light-skinned children freed from slavery, and crediting Paxson as photographer. All are inserted into their original album, with a Christmas 1865 gift inscription.