Feb 13, 2014 - Sale 2338

Sale 2338 - Lot 1

Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
Unidentified Man with Child.

Sixth-plate daguerreotype in original leather case, circa 1846-47. With the silk pad, ink stamped "Washington Gallery. Hartford CT."

Two daguerreotypes by Augustus Washington can be found in the Library of Congress, and a daguerreotype Washington created of abolitionist John Brown, is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery. The interior stamp dates this work to 1847 or before, as in 1847 Washington moved his Hartford gallery from its original "9 Waverly building" location to its new address at 136 Main Street. His stamp following this move included the new address.

Augustus Washington is one of the few African-American daguerreotypists whose work has been identified and whose career has been documented. The son of a former slave, Washington was born in Trenton, New Jersey. As a youth, he embraced the abolitionist movement and struggled to obtain an education, studying at both the Oneida Institute and Kimball Union Academy before entering Dartmouth College in 1843. After only one year, he had to leave Dartmouth because of increasing debt and moved to Hartford, Connecticut in 1844. Two years later, he opened one of Hartford's first daguerrean galleries. Offering portraits ranging in price from $.50 to $10, Washington attracted a broad clientele, and by the early 1850s was regarded as one of the city's foremost daguerreotypists.

But despite his success, Washington worried about the future. Convinced that emancipation alone would not remove the barriers that American society imposed upon its black citizens, he came to regard resettlement in Liberia as the best course of action. Accompanied by his wife and two small children, Washington sailed for Liberia in November 1853. Washington opened a daguerrean studio in the capital Monrovia and also traveled to the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone, Gambia and Senegal. He later gave up his photographic work and became a sugarcane grower and politician, serving in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. He died in Monrovia in 1875.