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Category: portraits

Salted Paper Prints from Special Collections

Here you see the wide range in tonality and richness in colors. Indeed, monochrome can be very colorful. We are so glad that many of these salt prints have remained in good condition, such that the facial expressions and details of clothing and accessories for each sitter are still astonishingly clear.

In collaboration with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and Houghton Library, Harvard Library’s Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) is hosting a symposium on the Salted Paper Prints from the Harvard Fine Arts Library’s historic photographs collection on September 14th and 15th. During the two-day symposium, a hands-on workshop hosted by the Northeast Document Conservation Center will allow participants to explore the chemistry and artistic nuance of creating salted paper prints. A brief lecture will acquaint the participants with the basic chemistry and variations of the process and discuss preservation concerns.

The salted paper print was an early negative/positive printing process developed by William Henry Fox Talbot in England in the 1830s. Many beautiful examples of this process were created in the 19th century and can be found in a variety of photograph collections.

Read more about the symposium and how to register.

Read the previous post about the Salted Paper Prints Symposium.

Lucy in the Sky

Peter Malutzki.  Lucy in the sky.  Big Brother is Watching You...

Book artist Peter Malutzki became interested with “selfies” and especially the way young women posed themselves for display on the Internet.  He reused images found online to create a book about fantasy and self-representation, Lucy in the Sky; Big Brother is Watching You.  Superimposed are the words from the Beatles’ song, Lucy in the Sky, a text he found a fitting juxtaposition to the self-presentation of these pictures.

Malutzki has been making books, using a wide variety of found materials and printing techniques, for decades.  With his partner Ines von Ketelhodt, he undertook a 50-volume set created over 10 years and based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges.  Entitled Zweite Enzyklopädie von Tlön, it evokes in visual terms a lost society like the one described in Borges’ story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Sporting Portraits Collection

Nicknames and Stylish Hair: all a day in the life of a bare-knuckle boxer.

Take a moment to explore images from the Sporting Portraits collection.  This collection contains over 350 photographs, prints, broadsides, clippings, and hand-drawn illustrations from the mid-18th to the 20th centuries.  These portraits captured the likeness of more than 100 American, British, and Irish boxers.

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan

The nicknames and facial hair alone are worth a look through this collection.  Who can resist the classic masculinity of handlebar mustaches?  Peter Maher and John C. Heenan wear them well.

Mustaches aside, a few tough women held their own in this rough sport, one such notable being Bertha Frances.

Bertha Frances

What good is a boxer without an equally intimidating nickname?

  • John C. Heenan “The Benicia Boy”
  • John L. Sullivan  “The Boston Strong Boy”
  • Valentine Braunheim “Knockout Brown”
  • Johnny Murphy “Birmingham Sparrow” (later a boxing instructor at Harvard College)
  • James J. Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
James Jeffires "The Boilermaker"
James Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
John L. Sullivan embroidery

John L. Sullivan “The Boston Strong Boy” in a “Stevengraph” silk embroidery

While only a few images from this extensive collection are available online, the rest are on their way to being digitized.  The collection includes examples of excellent craftsmanship– such as the silk embroidered portrait (known as a “Stevengraph”) of John L. Sullivan– and striking imagery, like Thomas Worth’s illustration of the Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight.  The print is visually compelling even to the most peaceful observer.

Maher Fitzsimmons fight

Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight, depicted by Thomas Worth

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and cataloging the sporting portraits!

American Library Association conference, Atlanta, Georgia, 1899

Moore and Stephenson (no dates), Atlanta, Georgia. American Library Association Twenty-first annual conference, Atlanta, Georgia, May 8-13, 1899.

In May 1899 over 200 librarians from across the United States assembled in Atlanta for the annual meeting of the American Library Association (ALA). The six day program was packed with sessions devoted to reports from officers and committees and sessions about library collections, services, and buildings. Fortunately for the attendees, social activities relieved the serious proceedings. One afternoon the attendees travelled to Stone Mountain for an outdoor barbecue and the next afternoon the sessions and a reception were held at a private gentlemen’s club, the Piedmont Driving Club House “with lunch and coon-dance at sundown”.  It was during one of these social events that a group photograph was taken.

The balding, bearded man in the middle of the front row who appears to be lost in thought during a springtime social event is Melvil Dewey (1851-1931), best known as the creator of a classification and subject indexing system, still in use, for organizing books in libraries, known as the “Dewey Decimal Classification”. Dewey’s passion was education and efficiency, the former leading him to participate in the establishment of the American Library Association and the latter to a less-successful drive to reform spelling and the metric system. Dewey, despite his appearance in this photograph, was a charismatic leader and behind-the-scenes bully who significantly shaped the association’s early development and served as its President and Secretary.

Knock Out Brown


Cigarette cards are among nearly four hundred images in the collection called “Portraits of boxers and other athletes” which in itself represents a tiny portion of the more than seventy thousand pieces to be found in the Portrait Collection of the Fine Arts Library. Evert Jansen Wendell (A.B. Harvard 1882) was an avid sportsman in his student days. In later life, he collected sporting images among thousands of other portrait images and donated them at his death to his alma mater.

This is an image of a very young blond boy with the relatively unoriginal appellation of ‘Knock-Out’ Brown.  His name was Valentine Braunheim (hence ‘Brown’) and he was born and fought his entire career in New York City. At the time this card was issued (ca.1910), Brown was barely twenty years old and had only been fighting for approximately two years. That he was sufficiently well-known enough to justify this investment on the part of the Red Mill/Turkey tobacco conglomerate indicates that his record (something like four to one in favor of victories at this point of his career) overrode his size (he was 5’3” and a lightweight) as a draw.