December 04, 2019

Civil War Soldiers used Just for Men

Timothy Birdnow

Here is an interesting bit of history; archaeologists have excavated a Civil War camp in Kentucky and found that many of the soldiers died their hair and beards. Why, you ask? Because for the first time ever there was a photographer present and they wanted to look good.

From the article:

The Civil War was the first war on U.S. soil to be photographed. During the war years, 1861 to 1865, popular demand for photographs soared. As the price of portraits came down, the business of making and distributing photographs boomed.

As abolitionist Frederick Douglass stated in 1861 "What was once the exclusive luxury of the rich and great is now within reach of all,” speaking of the proliferation of inexpensive daguerreotype portraits.

"Being a soldier was and is a special status associated with manhood, bravery and honor,” McBride said about the custom of new enlistees visiting a portrait studio as they were shipped off to war. "The portraits and the identifying stencils were important to the men to illustrate their status as both men and soldiers at that moment, but also for posterity, as they could soon be wounded or killed.”

This was the first war with photojournalism involved. While it was impossible to photograph battle scenes or even drills, it was still possible, for the first time, to make a permanent record of what the men looked like.

It's hard to imagine that this was just one hundred and fifty years ago. We have witnessed more change in our world in this last century and a half than most civilizations experienced in their entire existence.

And now we have to learn by excavating sites with archaeologists. Amazing.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 07:57 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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