From John Hennessy:
- The unretouched image
We are constantly amazed at the steady stream of images and source material that come to us. The image above is a tintype, shown to us recently by local antique maven Bill Beck. According to Bill, this image has been in the community some time, and its traditional label suggests that it is an image of a slave at Chatham. To our knowledge, this is the first time the image has been seen publicly.
If this is indeed a slave at Chatham, it would constitute a major discovery–there are precious few images of slaves in slavery anywhere in Virginia, much less in the Fredericksburg region. With Bill’s permission, Noel Harrison generated at high-resolution scan of the image, which, as you can see, in its original form is quite dark. We have modified it here for easier viewing.
There is nothing in the image itself that either supports or denies the setting at Chatham. But we do think there are clues in the man’s dress and the tack on the horse. But, we are not material culture sorts, and so we throw the image out to people who know far more about boots, tack, and dress than we do.
Are the man’s boots postwar? From what I can discover, these sorts of “cowboy boots” didn’t hit the market until the 1870s.
What of the chain lead on the horse? When did these come into common use? And the pants–are the pockets here a bit more stylish than those that would typically be worn by a slave?
We ask these as honest questions, with hope that some of you can help narrow down the date of the photograph and help resolve the question: is this a slave at Chatham?