Heritage To Offer Rare Daguerreotype Image Of Noted Jewish-American Statesman Judah P.Benjamin Heritage will offer the earliest known, and the only daguerreotype, image of Judah P. Benjamin, an important figure in the Confederate government.
News-Antique.com - Nov 12,2007 - DALLAS, TEXAS: As part of their upcoming Civil War auction being held in Nashville, Tennessee, Heritage will offer the earliest known, and the only daguerreotype, image of Judah P. Benjamin, an important figure in the Confederate government. Benjamin (1811 - 1884) is arguably, after Albert Einstein, the most important Jewish-American historical figure.
Born in the Virgin Islands, Benjamin came to Charleston, South Carolina as a child. There his father, a prominent merchant, helped found the nation's first Jewish Reform congregation. Opportunity lured the young Benjamin westward to Louisiana, where he was admitted to the bar in 1832. By 1842, he sat in the state legislature. Benjamin's political star thereafter ascended rapidly and the 1850s found him serving in the United States Senate on behalf of Southern interests. At that time he formed a bond with the future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, who also was active in the government in Washington.
Benjamin became a key player in the Confederate government, serving in three successive cabinet posts: Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. In this last role, Benjamin's considerable diplomatic skills were instrumental in obtaining critical material aid from sympathizers abroad. There was strong support for the Confederacy in England, which became Benjamin's refuge after the war. The former Confederate cabinet member, in fact, launched a highly successful career as a London barrister. Historians regard Judah Benjamin as one of the most brilliant and effective officers in the Confederate government, and one of the pioneering Jewish-Americans to hold high political office.
Only a few original images of Benjamin survive. The sixth plate daguerreotype offered by Heritage is a previously-unpublished image that is marked by the genial expression typical of Benjamin's other known portraits. Noted photography expert Grant Romer of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography suggests that it was probably taken in 1846 while Benjamin was a prosperous attorney and sugar planter. The portrait was likely taken in New Orleans or Baton Rouge, where daguerreotype studios were known to have operated.
Previously the earliest known image of Benjamin was an ambrotype, a later photographic process generally viewed by hobbyists as less desirable than daguerreotypes. "The spectacular portrait now offered at auction is of immense importance in terms of the history of Louisiana, the Confederacy, and American photography," declared Heritage Americana Department head Tom Slater. "But it is especially significant as it relates to the Jewish experience in 19th century America."
"It is very hard to predict an auction price for such a unique and important piece, " observed Slater, "but Heritage has set a catalog estimated value of $50,000 - 75,000."
This important image will be offered in Heritage Auction Galleries' upcoming Civil War auction, to be held on December 1 & 2 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Earliest Known Photograph And Only Known Daguerreotype Of Confederate Statesman Judah P. Benjamin: