Monday, December 10, 2007

John Brown Fetches $97,750

Auctioneer Wes Cowan holds the daguerreotype

I have always been fascinated by John Brown. No doubt about it, he is one of the most controversial figures in American history.

To call him an abolitionist is an understatement. He was a religious zealot who genuinely believed he was doing God’s work. To some Northerners, he was Moses; to many others, he was Judas or worse.

More on that debate later.

But this story from the Columbus Dispatch got me thinking about John Brown this morning.

There are only about a half dozen original daguerreotypes of John Brown. The one pictured above had been in Brown’s family for five generations, but they recently put it up for auction to pay for medical bills. Well, it sold for a whopping $97,750 on Friday!

I have never seen this particular daguerreotype. I am more familiar with this one:

John Brown

In this pose, Brown is posing with a flag in his left hand, while raising his right hand, apparently taking an oath of some sort. This daguerreotype sold for $115,000 in 1997 and is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery.

Apparently both of these daguerreotypes were taken during the same sitting at Washington’s Hartford studio in 1846 or 1847.

No word on what the winning bidder plans to do with his recent purchase.

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