TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog

Auction News and Other Takes

The venerable Scientific American magazine has its archives on line now, all the way back to the first issue in 1845. Normally it would cost you money to look, but for November only they have the 1845-1908 archives available for free. Unfortunately there is no universal search for these early issues altho you can search individual issues. Lots of good CW-related info there. In its early years SA was more like, say Popular Mechanics than the hi-toned scientific mag it is today.

Last week I mentioned than an American company is making a replica of Dr. Gatling’s 1877 Bulldog gun. There’s actually one up for sale now altho it’s pricey. One nice thing about a Gatling, however, is that altho you can pump out nearly a thousand rounds a minute it’s not considered a Class III machinegun by the BATFE, so there are no federal restrictions on owning one as long as you’re a citizen with no felonies.

On the auction front, Heritage Auctions in Dallas recently sold a Confederate bond worth $1000, altho presumably it would be paid only in graybacks rather than greenbacks. Never too late to invest in Our Sacred Cause.

Coming up at the end of the month is an auction featuring one of Matthew Brady’s personal cameras.

Quite possibly the wet plate camera he used to take his iconic photos of Abraham Lincoln! Although no manufacturer’s label is present, it is similar to cameras made by H. J. Lewis of New York circa 1860. The camera is made of dark wood and is fitted with a Petzval-type brass barrel lens bearing the serial number 1195.

The Brady provenance is iron-clad; it is accompanied by photocopies of original Bankruptcy Court records signed by Brady dating from April 1873 (Brady had filed for bankruptcy), listing this lens with its serial number in an inventory of Brady possessions.

It features a black fabric bellows, rack and pinion focusing, with wooden knob on rear of back section, and wide casement to accommodate side-loading plates. The camera is mounted on an 11″ x 15″ base rail. It is accompanied by a ground glass plate (glass replaced) for focusing, which allowed 10 3/8″ x 10 3/8″ exposures, as well as a dark slide.

Virtually every public figure of the Civil War era passed through Mathew Brady’s studio, and it is thrilling to imagine that many of his iconic photographs may well be have been taken with this very camera! A museum piece in the truest sense of the word.

Brady had hoped to make money selling his photos after the war but found no market for them. In 1873 he had to file for bankruptcy.

His collection of photographs and glass negatives were eventually sold to the United States government for $25,000 and currently reside in the Library of Congress. The enabling legislation was pushed through Congress by Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts. It is a little known fact that Butler extorted, and received, a $12,500 kickback from Brady for his efforts.

On Nov. 12 will be another auction of Civil War items including firearms, swords, uniforms, flags and much else, including an unusually large number of Confederate items.

UPDATE: Speaking of auctions, Rock Island Auctions is also having a big event in early December that will feature a number of Civil War arms, including quite a number of Confederate ones.

These include three original Blakeslee Boxes in three different configurations. The boxes were invented by Col. Erastus Blakeslee and issued to Federal cavalry late in the war, greatly increasing their firepower, and there was also an infantry model. The Blakeslee contained 6-13 iron tubes loaded with seven rounds of Spencer ammo, which could be quickly dumped into the magazine to reload. Troop reaction was mixed—some loved it but others thought it too heavy and cumbersome.

Also on the block is an H. E. Dimick rifle made in St. Louis. Altho this one has no Civil War provenance some Dimick rifles were used by Union sharpshooter units, notably Birge’s Sharpshooters (66th Illinois). They were later replaced with Henrys.

I’ve mentioned Gatling guns before, including a modern repro of the 1877 Bulldog model. Rock Island has a repro of the earlier model used in the Late Unpleasantness. Just the thing for that next re-enactment.

Not to be overlooked are a number of Volcanic rifles and pistols, including a rare .41 cal. carbine, as well as several S&W marked arms of the Volcanic pattern.


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