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D13-114. THE RANTERS! These 10 identified young men all attended Bethany College in Virginia (now West Virginia) when the daguerreotype was taken 1850-1851. Inside the remaining half of their leather case the above information was written in pencil along with the names and states or countries they called home. From left to right, standing: "E.S Lever(sp) Ireland; J.P. New Ina; B.D.P. Handeford or Waterford Ky; D.W. Irving Ky; E. Sabatier France; and W.E. Yager Ky. Seated: J.D. New Ina; T.J. Waters England; A. Campbell Jr. Va and Tom Neal La. Young Campbell was the son of Alexander Campbell who founded Bethany College on March 2, 1840. It is located in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. Pittsburgh, about one hour by car from the campus, is the largest city nearby. That might provide a clue about the daguerreotypist, since I strongly doubt that there was a local operator in Bethany or nearby who could have created such a masterpiece on silver. By now I know that you all are wondering why the fellows were referred to as "The Ranters"! Actually these scalawags were ner-do-wells in the mid-19th century! This brief sketch was taken from a much larger article I found on the net: "The Ranters of Bethany College, Virginia, were typical of that classification. They committed all sorts of rascalities and mischievousness, both upon their fellow students and on the neighboring townsfolk. The company was commanded by one selected from the parry, called the Grand Ranter, whose order must be obeyed under penalty of expulsion of the person offending. Among the stunts commonly indulged in were those of robbing hen and turkey roosts and feasting on the spoils of such raids; of stealing horses from the townspeople to enjoy hilarious midnight cross-country rides. If detected or betrayed to the faculty, the Ranters revenged themselves by shaving the manes and tails of the favorite horses belonging to the person informing against them." I wonder who was the "Grand Ranter"? Which one looks the most mischievous to you? All but Irving, standing center rear, wore a red tinted ribbon at the time this monumental daguerreotype was taken. The group was arranged outdoors when perfect conditions prevailed to have a successful half plate completed. The sun would have been hidden by high clouds that diffused the light evenly. Either the unidentified daguerreian or an assistant professionally added surreal carefully applied colors to the perfect surface after the image was developed and sealed with gold chloride. I don't recall ever seeing a more magnificent finished piece taken outside a studio in my 28 years of collecting fine daguerreotypes. Casey archivally restored the piece. He has suggested that the class seniors wore hats and the underclassmen did not. Alexander Campbell Jr. was born Oct. 24 1831 and died Sept. 25 1906. He married Mary Anna Purvis and they had one son Robert. While Campbell's father strongly opposed the Civil War, Alexander fought for the Confederacy and rose to the rank of Colonel. The society of alumni met in 1855 and it was announced that Thomas M. Neal of Louisiana had passed on. He was deemed "a highly esteemed and worthy member" by the gathering. This might be the same chap seated on the right next to Campbell. In 1848 at least two of the lads in the dag, T.J. Waters and J.D. New were members of the campus wide Neothropian Society, "the first group to be formed by Bethany College students, with the consent of the faculty, so that the men would have a forum where they could practice their skills, demonstrate their abilities, and compete with one another for prizes in poetry, oratory, and prose. One or more of these societies flourished on every campus, and Bethany was no exception. The Neotrophian Society was not only the forum and the competition site, but it was also the only organization on campus, which indulged in any form of social function. At Bethany, to control the Neotrophian Society was to control the campus life." In 1858 Delta Tau Delta was formed after men at Bethany were resolved to force other members of the Neotrophian Society to relinquish their political stranglehold and return the society to popular control. Trying to find the actual daguerreotypist who made this astounding exposure won't be easy since it is very obvious to me that even in Pittsburgh no one was active in 1850 who possibly could have made this masterwork. In fact within a 100-mile radius from Bethany, there wasn't any town or city that supported a daguerreotypist then who might have been capable of this tremendous achievement. However, Bethany is roughly equal distance between the National Road to the south and the Ohio River off to the west. I would suggest that an itinerant daguerreotypist either passed through the town BECAUSE it was a fairly wealthy college and men attended there from all over the world or he was there because of a commission. Since the sides are soft, the man used a portrait lens and not a landscape lens for the image. While he might not have been accustom to shooting architecture or scenes, he certainly was a professional operator. His polishing was superlative. The chemistry rates an A+ and he knew all about using the existing light to his distinct advantage. $45,000

 

 

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