CAMPBELL CLAN SAILOR! The last line of the taped together notation says everything (well almost) that I needed to know when I bought this historically important recleaned and retaped magnificent sixth plate dag showing a youthful American sailor who sat calmly in front of a camera operated by Thomas Walsh. The young tar was taken in New York City circa 1848-1849 at one location or the other, since Walsh operated at 141 Bowery in 1848 then moved during that year to 61 Washington St. Seated before the camera in a typical daguerreian pose, the teenager placed one arm on a table and the other one next to his side. I thought it was interesting to note that although the subject seemed implacable and almost comfortable inside the operating room, his nervousness was revealed when he drummed his fingers against his trousers, causing a couple to be doubled. Walsh painted that ring with a blob of gold and added light red rouge to his cheeks. This was indeed a powerful fellow about to embark a few brief years later on an adventure of his lifetime. Unfortunately I am not 100% certain what his name was, although I suspect his surname was Campbell. I questioned the dealer who sold me the dag and the marvelous sewing box (see other scans) that had been presented by the lad to his aunt. Additional information isn't available but the dealer assured me that his source kept the three components together when he purchased the lot. I have shared pictures of the lacquered box with two Asian experts and both have concurred that the origin was Chinese not Japanese. Obviously the fellow purchased the gift elsewhere on the long voyage. For more information about Commodore Perry's expedition to Japan after he left Norfolk VA November 1852, please visit this website. (The squadron DID make port of calls in China).https://history.state.gov/milestones/1830-1860/opening-to-japan
This diplomatic mission with the power of the US Navy and the entire government behind it eventually got results. It was deemed so important that a New York City daguerreotypist and lithographer, Eliphalet Brown was hired to travel with the Black Ships. Supposedly he exposed about 400 plates during the momentous two plus years of sailing, resupplying and negotiating. I have never had the opportunity to own a daguerreotype associated with the Perry expedition. This marvelous likeness presents a man who was with the Commodore during very trying times as a formal relationship with Japan was being established for the first time. Please forget that the silver has minor specks and flecks along with tiny plate flaws. Patina follows the shape of the elliptical mat. There is marvelous contrast in the uniform ranging from the brilliant and sparkling white of the sailor's canvas shirt to the darkest region of his remarkable cap. The depth is holographic. Yet beyond all the information and the physicality of the piece, it is the boy's earnest and forthright face that is most important. He already knew, at a tender age, what he was about and the mid-century quiet confidence of so many other Americans was excellently transferred from life to his extant daguerreotype. He reflected the national pride of a nation that was beginning to flex its muscle on the world stage. I placed the image in a professionally repaired leather case that has a classic "E. White" sailing ship on the cover and reverse. If you have any further questions about this extremely important likeness please contact me.
Dennis A. Waters at