Bradford’s “Mark Twain” Scrapbook

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Arctic Visions, Bradford Scrapbooks | One Comment

Post submitted by Russell Potter, a contributor to the development of the Arctic Visions exhibition and this microsite. He teaches at Rhode Island College, where he is editor of the Arctic Book Review. His books include Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875 (2007), and most recently a novel, Pyg: The Memoirs of a Learned Pig (2011). 

bradford_twainThe distinctive scrapbook employed by William Bradford, and later by his family, to showcase newspaper clippings of his expeditions, paintings, and related topics, is marked by the three columns of dark amber glue, which look to have once been wetted in order to stick the clippings in. The unusual design — the glue apparently came prepared in dry form upon every page — identifies it as one of Mark Twain’s patent Scrap-Books, a system the famous author actually did invent himself, and one of the few of his many brain-storms (other than literary ones) that actually proved profitable.

On occasion, Twain received letters from the users of these scrap-books, some praising and some complaining of their adhesive qualities. Among the best was one which opened thusly:

“I am a plain minister of the gospel, and I wish to say, I never swore any more in my life than I have today.  Certainly your Scrap Book with nothing but gummed lines is a very funny book – probably the funniest book you ever made, but, my dear Twain, why didn’t you tell folks not to moisten your gummed lines with their fingers. I got stuck to those gummed lines! Why didn’t you tell people how to handle the dangerous thing? I have a an engagement to lecture to-morrow night and, unless I break loose, I shall have to carry this product of your wicked brain with me to the very platform.”

Twain, keeping the jesting tone, wrote in reply “Sh! Don’t say a word — let others get “stuck” I’ll tell you privately to use a wet rag or brush–but let us leave the others to get into trouble with their fingers. Then they will abuse the Scrap Book everywhere, and straightway everybody will buy one to give to his enemy, and that will make a great sale for the Inventor, who will go to Europe and have a good time.”

Happily, William Bradford seemed to have no such difficulties with his scrap-book, and indeed his family continued to use it after his death — his obituary is there, neatly cut and pasted onto the pre-gummed bars of the backing.

After Icebergs with a Painter: An Inspiration for Bradford’s 1869 Voyage

In Arctic Regions, William Bradford chronicled his 1869 voyage to the Arctic along Greenland’s coast, & cites two books that initially inspired his exploration for art’s sake: Lord Dufferin’s Letters from High Places and Elisha Kent Kane’s Arctic Explorations in the years of 1853, ’54, ’55.

At least one other book would have caught Bradford’s attention and imagination: Rev. L. L. Noble’s After Icebergs with a Painter, published in 1861. Noble described his 1859 voyage searching for icebergs–for art’s sake–which he made with the great American landscape artist, Frederic E. Church.[1] As Richard Kugler stated[2]: “Although Bradford makes no mention of it, it is likely that he was…familiar with Louis Legrand Noble’s After Icebergs with a Painter…, an account of an 1859 trip made with Church, who provided illustrations for the volume. A copy of the book was also on board the schooner Benjamin S Wright during Bradford’s 1864 voyage to Labrador…”[3]

Interestingly throughout After Icebergs…, Noble refers to Church only as “C_____”; but, as Kugler said: “many of its readers would have instantly recognized him as Frederic E. Church, whose enormous painting The Icebergs caused a sensation when put on view in New York in 1861.”[4] It would seem likely, then, “that Bradford was inspired by…The Icebergs, which…was hailed by the New York Tribune as the ‘most splendid work of art that has yet been produced in this country.’ Bradford would surely have seen The Icebergs in late 1861 in New York, or at least in 1862, when it was exhibited in Boston.[5]

We also know that Church was a friend of Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes, who accompanied Bradford on the 1869 voyage. Church had, in fact, given artistic counsel to Dr. Hayes, as Hayes desired to make sketches of scientific interest. In return, Hayes gave Church one of his sketches: “a scene that would become the basis for Church’s second Arctic painting, The Aurora Borealis (Smithsonian Museum of American Art).”[6]

In Bradford’s scrapbook of news clippings, several articles refer to Church, often comparing his artistic work with Bradford’s.

 “ARCTIC PICTURES,” written in London: kudos to Bradford, Church, Bierstadt…to personally observe natural phenomenons..”the sincerety and hardihood” of which “appeal to English feeling.”

Arctic Pictures (1)

Yet in another of Bradford’s scrapbooks–a very special piece of evidence of Bradford’s and Church’s connection with each other is Church’s signature: “Yours sincerely Frederic E Church.”[7] (#A-288)

Frederick_E_Church (1)

With the various connections between Bradford and Church, it seems fitting to share Church’s 1859 voyage with followers of Bradford and the Arctic Visions exhibit. As we are fortunate to have Bradford’s and Hayes’s accounts of their 1869 voyage, we are also fortunate to have Noble’s account of Church’s 1859 voyage in his After Icebergs with a Painter: again, for art’s sake.

So, to share with everyone the passion of Church’s voyage–which also inspired Bradford’s–William Bradford @WmBradford_NBWM will soon “tweet” to his followers passages of After Icebergs…! Please stay with us as the voyage continues….

 


[1] Frederic E. Church (May 4, 1826 – April 7, 1900) was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chur/hd_chur.htm, by Kevin J. Avery. 

[2] Richard C. Kugler: William Bradford–Sailing Ships & Arctic Seas,New Bedford, Mass.: New Bedford Whaling Museum, 2003, p84 n2

[3] D. A. Wasson, ‘Ice and Esquimaux,’ in Atlantic Monthly 7 (January 1865), 46.

[4] Kugler, William Bradford, Sailing Ships & Arctic Seas, p. 17

[5] Ibid, p84n2

[6] Ibid, p. 26

[7] The last four words of Church’s note to Bradford can be seen: “…at the Studio Building,” which may have referenced a studio building in NYC where both Bradford and Church had presences.

Joanne Seymour is a New Bedford Whaling Museum volunteer in its Research Library. As such, she has contributed to the Arctic Visions exhibit: in part, her contributions have included transcription of entries in the three Bradford scrapbooks, and “tweeting” as William Bradford from Arctic Regions and as Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes from his Land of Desolation.

Charles Francis Hall

hall_bradfordCharles Francis Hall may well have been the most passionate — and most peculiar — of all nineteenth-century Arctic explorers. He was not born to the sea — in fact, for the first half of his life, he was an ordinary man, a businessman, a family man firmly secured to the land. Born in New Hampshire, he came to Cincinnati in the late 1840’s and established a shop that engraved stamps and seals for business use. He owned a printing press, and put out an irregular news-sheet known as the Cincinnati Occasional, in which he vented his spleen about various subjects, and advertised his own wares. Apparently affected by the death of Dr. Kane, he took up a sudden passion for the Arctic, and in 1860, after the final record of the Franklin expedition had been found, took off for New York and a meeting with Henry Grinnell, patron of Kane’s search expedition. One might think that Grinnell would have discouraged Hall’s notion that perhaps some of Franklin’s men still lived and could be found, but instead he encouraged it, and Hall, with his new friend’s help, found passage north on the whaler “George Henry,” Sidney O. Budington, captain.

While wintering in the Arctic, Hall made the acquaintance of two Inuit guides — Tookoolito (“Hannah”) and Ebierbing (“Joe”). They became his fast companions, and returned with him to the U.S. the next spring, as he announced he’d found traces of the sixteenth-century Frobisher expedition. What Hall really wanted, though, was a fresh chance to search for Franklin, and with the help of an east coast tour with Hannah and Joe, he raised funds to return, and this time made it to King William Island, where Franklin’s men had met their fate. He collected an enormous amount of Inuit testimony, but never did find any men alive, though his hopes were often raised and then dashed. After his return from this expedition, he chose a new goal, the North Pole, and managed to out-maneuver Arctic veteran Dr. Isaac I. Hayes in getting Congressional approval and funding for a fresh expedition — all he needed was a worthy vessel.

Remarkably, an 1870 letter survives from Hall to Bradford in which he seeks the latter’s advice for the best ship to obtain for his northward voyage. Hall hadn’t apparently met Bradford before — his letter begins “Dear Sir” — but on his friend Grinnell’s recommendation, he was most anxious to obtain his views. The letter reads in part:

“You kindly offered to give me any information I might desire relative to your voyage to Greenland in in the fall of 1869. Mr. G. furthermore thought it advisable that I should visit you at Fair Haven … but I cannot at present spare the time to come there … I believe it was the Panther that you chartered for that Voyage. What was her tonnage & what do you think of her qualities for the North Pole Voyage I am to start at the next Spring?”

In  the end, Hall chose a different vessel, the “Polaris,” and set off on his voyage in 1871, setting a new record for furthest north, only to be poisoned with arsenic, in all probability by his own ships’ surgeon. He was buried in northwest Greenland at the place he’d named “Thank God Harbor” on November 9th. 1871. Fittingly, in 1875, Bradford painted a view of the “Polaris” as one of his last “Great Paintings.”

Russell A. Potter has been fascinated with the Arctic regions for many years, and has written and lectured extensively on many different aspects of its history. His book Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875, is required reading for anyone interested in our Arctic Visions exhibit. In addition to contributing to this blog he is providing critical guidance as Curatorial Consultant, and has authored the Introduction to our re-publication of Arctic Regions

Francis Russell Nixon

Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Bradford Scrapbooks | 2 Comments

nixonAnglican Bishop Francis Russell Nixon is among the more singular signatories in William Bradford’s studio scrapbook. Had he only his brilliant academic career and subsequent rise in the church, he would already have been noteworthy, but what makes him even more significant in this instance is his early passion for the new science of photography. His published lectures on church doctrine led to his appointment as the first Bishop of Tasmania, and it was there that he took up the nascent art of the daguerreotype.

When Nixon disembarked at Hobart Town on July 18th 1843, the famed Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin was still governor, though his term would end abruptly a mere 34 days later. Nixon would remain nearly twenty years beyond that, always a tireless advocate for education and reform, causes in which his uncompromising ways led — as had Franklin’s — to a recall from his duties as he clashed with Franklin’s successor as Governor, Sir John Eardley-Wilmot.

His work as a photographer was directly inspired by that of Richard Beard, the pioneering English daguerrreotypist whose portraits of Franklin and his officers are still well-known today. Nixon brought some of Beard’s daguerreotypes with him, showing them with enthusiasm to many of his new acquaintances in Tasmania. He seems to have been very active, although sadly very few of his photographs, among the earliest ever taken in Tasmania, survive; he is best-known for his portraits of eight of the last surviving Aboriginal inhabitants, taken in March of 1858 at Oyster Cove. He was also an innovator, adapting the Calotype and wet-plate collodion processes as soon as these were known, and bringing to Tasmania the first panoramic camera, though no images from it have survived.

By the time he signed Bradford’s scrapbook, Nixon would have been a much older and disappointed man; having returned to England in 1862 due to ill-health, he was obliged to retire from the church entirely a year later. He spent most of his final years in Italy, though it seems he must have returned to London periodically; he died on April 2nd, 1879, and was buried in the British cemetery in Stresa.

Edward Augustus Inglefield

Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Bradford Scrapbooks | 2 Comments

Captain Edward Augustus InglefieldPerhaps the most significant of all the signatures in the Bradford scrapbooks is that of Captain (and later Admiral) Edward Augustus Inglefield — not only because Inglefield was the commander of three Arctic expeditions involved in the Franklin search, but because he was also a pioneering Arctic photographer — quite possibly the very first to use the wet-plate collodion process in those regions. Inglefield was also an accomplished painter, who exhibited his “Arctic pictures” (possibly including photographs) at several venues in London in the 1850’s (the ambiguity of the word “pictures” makes it hard to know for certain exactly what was in these exhibits).

Douglas Wamsley, the biographer of Isaac Israel Hayes who has contributed several valuable items to the Arctic Visions exhibit, is also the co-author, with William Barr, of a key study of early Arctic photography. Wamsley and Barr note that Inglefield, a dedicated amateur photographer, brought with him not only the apparatus and chemicals needed, but a copy of one of the earliest instruction books, Frederick Scott Archer‘s A manual of the collodion photographic process (1852). His plates are remarkably good; although in a few cases the “pour” of the collodion failed to cover the entire plate, the exposures are clear and crisp, and include the remarkable portrait above. Here we see Inglefield in less formal dress, with a naval jacket, “smoking cap” and a rather more full beard than in his other portraits.  Inglefield also took photographs of Greenland Inuit, including a man in a kayak with a skin bladder, images of several settlements, and groups of native women.

And, as was the case with Bradford’s lantern slides, the Inglefield plates were preserved but mislaid in the vast vaults of the National Maritime Museum; as Barr and Wamsley note, they weren’t discovered until a major collection move in 1994, when they were found in a box with no label; identification was made from the inscription “Holsteinbourg. E.A. Inglefield 1854” which was scratched on the emulsion of one plate. The Maritime Museum included images of several of these plates as part of their “Freeze Frame” exhibition, and they may be seen online here.

So here we have Inglefield — possibly the first person ever to try the wet-plate process in the Arctic — patronizing Bradford’s studios and looking at the work of Dunmore and Critcherson. One can only imagine — and wish one could overhear — the conversation that must have ensued between Inglefield and Bradford.

Russell A. Potter has been fascinated with the Arctic regions for many years, and has written and lectured extensively on many different aspects of its history. His book Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875, is required reading for anyone interested in our Arctic Visions exhibit. In addition to contributing to this blog he is providing critical guidance as Curatorial Consultant, and has authored the Introduction to our re-publication of Arctic Regions