[CLASS ALBUM] Early photographic Class Album of The Free Academy (later, City College) of New York. The spine title is Fr...
The spine title is Free Academy Souvenir (no formal title page was issued). New York: 1855. Contemporary full black morocco, spine and upper board ruled, lettered in gilt "Class of 55 [rule] Walter Brinckerhoff, Jr.", spine titled as noted, marbled endpapers. 11 1/8 x 8 7/8 inches (22.5 x 28 cm); the album contains 31 salt print portraits (oval, about 89 mm at the largest diameter), plus autographs and sentiments. Neatly rebacked retaining original spine, boards lightly bumped along edges, scattered (mostly light) foxing, some edge-fading to a few of the salt prints.
The first 13 pages have autographed sentiments from the first president of City College, Horace Webster, and a number of professors. This is followed by 31 leaves with salt print portrait of a graduating student, mounted within a printed border, and with facsimile signatures of the subject. Each image has a tissue guard, and an additional page on which classmates wrote sentiments to the album's owner, Walter Brinckerhoff, Jr. Laid in is a copy of Merit Roll, New York Free Academy, July 1854 and 4 duplicate salt prints.
These are among the earliest photographic portraits of graduates of higher education in the United States. The only earlier publications (as opposed to group daguerreotypes, a different type of class souvenir) of which we are aware are the Harvard Class Albums, the earliest of which we find is recorded as 1852. This album includes written sentiments (though no photographs) by such prominent professors as Horace Webster, Wolcott Gibbs, and Charles Edward Anthon. A few students of note are also present: Elihu Dwight Church was a partner in what became the Arm and Hammer Baking Soda firm; Everett P. Wheeler was a prominent lawyer and civic reformer and a founder of the New York Bar; Charles B. Hayes, was a sergeant in the Muscatine County Volunteers; and Henry A. Post was a colonel in command of the 2nd Regiment Sharpshooters from 1861-1863. The edition was unlikely to have been much larger than the thirty-one graduates (and, presumably, a few copies for their professors).
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