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    Ultra Rare Quarter Plate Daguerreotype of Brevet Major General Richard Delafield, Being the Earliest Known Photograph of Him. A highly important and likely unpublished image of a key American military figure of the early to mid 19th century, most likely taken in New Orleans or Texas. Accessible portraits of Delafield (1798-1873) date to the Civil War era and show him as an overweight elderly man. When sitting for this daguerreotype, however, he was still middle-aged and considerably slimmer. Delafield wears a U.S. Army Major or Lt. Colonel of Engineers dress uniform and cradles his staff officer's sword. Although his coat buttons are hard to identify given photographer's gilt, Delafield's belt plate clearly is dominated by the Engineers' distinctive castle - a device he personally promoted early in his career. Delafield's lifelong association with the Army Corps of Engineers began in 1818 upon graduating first in his class at West Point. His initial posting as a young lieutenant found him working on the Hampton Roads defenses in Virginia. Subsequent activities found Delafield engaged in defense construction along the Mississippi delta. Twenty years after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, Delafield was appointed superintendent of the institution and held that position until 1845, commanding the likes of Robert Lee and Thomas Jackson. As the 1840s gave way to the 1850s, Delafield was engaged in building defenses for New York Harbor. In 1856, after visiting the Crimea as an observer, he was recalled from the field, again being placed in command of West Point.

    The onset of the Civil War brought Delafield back to New York City as commander of the harbor defenses he had helped construct several years earlier. The crowning achievement of Delafield's career came in 1864 when he became the U.S. Army's Chief Engineer. He retired in 1866 after nearly 50 years serving his country as an able administrator and practical engineer. Any military daguerreotype is highly collectible because of its inherent rarity. Delafield's portrait here is of the highest caliber on every front. There is a fingerprint in the right field, some fine abrasions to the left and three scratches on the subject's forehead. Fortunately, these detract very little from the overall appeal of the images. The case has excellent surfaces with only minor wear on the spine.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    29th-30th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,123

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