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"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Monday, January 12, 2015

An Update from Jean Libby on the Updated JB Photo Chronology: You Can Help Too

Dear friends,

The journey of identification and classification of the photo portraits of John Brown the abolitionist is moving to completion in the year 2015.  

The lifetime process continues collaboration with new parameters.  Rick Moss, Chief Curator at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (California) is publishing the entire collection of reproductions online.  Response to his requests for permissions from archives is immediate and gratifying.  The archivists who have worked with me in creating the chronology are glad to see coming to a permanent and stable web presence that can be accessed without charge.  

Development and publication of the John Brown Photo Chronology has always been collaborative.  The Harpers Ferry Historical Association was there from the beginning with support and representation.  The physical exhibition remains at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, where it was installed in 2009.  One of the purposes of the FotoFund grant is to create four new panels printed in fine-art manner and mounted with revised descriptive legends.   

There is regular collaboration with John Brown scholars since the first conference at Pennsylvania State University in Montalto in 1994.  It is so fine to participate with so many who are writing and publishing about John Brown.  In particular I would mention Louis A. DeCaro, Jr., who was a new John Brown scholar at that conference.  His 'Fire From the Midst of You', a religious life of John Brown (NYU Press 2002) was the first historically documented and published biography since Stephen Oates and Richard Boyer in the 1970s.  He has two books forthcoming with Rowman and Littlefield, one on the Harpers Ferry raid and Brown's prison experiences and exaltering execution, the second a companion volume of letters and documents.  Lou has contributed essays to Allies for Freedom publications in 2006 and 2009 as well as a frequent correspondent.

Like it or not we cannot write about John Brown without learning and interpreting his Kansas activities and adventures.  The most thorough collection of reproductions of the original daguerreotype sittings of John Brown is at the Kansas Historical Society archives.  Many are available on Kansas Memory in a general catalog.  My photo research at the KHS archives began in 1978 with archivist Pat Michaelis, who is now the Director.  Through the years I have collaborated with Kirke Mechem, the composer and son of Kirke Mechem the KHS Secretary in the 1920s-1950s, who is now writing his autobiography with Scarecrow Press.  Since 1998 collaboration has grown with Douglas County author/historian Judy Sweets.  At the present revision of the chronology her research contributions about the artists and photographers of John Brown are essential. 

Anyone who has researched daguerreotypes is familiar with the work of  John S. Craig and his Daguerreian Registry.   When I published the John Brown Photo Chronology in 2009 Craig corresponded with me about the last photograph of John Brown that was taken before he grew his famous beard.  I am correcting that description in the revised chronology.  Sadly, John Craig passed away in February 2011.  It is my honor to let you know that Jill Krutick Craig, his wife and a retired Administrative Law Court Judge, is continuing Craig's Camera business and website.  She remembers well conversations about John Brown through the years.  It was of special interest because their home is in Torrington, Connecticut, the birthplace of John Brown.

All of you on the Allies for Freedom email list of events and publications about John Brown and his African American supporters that I began in 2000 at a conference in Harpers Ferry are collaborators with the chronology.  I seek your support for published revisions to the catalog and the production of new panels to be completed in Spring 2015.  

With gratitude and cooperation,

Jean Libby
author and curator
John Brown Photo Chronology

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