“An Admirable Portrait” of Frederick Douglass
Portrait detail of Frederick Douglass

Portrait detail of Frederick Douglass. Photograph by Stephen H. Waite, 1864. Taken in Hartford during an 1864 lecture tour - Connecticut Historical Society

By Nancy Finlay for Your Pubic Media

The Great Abolitionist is Photographed in Hartford

“S. H. Waite, No. 271 Main Street, has taken an admirable photograph of Frederick Douglass, which may be seen in the store window of Geer & Pond’s, where copies (carte de visites) can be purchased.”

Poster for a lecture Douglass gave in Hartford in 1883

Hon. Frederic Douglass… Lecture in Allyn Hall. Broadside, 1883. Poster for a lecture Douglass gave in Hartford in 1883 – Connecticut Historical Society

This advertisement for a new photograph of the African American orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, taken by local photographer Stephen H. Waite, appeared in the Hartford Daily Courant on April 16, 1864. Cartes-de-visite (small photographs about the size of a visiting card) depicting famous people were avidly collected during the 1860s, and the fact that Douglass’s portrait received special mention in the Courant is some measure of Douglass’s popularity in Hartford.

The same evening Waite’s portrait was advertised for sale, Douglass delivered a speech on “The National Crisis” at Hartford’s Allyn Hall in which he discussed the rights of African Americans, especially African American soldiers, who were being paid less than their white counterparts for their Civil War service. Douglass had been active in recruiting young men to serve in the so-called “colored” regiments, including Connecticut’s 29th Regiment Colored Volunteers. In January 1864, Douglass had addressed the men of the 29th encamped in New Haven, waiting to be mustered in. Congress finally granted equal pay to African American troops in June 1864 and made the pay increase retroactive.

Nancy Finlay, formerly Curator of Graphics at the Connecticut Historical Society, is the editor of Picturing Victorian America: Prints by the Kellogg Brothers of Hartford, Connecticut, 1830-1880.

© Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network and Connecticut Historical Society. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared on Your Public Media

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Learn More


Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History to the Present Time, Including His Connection with the Anti-Slavery Movement. Hartford, CT: Park Publishing Company, 1882. Link.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. Boston, MA: The Anti-Slavery Office, 1845. Link.

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