Saturday, April 14, 2018

Photo explorer: Intriguing faces at Washington's Grand Review

In a photograph attributed to Mathew Brady, a packed reviewing stand at the Grand Review.
(Library of Congress | Click on images to enlarge.)

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In a giant exclamation point to a brutal war, more than 140,000 Union soldiers marched through the dusty streets of Washington for the Grand Review on May 23-24, 1865. The New York Times described the two-day festival as a "grand pageant," while other newspapers were equally profuse with praise of the momentous event.

A damaged view of  Grand Review grandstand. (Library of Congress)
"The spectacle just passed away has had no equal in the history of the continent," the Philadelphia Inquirer enthusiastically reported.

"Never has Washington witnessed a more august occasion or presented a more beautiful or animated spectacle," The Pittsburgh Daily Post noted. "The whole population of the city is in the streets, swollen by many thousands of strangers which have been pouring in here for days past from all points of the compass, and by every imaginable mode of conveyance."

"An Immense Concourse of People Present," a headline in the Cleveland Daily Leader blared.

The Grand Review was well-documented by photographers, including the renowned Mathew Brady, who had a studio near the White House. Of the scores of images taken, two attributed to Brady are the most intriguing to me: a photo of dignitaries in the presidential reviewing stand near the White House and a stereograph (top of post) titled "Grand review of the army. Interior view of grandstand."

As if on the photographer's cue, Grand Review attendees -- a little girl, ladies wearing bonnets, men in top hats and other ordinary citizens -- stare directly into the camera. In cropped enlargements of this remarkable photograph, available for your own inspection on the Library of Congress site,  "hidden" details emerge.

... an especially serious-looking woman wearing an impressive bonnet and a overly large bow stands out in this crowd ...

... while at the upper left, we discover a doppelganger for President Lincoln, assassinated the previous month, and an older man who apparently is amused. Check out the haunting pair of eyes on the individual below our "Lincoln." ...

... in this cropped enlargement, a small girl, perhaps no more than 8 years old, looks charming in a hat with three feathers. Standing near her, we see two soldiers, one grasping a musket with a lengthy bayonet ...

... and at upper left, we find a man with more than a hint of smile and a bespectacled gentleman, a lookalike for Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War. The real Stanton was in the presidential reviewing stand for the Grand Review ...

... while in the background, behind the grandstand, we discover parade-goers taking advantage of an elevated position on the Treasury building, probably a prime viewing spot on the magical day. The reviewing stand was at Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Northwest. (Hat tip: Andy Hall.)

What else do you see in the photograph?

-- Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

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