Personal Photograph Album of John Billings, Author of Hardtack and Coffee, Kept During the Civil War. John Billings, Civil War.
Personal Photograph Album of John Billings, Author of Hardtack and Coffee, Kept During the Civil War.
Personal Photograph Album of John Billings, Author of Hardtack and Coffee, Kept During the Civil War.

Personal Photograph Album of John Billings, Author of Hardtack and Coffee, Kept During the Civil War.

Massachusetts: 1860s. 9 x 6 inches. Polished calf decorative covers. Nineteen pages, with 55 Carte-de-Visite portraits. Good. Item #CAT0140

A carte-de-visite portrait album kept by Billings during the Civil War. Notation before index reads: “This album was sent me, at my order, from Philadelphia and was received while our army lay at Brandy Station in the winter of 1863-1864. I think! Many of the pictures I carried with me throughout nearly my whole term of service. This is true of these on the first 17 pages. The others have been inserted since the war.”

A particularly noteworthy artifact. Hardtack and Coffee is one of few books on soldiers’ everyday life, and this album would have been quite significant for Billings. He discusses photographs twice in the book as being among the dearest objects soldiers kept with them. Per Billings’ own note on the endpapers, there are seventeen portraits present that he personally kept with him during the first part of the war, before adding them to this album in 1863. These include: his parents, several cousins and various acquaintances. The remainder of the portraits were added later. Notable subjects include two portraits of Billings himself, and two portraits of his future wife, Mary Phillips Cotton Whitney.

Unfortunately, portraits of Billings' compatriots are missing. Several portraits of members of the Massachusetts 10th were removed in the 1980s by an unknown person and framed, with the subjects’ identities and the photos removals noted on the mounts. Several other pages lack portraits, though it is unclear whether or not each space in the album was originally filled. The photographs that remain are in very good condition. The album itself is worn, with tears and chips to spine and general wear. First leaf repaired with crude tape. Still a significant piece despite the flaws.

Price: $4,500.00