One of the most important halls of the United States Capitol is on the second floor directly outside of the Senate Chambers. Senators rush down the hall to get to the chambers to speak or vote. Reporters and photographers use the hall for the senate stake out position. Visitors usually stop by the Ohio Clock, and icon of Washington history. If these visitors would turn around or look to their left, they would see see portraits of Senators Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun. This was the work of Mathew Brady. Brady created the portrait using the daguerreotype process and then hired artists to create and oil painting. The portraits of Senators Clay and Calhoun were painted by Henry Darby in New York.
The portrait of Senator Webster is believed to be painted by Richard Francis Nagle. for more information about these paintings: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/artifact/Painting_32_00001.htm
Like almost everyone I had walked past these portraits for decades. I have stopped at and admired the portrait of Senator John C. Calhoun. I thought it was an excellent work, but never realized that it was the work of Mathew Brady. I invited Wayne Ritchie, and Mathew Brady historical and presenter, to Washington to celebrate the 193rd birthday of Brady, and Mr. Wayne requested a visit to the Capitol to see Brady’s portraits. Since these portraits are in a section of the U.S. Capitol which is generally not available to tourists, I asked Jeff Kent, the director of the Senate Press Photographers Gallery for his assistance. Wayne Ritchie, his wife, and their two grandchildren arrived dressed as Mathew Brady would have looked if he were viewing his work. Everything worked perfectly and we all learned about a little know piece of American history.
After the Capitol we went to the Congressional Cemetery and to Mathew Brady’s grave. The Congressional Cemetery is a great story. For decades it had been in ruin. Besides the final resting place the area for members of congress and Washingtonians it was used as an open air drug market and one of the most dangerous places in the city. With creative and innovative management the cemetery was restored to become an “in” place on Capitol Hill. Great history, a great story, for more:
Mr. Ritchie, helped by his grandson who reenacts the role of Brady’s assistant Levin Handy, set up their gear.
Chris Usher brought his 8×10 studio camera to make photographs using the paper negative process, (https://www.facebook.com/chrisusherphotography).
The gathering was for a champagne toast to Mathew Brady by the members of the White House News Photographers Association. The guests were a who’s who of famous journalists: Susan Biddle,Darr Beiser,John McDonnell, Bill O’Leary, Joshua Roberts, Aude Guerrucci,Marty Katz,David Kleber. While waiting for a brief rain to pass we got a call from Jonathan Ernst, one of the Air Force One pool, asking if we were still there—sure. The President had just landed at Joint Base Andrews and the Air Force One crew, Martinez Monsivals AP, Jonathan Ernst, and Nicholas Kamm.
Other friends and my son, Dennis, joined for a group photograph. Some stunning paper negatives images by Chris Usher which Mathew Brady would recognize and then a quick view with a digital camera by Martinez Monsivals which I am certain would baffle old Brady. It was a fun afternoon and a fine tribute to Mathew Brady who was truly the first news photographer in Washington, DC.