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Mansion from the Water tower [1]

View of Belmont from the Water tower [1]
Carte de Visite
Date: July – December 1863 (made); January 1864 – May 1866 (printed)
A. S. Morse,
Dep’t of the Cumberland,
Branch of Hd. Qrs., 25 Cedar Street
Nashville, Tenn.
BMA Purchase

This is one of two Carte de Visites (CDVs) which was taken of the mansion on the same day. A carriage appears posed in the same place in both photos, while there are more people posed in the first photograph.

The first advertisement for A. S. Morse [A. may be for Algernon] and Washington Peaslee ran in the Nashville newspaper on July 16, 1863. That same advertisement ran for over five months until December 31, 1863. In January of the following year, the advertisement continued to run but with a slight change. Peaslee’s name was removed from the advertisement and Morse’s name was the only one that appeared. The discovery of these newspaper advertisements reveal a fairly narrow window during which the photographs could have been taken. Most likely, the images were taken during the last five months of 1863.

The photography studio was named Gallery of the Cumberland and the back mark of the second CDV refers to the occupying Federal army. This notation suggests that the studio was a branch of the headquarters the Army of the Cumberland. We might assume that there was an official relationship between the studio and the army, but the nature of this relationship is unknown. Due to the occupying Federal Army, there was a large demand of photographs of soldiers that they might send home to family. Morse advertised CDVs of Union Generals both in Nashville and throughout the region. Such images, along with other views of Nashville, served as early “postcards” of Nashville. All four of the known Belmont CDVs have come from collections in the Midwestern and Northeastern regions of the United States; with two coming from groups of other military photographs.

A.S. Morse may have moved to Nashville from Davenport, Iowa. It is unknown where Washington Peaslee lived before arriving in Nashville. Peaslee apparently leaves in the city 1864 and next appears in Indianapolis, Indiana. When in Indianapolis he appears to be in business with Stephen B. Treadwell at the studio of Treadwell & Peaslee [1]. Morse remains in Nashville after the Civil War. The last Gallery of the Cumberland newspaper advertisement is dated May 6, 1866. It appears that Morse dies around this time. His studio burns the same year, on October 24th, destroying the building, equipment and approximately 11,000 negatives. At the time of the fire, the property was in the possession of L. H. Morse, and the relationship between the two men remains unclear [2].

Mark Brown
[1] From Landon’s list of 19th & Early 20th Century Photographers,
[2] Daily Union and American, October 25, 1866.

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