American Civil War

Mathew Brady


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Mathew Brady: "The Father of Photojournalism"

Mathew Brady


Mathew B. Brady- (1823-1896)

Mathew Brady is considered the "Father of Photojournalism," for his work in photographing the American Civil War in the 1860s. His parents were immigrants from Ireland, and Mathew was born in Warren County in New York State.

Mathew Brady studied under Samuel Morse beginning in 1839. Also that year, he met Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the early photograph, the Daguerreotype. Brady took his newfound knowledge in photographic science back to the United States and opened his own gallery.

In 1850, Brady published a collection of photographs featuring the most famous Americans of his time, called "A Gallery of Illustrious Americans." Among the important Americans posing for Brady's portraits was an Illinois politician named Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln later used Brady's portrait of him in his presidential campaign. He met Juliette Handy at his photography studio, and they married in 1851. When she died in 1887, he became depressed and alcoholic.

By the time of the secession crisis and the beginning of the Civil War, Mathew Brady was already quite famous as the leading photographer of his day. Determined to record the history of the war in photographs, Brady organized a team of professional photographers to follow the Union army as it fought. The collection of photos from this enterprise, titled "The Photographic History of the Civil War," is considered an important and stunning record of the war, capturing not only the glory of the war, but also the horrible cost of combat.

While considered today as a valuable book, at the time, his profits from its sale did not make up for his cost in outfitting his staff of photojournalists, which cost at least $100,000 (a very large amount of money in the 1860s). In addition, a post-war economic depression cost him many of his other investments, and, by the time he died in 1896, he was a poor man, suffering from alcoholism and loneliness. Most of Brady's photographs now reside in the public domain (meaning they belong to the public, and are not the private property of any one person or business), because Congress bought his collection for $2,840 in 1875.

There are many opportunities in our world today for photographers, perhaps check out a Photography School and you can begin your own professional collection just like Mathew Brady.



Links and Resources

Internet Links:

Library of Congress: Mathew B. Brady --Features a biography, career summary, and a photo portrait of the American Civil War photographer.

Photo-Seminars.com: Mathew Brady --Biography and career summary of the famous professional photographer of American history.

Photography at Temple: Mathew Brady --Photos and a biographical profile of the pioneer of Civil War photography.

A History of Photography--by Robert Leggat.

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery: Mathew Brady's Portraits --Includes a biographical timeline, essays, photo technique descriptions, and a collection of portraits by the American legend of photography.

Sons of the South: About Mathew Brady --Exhibits photographs and a summary of the life and career of the man responsible for most of the photographs made during the Civil War.

Spartacus Education: Mathew Brady --Overview of the master of portrait photography.

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Personal Data

Role in the war years: Mathew Brady recorded the Civil War in an impressive collection of photographs. Many of the images used in most books and websites on the American Civil War are from Brady's collection. Also, at the time of the war, his photos enabled civilians on the homefront to see what the war really looked like.

Brady is considered the "Father of Photojournalim."


Date of Birth: 1823

Date of Death: January 15, 1896

Occupation: Photographer

Pre-War: Professional Photographer, owner of his own photo gallery

Post-War: Professional Photographer, owner of his own photo gallery



World Biography-More pages on contemporaries of Mathew Brady

Clara Barton-- The "Angel of the Battlefield" who brought nursing care to wounded soldiers during the Civil War and later founded the American Red Cross.

Mathew Brady-- The "Father of Photojournalism" whose photos of Civil War battlefields brought the horrors of war home to civilians on the homefront.

Dr. Benjamin Rush-- Signer of the Declaration of Independence, member of the Constitutional Convention, noted physician and ardent supporter for the abolition of slavery.

Thomas Nast-American political cartoonist.

General George Armstrong Custer-- Famous American Cavalry officer who died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

General Robert E. Lee-- The commanding general for the South in the American Civil War.--New

Lorenzo de Zavala--First Vice-President of the Republic of Texas.


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