Finding the Revolutionary War Generation
American Spirit is the official
magazine of the Daughters of
the American Revolution.
Did you know that many of the men, women and children who experienced the Revolutionary War first-hand lived beyond the advent of photography (1839)?
If an image in your photo collection fits the following criteria, it could depict a member of the Revolutionary War generation:
Type of photograph
Look for these types of images:
- Daguerreotypes (1839 to 1860s): The first photographs, daguerreotypes have reflective surfaces. You must hold the photos at an angle to see their images. Daguerreotypes are often found in cases.
- Ambrotypes (invented in 1854): Often placed in cases because of their fragility, these glass images are backed with dark material.
- Tintypes or ferrotypes (invented in 1856): This third type of cased image is produced on thin sheets of iron.
- Cartes de visite (CDVs) (introduced in 1854): Inspired by 19th-century visiting cards, these small paper prints usually measured 2×4 inches.
The subjects’ ages
Are the people in your pictures old enough to be part of the Revolutionary War generation?
- Patriots, soldiers, and loyalist adults: Anyone who was an adult during the American Revolution would have been at least 80 years old by the advent of photography.
- Children: Anyone who was a child during the American Revolution would have been in his late 50s or older when he had his picture taken.
- Wives and widows: The last surviving widow of a Revolutionary soldier died in 1906! Esther Sumner married Noah Damon when she was 21 and he was 75. Finding pictures of wives and widows means looking at pictures taken between 1840 and the early 1900s.
Gallery of images
Daniel Waldo (September 10, 1762 – July 30, 1864)
Churchill & Denison, 522 Broadway, Albany, N.Y, CDV Collection of David Lambert.
Born in Windham, Connecticut, Daniel Waldo was drafted as a soldier at 16 for one month of service and later enlisted for an additional term. According to his pension application, he was taken prisoner in December 1779 and released in February 1780 from the famous Sugar House Prisons in New York, known for cruel treatment of inmates. After the war, he became a Congregational minister, married, and had several children. There are several different CDVs of Waldo from the 1860s. Is anyone aware of a daguerreotype of Daniel Waldo?
Samuel Curtis (July 30, 1779 –August 25, 1879)
M. Chandler, Marshfield, MA 1879 CDV
Based on the photographer’s imprint, date on the back, and research in published vital records, Maureen Taylor determined this was a picture of “Samuel Curtis, died 21 August 1879, aged 100, 22 days.” The final piece of identification fell into place with his obituary in the Boston Daily Advertiser, August 25, 1879. It stated, “On his last birthday he had his photograph taken twice, once alone and once in a group.” Taylor and Lambert haven’t located the group portrait yet. His father Samuel Curtis served as a private with Captain William Turner’s band of Minutemen that answered the call for troops during the Battle of Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775.
If you have information or images to contribute to Maureen’s Revolutionary War project, please contact her.