Episode 38: The Last Muster Journey

This episode focuses on my Last Muster project.  Almost two decades ago I started looking for images of individuals who lived during the American Revolution and into the age of photography after 1839.   It’s been an amazing journey. Two volumes with a third in the works, two museum exhibits (one permanent at the Museum of the American Revolution) and three films. Thank you for joining me on this journey. 

It may seem surprising, many members of that generation survived into the age of photography, making it possible to look directly into the faces of individuals who lived that history. By searching through databases, museum holdings, and private collections, I have uncovered and authenticated over 200 photographs of men, women, and children of the Revolutionary era.”

The hunt for images is ongoing.  There are too few images of women who tended the home front, accompanied their men into war, or married these men later.  I’m still hoping for portraits of tories and of men who were contracted to serve such as the Hessians. Surely a few pictures of British men who served in the Colonies exist someplace.   I need your help. 

You might have an image of a Revolutionary War participant and not know it. Some of these individuals were famous in their communities for being the last living link to the war but others were barely recognized. 

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.

Age of Subject

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.

The Films

Pam and I will be on the road for the next couple of weeks.   First stop is the Concord Museum in Concord Massachusetts.   We’re presenting two films and talking about our experiences. A few years ago, the Concord Museum featured an exhibit of many of the Last Muster images. We’ll be there on April 26th.   

On April 30th  We’ll be at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. we are showing the films with a presentation.

A list of everyone in the Last Muster books appears on my website MaureenTaylor.com.  If you want an autographed copy, you can purchse the volumes through my online store.  And you can watch the Revolutionary Trio films on my website as well

About Maureen Taylor: Maureen is a frequent keynote speaker on photo identification, photograph preservation, and family history at historical and genealogical societies, museums, conferences, libraries, and other organizations across the U.S., London and Canada.  She’s the author of several books and hundreds of articles and her television appearances include The View and The Today Show (where she researched and presented a complete family tree for host Meredith Vieira).  She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, The Boston Globe, Martha Stewart Living, Germany’s top newspaper Der Spiegel, American Spirit, and The New York Times. Maureen was recently a spokesperson and photograph expert for MyHeritage.com, an internationally known family history website and also writes guidebooks, scholarly articles and online columns for such media as Smithsonian.com. Learn more at https://maureentaylor.com.