Grant Historian Says: First Photo Of U.S. Grant Last Seen In Macon
BY DAWN LLEWELLYN, C-H Reporter
MACON - The first-ever photo taken of General Ulysses S. Grant was last seen in Macon, according to a New York City author and gallery owner, Keya Morgan, who is also a photo historian and Grant historian.
Morgan, who is currently writing a book, "Grant In Photographs, Every Known Image," contacted the C-H in search of answers to an almost 90-year-old mystery.
He said Maria Louisa Boggs, whose husband, Harry Boggs, was a cousin of Grant's wife, Julia Boggs Dent Grant, knew General Grant very well in the 1850s and 1860s, and was in possession of the photograph at the time of her death.
Sometime before she died, Morgan said, someone was able to copy the original, but no one knows where the original went upon Boggs' death.
The daguerreotype photograph was taken in Bethel, Ohio in 1843 shortly after General Grant graduated from West Point, and nearly 20 years prior to becoming an important military figure. The photograph was also used by Mark Twain in "Grant's Memoirs," the best selling book in American history up to 1885, the year the book was published and the same year of Grant's death, Morgan said.
According to Louisa Boggs' obituary, published in the January 23, 1917 Macon Daily Chronicle-Herald, Boggs was almost 93 years old at the time of her death, and was born at Franklin, Ohio on May 19, 1824.
She was educated at Xenia, Ohio, the article said, graduating from college there when she was quite young, and for a few years was engaged in teaching, prior to her marriage to Harry Boggs on Dec. 3, 1849.
After her marriage, she moved to St. Louis where her husband was engaged in the real estate business, and he was for years a partner of General Grant.
General Grant and his family lived with Boggs in 1859, Morgan said.
At the time of her death, Boggs was also in possession of many letters General Grant wrote to her in which he referred to her as "Dear Cousin Louisa."
Boggs reportedly gave many of the letters to friends as keepsakes.
Edgar White, a well known magazine writer and newspaper man, interviewed Boggs, from which he wrote a most excellent article, largely concerning her recollections of General U.S. Grant. Following are paragraphs of the article, as reported in the 1917 Macon Daily Chronicle Herald article:
"I received a number of letters from the General during the war. They discussed in a loving way his wife, children and his friends in St. Louis. He went into detail concerning the great work in which he was engaged. For all an outsider might know he was quietly working out some ordinary business matter. In one of his letters to me, he closed by remarking that he had a 'big contract on hand,' and was looking forward with pleasure to the family reunion when he got through. The 'big contract' was the annihilation of Lee's army. The letter was written during the terrible campaign in the wilderness.
"General Grant's letters were in harmony with his social life. When he was home on a visit he rarely discussed the tremendous problems that were confronting him. He took the greatest interest in the children, and would devote most of his time to discussing with them how they were getting along in school and other matters connected with their progress. Of course there were during these times great numbers of visitor constantly calling to see him, but I rather think these visitors bored him..."
Following is a copy of a letter received while the Union army was at Culpepper Court House getting ready to deliver the terrific blows which were destined to end the southern Confederacy.
"Headquarters Armies of the United States, Culpepper, C. H., Va., April 24, 1864.
"Dear Cousin: - Julia has gone to New York City and will probably remain a couple of weeks before going to St. Louis. In the meantime I shall not hear from the children unless they write to me direct. I wish you would urge them all to join in letters to me every week. I feel anxious to hear from them always and then it improves them quite as much to write letters as to study their lessons. How do Buck and Nellie progress in their German? I hope they will place me in their debt, the fine gold watches I promised when they learned to speak the language.
"Jesse has cut his eye teeth mingling with Washington Society. He has become independent and a great favorite with both ladies and gentlemen at Willard's hotel. He is still very anxious to get back to St. Louis to go to school.
"Kiss all the children for me and the young ladies too if you like. I should like to see you all very much but I have a big contract on hand to complete before I can expect to indulge in any such pleasure.
"Please write to me yourself also.
An article about Boggs being in possession of the photo also ran in the Macon Chronicle-Herald on Jan. 2, 1935.
While in Macon, Boggs lived with a niece by the name Georgia Nolan Cadogan. It is believed they resided on Jackson Street in a two-story home now owned by Ward Harrington.
The probate of Boggs' belongings lists two photographs were valued at $5 each, which was a large amount of money for 1917, Morgan said.
Morgan believes one of the photos listed on the probate may be the photo some people have dedicated many years to finding.
"There is a huge possibility she (Boggs) gave the photo to someone in Macon, who knew what it was, but then they died and now whoever has it does not know who it is," Morgan said. "It is still a giant mystery."
Morgan said Dr. John Simon, editor of Grant Papers at the University of Illinois, who has specialized in Grant's history for the last 50 years would also like to know where the photo is, and if any letters from General Grant are found, would like to have copies of them.
In Galena, Ill., they are trying to raise billions of dollars to start a Grant Library/Museum, Morgan said.
In addition to the photo, the original letters are also missing.
"We have copies of a few of the letters that Grant sent to Boggs, but they're just printed in old newspapers. The originals are all missing," Morgan said. "I am almost 100 percent sure the letters and photo are sitting somewhere and someone just doesn't realize what they have."
The daguerreotype photo became public by Inventor Louis Daguerre in Paris, and came into the United States in 1839, only four years before the photo was taken of Grant.
Morgan explained the daguerreotype. "The image of Grant is on a copper plate dipped in silver. It has a matting around it made of a thin copper dipped in gold, and there is a glass sheath protecting the daguerreotype. Approximate size is 3 1/2 inches by 3 inches."
For nearly two decades, the daguerreotype photo served as the world's principal mode of photography.
Morgan said Grant's great-grandson, Ulysses S. Grant V, would also like to know where the photo is.
Morgan is willing to pay $2,000 cash about the whereabouts of the photo and $20,000 cash for possession of the photo.
"It is an important piece of America," Morgan said. "As a scholar and historian, Grant in my opinion and according to President Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt, is one of the three most important Americans in history, Lincoln, Washington, and Grant. So I would like to make sure this is in a safe place, well preserved and taken care of. I want to make sure it is saved before it's too late."
Morgan may be contacted by calling 212-366-9742; writing to Keya Morgan, P.O. Box 8296, New York, New York 10116; or by e-mail at KEY15@aol.com