Original 1866 carte de visite photograph — an autographed portrait of J.H. Maxwell taken in Ripon, Wisconsin at the Lockwood's Gallery photography studio, and mailed at Ripon for local city delivery to Hattie Jones at 29 Polk Street.
A double-line circular Ripon postmark with geometric killer ties the 2¢ Jackson "Black Jack" postage stamp. Accompanying it is a double-line photography studio datestamp of the type typically used by photographers to cancel the U.S. Internal Revenue tax stamps that were required on photographs between August 1, 1864 and July 31, 1866.
However, the photography studio handstamp is dated August 5, 1866, four days after the stamp tax on photographs ended — no tax stamp was required.
Formerly of the Dr. Joseph F. Rorke Collection of United States 1863-68 Two-Cent "Black Jack" Issues" and acquired by me at its sale at Christie's Robson Lowe in New York on March 16, 1988.
A "Black Jack" gem of fine pedigree. When Richard Friedberg reviewed the 1997 CD-ROM Catalogue of Civil War Era Photographer Revenue Stamp Cancellations in Linn's Stamp News, he singled out this piece as a "usage that would make any Black Jack collector drool."
However, when it was offered at Christie's in 1988, its significance went completely unrecognized. In fact, it was misdescribed as illegal use of a postage stamp instead of a revenue stamp to pay the photograph tax.
I brought the error to the attention of auctioneer Scott Trepel, and he announced it beforehand. The new information seemed to actually reduce interest, except for me, and I got it for its modest opening bid.
I expected to come across many more card photographs mailed sans envelope, hoping especially for one that would predate this one. But, after 25 years it is apparent that such items are very infrequently encountered — and not one has come to light to challenge this one's early date.
The fact is that in the mid-1860s it was simply not the fashion for people to mail card photographs openly, without an envelope.
Ania Michas, in Real & Other Photos: An Introduction to the History, Identification and Collectibility of Early Photographic Postcards (2009), notes that "...other photographic forerunners of the real photo postcard include the carte de visite and the stereograph. Though neither type of photograph was openly sent through the mails — many were mailed inside envelopes — both, like postcards, regularly had personal messages added to their mounts. These characteristics were especially true of the carte de visite during the era of the American Civil War."
Indeed, this piece is a true and exceptionally early forerunner of the real photo postcard — one that predates the earliest of the examples of "ancestors of the RPPC" provided in Real Photo Postcard Guide (2006) by Bogdan and Weseloh, which dates from 1874.
So, it is not only a philatelic gem, it is also a deltiology gem.
A worthy addition to even the most advanced collection of postal history, the philately of the 2¢ Black Jack issue, postcards and real photo postcards, and photohistory memorabilia.