Mathew B. Brady

Datesabout 1823 - 1896
RolesPhotographer, Publisher, Daguerreotypist, Ambrotypist
BornNew York, Warren County, United States

"The correspondents of the rebel newspapers are sheer falsifiers, the correspondents of the Northern Journals are not to be depended upon . . . but Brady never misrepresents."

Though known first as a portraitist, Mathew Brady became the most famous American photographer of the 1800s because of his studio's many Civil War images. Like other enterprising photographers in the mid-1850s, he opened a studio on Broadway in New York City. Through flattery and determination, he lured notable subjects such as Daniel Webster and Henry Clay to his studio, which he promoted as a Hall of Fame. After the election of 1848, Brady traveled to Washington to photograph political figures. Over time, he built a monumental archive that included presidents, senators, congressmen, Supreme Court justices, actors, writers, businessmen, clergy, scientists, artists, military men, and entrepreneurs.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Brady obtained permission for his staff of photographers to follow in the tracks of the Union Army in the field. They worked under the direction of Alexander Gardner, who had managed Brady's Washington studio. Ruined by a series of financial setbacks, he spent his last years trying to sell his photographic archive to the American government, believing that it would assist future artists in representing their subjects with greater authenticity, enabling more compelling illusions, and making possible truly American pictures.