Commander Charles Henry Davis


Charles Henry Davis (1807–77) was a scientist and Union naval officer in the American Civil War. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he attended Harvard for two years and left to serve in the United States Navy. He was the first superintendent of the American Nautical Almanac Office, where he helped establish the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, and a charter member of the National Academy of Sciences. During the Civil War, Davis was appointed commander of the Mississippi Flotilla. On June 6, 1862, he led the Union fleet to victory in the Battle of Memphis. Four months later he was appointed chief of the Navy Bureau of Navigation, a post he held for the rest of the war, and where he was instrumental in creating the Hydrographic Office. He was promoted to rear admiral in 1863. After the war, Davis was superintendent of the Naval Observatory. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Edward Anthony, New York

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : carte-de-visite, albumen paper ; 8.5 x 5.4 centimeters


  1. Michael R. Hall, “Davis, Charles Henry,” in Spencer C. Tucker, editor, American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection (Santa Barbara, C.A.: ABC-CLIO, 2013).

Last updated: January 8, 2018