Commodore Hiram Paulding


Hiram Paulding (1797–1878) was a Union naval officer who served in the American Civil War. Born in Westchester County, New York, he began his naval career at the age of 13. Three years later, he was an acting lieutenant during the Battle of Lake Champlain in the War of 1812. After his promotion to captain in 1844, he went to Bremen, Germany, to advise the Frankfort Assembly on naval matters and was offered command of the future German navy, a post that he declined. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Paulding was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to head the Bureau of Detail, where he worked to clear the naval ranks of Confederates and establish the U.S. Navy’s loyalty to the Union. In April 1861, he was ordered to reinforce the Norfolk Navy Yard. Faced with an imminent Confederate attack, he left without properly destroying arms, munitions, supplies, and the submerged hull of the USS Merrimack, which in February 1862 was raised, reconstructed, and recommissioned as the Confederate States Ship (CSS) Virginia. Paulding retired in December 1861 but continued to serve as the commandant of the New York Navy Yard until the end of the war. 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.

Last updated: March 22, 2016