William H. Seward


William H. Seward (1801‒72) was a prominent New York politician who served as secretary of state to Abraham Lincoln and emerged as Lincoln’s closest cabinet adviser. A graduate of Union College, he studied law and was admitted to the bar but soon entered politics, serving first in the New York state senate. A member of the Whig Party, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, in which he served 1849‒61. By the late 1850s, he was the most prominent figure in the newly formed Republican Party. As secretary of state during the Civil War, he succeeded in heading off recognition of the Confederate States of America by the European powers. He remained in office after Lincoln’s death and, as secretary of state to President Andrew Johnson, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire. 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: January 8, 2018