Postmaster General Montgomery Blair


Montgomery Blair (1813‒83) was postmaster general in the cabinet of President Abraham Lincoln. Born and educated in Kentucky, he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1836 but soon left the army to study law. He moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, where he practiced law with his brother and where his father was an influential newspaper editor. In 1842‒43 he served as the mayor of Saint Louis. In 1853 he moved to Washington, DC, where he and his large family lived for a time in Blair House, across from the White House. The members of the Blair family were prominent border state exponents of a view that opposed slavery, but they did not espouse rapid abolition or full equality for blacks. In 1856 Blair represented the defendant in the infamous Dred Scott case before the United States Supreme Court, arguing unsuccessfully that Scott was entitled to his freedom by virtue of his residence in free territory. As a member of the cabinet, Blair was a staunch Unionist who stood alone in counseling Lincoln that he must not abandon Fort Sumter, lest the South be confirmed in its view that the North would not fight to preserve the Union. Blair threatened to resign if the fort was not reinforced. 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