Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts


Henry Wilson (1812–75) was a U.S. senator from 1855 to 1873 and the 18th vice president of the United States. As a politician he fought for the abolition of slavery and equal rights for blacks. He helped found the Free Soil Party in 1848, which opposed the extension of slavery into newly acquired U.S. territories, and edited the party’s newspaper, the Emancipator & Republican, in Boston. In 1855 Wilson was elected to the U.S. Senate as a member of the Know-Nothing (or American) Party, a party opposed to immigrants and Catholics that he tried to convert to the fight against slavery. After a few years he joined the Republican Party, which he also helped found, and was an active supporter of its presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln. When the Civil War broke out, Wilson was chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs and drafted the first conscription legislation. He served as vice president during the second term of President Ulysses S. Grant (1873–75). He spent much of his time in office writing the History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, a three-volume work on the Civil War. He died while in office. 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