Minister to Russia Cassius Marcellus Clay


Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810–1903) was an American diplomat and Union general in the American Civil War. Born in White Hall, Kentucky, he graduated from Yale College and served in the Mexican War (1846–48). He was a staunch abolitionist and reformer from the South who often had to defend his life and assets against threats by slaveholding interests. During the Civil War, he served as the U.S. minister to Russia from 1861 to 1862 and again from 1863 to 1869. He is credited with gaining Russian support for the Union and in 1867 he was involved in the negotiation of the Alaskan purchase. He left the position briefly in 1862 to serve as major general in the Union army. 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 30, 2016