Susan B. Anthony As She Was in 1856 at Age 36 – A Signed Photograph, Dated With Her Birthday

An extraordinary rarity, the earliest image of Anthony we have ever seen signed

Purchase $8,000

From the housekeeper’s collection and never before offered for sale; Signed images of Anthony are not common.

Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 and died in Rochester in 1906. She is perhaps the most widely known suffragist and has become an icon of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1848...

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Susan B. Anthony As She Was in 1856 at Age 36 – A Signed Photograph, Dated With Her Birthday

An extraordinary rarity, the earliest image of Anthony we have ever seen signed

From the housekeeper’s collection and never before offered for sale; Signed images of Anthony are not common.

Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 and died in Rochester in 1906. She is perhaps the most widely known suffragist and has become an icon of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1848 she was working as a teacher and headmistress of the female department at Canajoharie Academy in Rochester, New York. She became involved with the teacher’s union when she discovered that male teachers had a monthly salary of $10.00, while the female teachers earned $2.50 a month. Her parents and sister Marry attended the 1848 Rochester Women’s Rights Convention held August 2, just a month after the Seneca Falls convention kicked off the women’s rights movement. Anthony joined that movement in 1852, and devoted the rest of her life to it. In 1854 she circulated petitions for married women’s property rights and women’s suffrage. She daringly tried to speak at the U.S. Capitol and Smithsonian Institution in Washington, but was refused permission. She also began her New York State campaign for women’s suffrage, speaking and traveling alone. In 1856 Anthony became agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, and the next year called for education for women and blacks. So by the time she was in her mid-30s, she was in the forefront of the movement.

Margaret E. O’Neil (known as Maggie) was educated in Geneva, New York which is near Rochester, and passed her exam for a regent’s certificate in 1894. She came to work for Anthony as her housekeeper in 1900 and continued in that post for two years. Anthony developed a fondness for her, and in 1901 Anthony would tell O’Neil she was her “friend and elder sister.” O’Neil is mentioned in Anthony’s correspondence and identified in the “The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.”

Rochester’s most acclaimed 19th century portrait photographer was John Howe Kent. He moved to Rochester in 1868 and there he operated nine different studios until his death. His precision CDVs and cabinet card photographs earned him lavish praise – with one early biographer lauding Mr. Kent as “the leading photographic artist of the country” – and photographs with his stamp are works of art. This note gained him access to some of the most important celebrity residents and visitors to Rochester, most notably Anthony and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Kent also collaborated with George Eastman on development of the Kodak camera. He died in 1910.

Anthony developed a practice of having photographs of herself taken on her birthday. The earliest one appears to be from 1848, when she was 28 and headmistress at Canajoharie Academy. The next one we are aware of was taken in 1856, at age 36, when she became active in the fight against slavery. As she grew older age the practice became more pronounced, and more birthdate photographs are known.

Anthony apparently liked the 1856 photograph, the original of which would have been an unwieldy Ambrotype or even a Daguerreotype. So sometime between 1895 and 1901 she had the Kent studio produce a copy of that photograph in the then-popular Cabinet photograph format. It turned out to be a beautiful image and justified Anthony’s having had it done. She presented it to O’Neil, probably for Christmas 1901, signed and inscribed with her birth year and the date the photograph was taken – “1820 – Feb. 15, 1856.” The photograph has the Kent studio marking on the recto and its backstamp on its verso.

This extraordinary image of Anthony is the earliest one we have ever seen signed. It came from an album put together by O’Neil herself, and it has never before been offered for sale.

Purchase Now $8,000

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