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- About this Collection
- Ambrotypes and Tintypes in the Liljenquist Collection
- Background and Scope
- Revealing Details: Take a Closer Look at the Photographs
- Photographers Represented in the Liljenquist Collection
- Related Resources
- Rights And Restrictions
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Background and Scope
In 2010, Tom Liljenquist, a businessman from the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, generously donated more than 700 ambrotypes and tintypes of Civil War soldiers--both Union and Confederate--to the Library. The portraits are rich in details about uniforms, hats, guns, swords, belt buckles, canteens, and musical instruments, and include representation of African Americans, sailors, and soldiers posed with family members.
[Unidentified young soldier in Union uniform with revolver and knife in belt standing with a cigar in his mouth],
Liljenquist and his three sons, Jason (now 19), Brandon (17), and Christian (13), built the collection over fifteen years. They acquired high-quality ambrotypes and tintypes, selecting compelling portraits that draw viewers to look closely at the soldiers' faces. The family collected photographs of enlisted men, the young men who fought on the front lines, rather than the famous generals of the war. Since their initial gift, the family continues to donate and has expanded the collection scope to include albumen photographs and cartes de visite, patriotic envelopes, letters and memorabilia.
Tom Liljenquist with sons Brandon, Christian, and Jason
Life-long residents of Virginia, the Liljenquist family became interested in Civil War history after discovering Civil War era bullets near their home. They began to collect artifacts from the war and were particularly moved by a portrait that they purchased in Ellicott City, Maryland. They kept the photograph on their kitchen table, where they examined it often. They later returned to Ellicott City to purchase more portraits.
The family acquired their collection piece-by-piece, traveling to photography shows, antique shops, and Civil War shows, as far away as Ohio and Tennessee. They also purchased photographs at auction and on eBay. Many but not all images are in their original housing. The family sought out interesting period frames and cases to provide a fine presentation for each portrait.
The Liljenquist collection includes many more portraits of Union than Confederate soldiers. Not only were there fewer Confederate soldiers, but they had fewer opportunities to sit for their portraits. During the war, photographic supplies were not reliably available in the South. A few Southern photographers held on to their businesses by raising prices to compensate for the high price of photographic supplies and the inflated Confederate dollar.
Most of the soldiers are unidentified. Insignia on hats and belt buckles may provide information about the various units in which the soldiers served. (See Revealing Details.) But soldiers frequently did not wear regulation uniforms. Most of the Union and Confederate designations provided in the catalog records are based on information received with the photograph when purchased by the Liljenquist family or from information they received from the Civil War community. We’ll update this information as more is learned about the diverse uniforms worn during the war.
The Liljenquist Family Collection complements the Library's extensive collection of Civil War photographs, which had lacked portraits of enlisted men prior to this acquisition.
The donor's perspective essay, by Brandon Liljenquist, provides more information about why the family decided to collect these photographs and donate them to the Library of Congress.