Thursday, March 10, 2016

Who is this? Not James Derham, surely.



Who is this, really? This image formerly headed the melvilliana post on James McCune Smith's paper on the Micronesian Islands (delivered June 14, 1853 at a meeting of the American Geographical Society). I found it at the now defunct site negroartist.com. Somebody somewhere labeled the image file
"JAMES MCCUNE SMITH PHYSICIAN AND ABOLITIONIST 1813-1865"
But the tribute to Uncelebrated Heroes of Black History Month at Page 31 identifies the person shown above as James Derham. Google's "best guess" yesterday was also "James Derham." But wait, Derham can't be right. For one thing the suit looks more like 19th century dress than 18th, so quite a bit later than Derham's supposed dates 1762-1802 would allow. Moreover, photography only became commercially practical when? in 1839 through the daguerreotype process. Is that not a photo of some kind, or a drawing based on a photo?

Online and print bios of Derham and McCune Smith often link them as the first black physicians in the United States. Confusion results on occasion, as when Kate Kelly at America Comes Alive! mis-identifies the genuine portrait of James McCune Smith as one of James Derham.

Here is the portrait of James McCune Smith as elegantly engraved by Patrick Henry Reason, via the New-York Historical Society:


Who is the person shown in the other one? Not James Mccune Smith?

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