Wednesday, July 5, 2017

THE Key Figure To My Mystery Identified!

 WAY over a year into this amazing find, I have come to a deeper appreciation of it, and yet different conclusions about its origins.

If you have followed this saga, you know I originally imagined these tintypes were the personal collection of the infamous actress Adah Menken, until I discovered so many antique images specific to the personal life of Mark Twain, and long after her demise. And soon so many Pinkerton detectives and outlaws emerged that I concluded it must have been remnants of some old law enforcement rogue's gallery, even that of the famous Pinkerton's National Detective Agency.

These were all decent guesses,  but lately after a few more important clues, I believe I have narrowed the field of possible owners/creators of what is now a collection of way over two hundred images, (selected out of thousands!) all obtained from one source in Florida. Constant study and comparison and have brought me to a very exciting theory, and that is all it is, that many of these images may have been taken by one early photographer, someone who traveled quite a bit, especially through the middle of America and also all over Europe, and by the 1890's had access to the most important and interesting people in Western culture, and someone who might have known Mark Twain and his family and friends intimately.

This person's life and career would exactly explain this collection, and suddenly the chances of it being made by anyone else become slim. And as it turns out, there was such a person.

Albert Bigelow Paine
Outdoorsman, children's book writer, photographer, world traveler,
 and most importantly, personal friend and biographer 
of Mark Twain, Lillian Gish, Thomas Nast, and 
Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald, among others.
I had long suspected that Paine was the key to this whole mystery, when the image (center and upper right) popped up in the "stubborn flame" collection.

Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain's closest confidant, biographer and the official Clemens family historian, started his career as an itinerant photographer, wandering all over the South and later settling in Ft. Scott, Kansas, where he operated a photography studio and photographic supply shop.  After a fortuitous break in his budding writing career, he abandoned everything and relocated in New York, which began a virtual fairy tale saga for this forgotten American icon.

Paine ultimately wrote numerous popular children's books, ingratiated himself to the iconoclasts and who's who of the East Coast, traveled with Samuel Clemens extensively in Europe for over a decade, and became the gatekeeper for all things Twain after his death.

Strangely, even though Albert Bigelow Paine made his living from photography for many years, there are few known photographs attributed to him. Perhaps this collection will change that. My assessment is that Paine was a poor photographer, his crude craftsmanship only acceptable in impoverished and remote spots where there was no competition; That he stayed on the move, and was a sort of chameleon, befriending all walks of life and photographing them.  This gave him access to Counts and no-counts. After his writing career was sufficiently launched, he made few photographs, although experimenting some with later processes.

I am convinced that the photographs featured on this website were made by him for these reasons:

1) Using Google search techniques, I have identified the persons in the photographs with no particular bias, yet have amassed several stunningly inter-related Victorian groups... The Twain group, the Civil War spy group, the law enforcement group, the American outlaw group, the French Impressionist group... and many could have been in Paine's studio at one time or another during his photography career. The odds would be astronomical against finding at random so many related images, and inter-related groups, all from a fairly narrow window of time, without there being a deliberate collection.

2) The diversity of the photographs demands a lot of travel or serious collecting for a lifetime. Few photographers have made Paine's trail in history. Few had his social skills or have covered so much ground. The unique combination of his talents and travels fit the photographs here like a glove. Again, sheer odds demand that Albert Bigelow Paine either made or collected the photographs himself.

3) The person from whom I have collected these images lives less than a hundred miles from where Albert Bigelow Paine drew his last breath. Paine's descendants, clueless about most of this enormous tintype legacy,  might easily have discarded or sold them after his death in Florida, where they have sat unidentified for almost one hundred years. Without the assistance of Google search, identification of so many obscure people would have been nearly impossible without a legion of experts.

There are very good reasons why this collection was never displayed or recorded. Facts which emerge from them sometimes conflict with accepted versions of history... in some cases written by Paine himself. Among other thongs, Paine had a talent for "whitewashing," perhaps perfecting the art of spin-doctoring. Almost all of his biographies have been artful re-inventions of their subjects, where there would be no trace of scandal or impropriety. Paine was the prototype of the American public relations industry.

With these things in mind... enjoy the images which virtually retrace his steps, as he followed his idol and mentor, Mark Twain, and together they fabricated an enduring American  myth.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A message to Lefties...

 "Wrong-handers" have always ruled the world...

This blog is aimed especially at left-handed people. Only around 12% of the population, lefties occupy a disproportionate segment of our society's entertainers, artists, politicians and learning disabled and criminal element. Leftys are the misbehaving elephant in the room. Yet they are the one minority most valuable to humanity, that nobody has cared to address in public education or social awareness. This blog makes an attempt to bring their staggering contribution to you in a careful, methodical way, without actually telling you what idiots you all are, for not knowing this in the first place... ;)

If you are left handed, this blog will be an inspiration to give yourself more credit, to ignore the obstacles you have encountered, to press on! You are part of a powerful, elite, universally envied group. So when you get out of prison, you should make something of yourself... LEGALLY!

If you are not left handed... you still have a right brain, although recessive, which you can and should make more use of... and change your life for the better. I have had two artist friends who had strokes. Each was right-handed. The strokes they had paralyzed their right arms and in both cases they were forced to paint with their left hands. After they got the courage to try, they found a wonderful surprise. They not only were able to continue painting, but their work improved. The force is with you!

I call that “force” the STUBBORN FLAME. It is the flame which in ancient days smeared red ocher on cave walls to tell of great hunts and ascending spiritual beings... and carved tales of massacres and warlords in stone. The flame inspired the Indo-Aryans to invent the written word, the Hurrians to develop the wheel and iron and archery. The flame fired the Greeks, who established ways so remarkable it has taken a long time to ever improve on their concepts of philosophy, government or art. And that flame exploded through left-handed iconoclasts in our history (Western Culture) such as Joan of Arc, DaVinci, Michelangelo, Newton, Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin, Beethoven, Queen Victoria, Mark Twain, Nietzsche, Henry Ford, Marie Curie, Gandhi, Charlie Chaplin, Alan Turing, Tesla, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Bill Gates, and most of the Presidents in your lifetime.

It seems the only response to this brilliance offered from the 88% majority is ambivalence or ignorance. So this blog is a warning to the righted-handed; you have been had, you have been conned, herded and sucked dry by a cunning group that has miraculously laid low while quietly governing every step of your life...

If you are right-handed, you would do well to understand your plight, because it is you who must tend the fires.

[ keep scrolling below to read more about this amazing collection debut ]

Monday, September 12, 2016

The REST of the Story!

When I started this blog (actually a book! See the chapters over on  the right) four months ago, I had waited until I had scrounged up a little perspective on the photographs featured here. Some chance purchases evolved into an adventure, and I was sharing it play-by-play with my readers. I had no idea it was only just beginning. I thought I understood what was unfolding in front of me... if you read the entries below you will see that a zillion things were swimming in my head...

 This RARE antique image kept showing up in a collection where I had been purchasing tintypes... I wondered if they might be Pinkerton Detectives, as the elderly man in the middle on the front row looked hauntingly like an elderly Charlie Siringo, the famous "Cowboy Detective."

About the time that I was kicking back and getting mentally (and financially!) fatigued with this whole saga, hoping it was winding down... I turned another page into THE REAL STORY.  A single tintype was SCREAMING, trying to tell me what it was all about... and I was dubious... but I am now convinced that this entire collection of extraordinary antique images was originally in the files of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. What I have here, now over a hundred tintypes, are the remnants of their HUGE, famous rogues gallery. And that explains why I had found so many images of Civil War spies early on ...

 I have managed to identify, to my satisfaction, four of the six Pinkerton men in the photo.

Perhaps the most famous of all Pinkerton detectives, Charlie Siringo was ready to leap out of the pile and ride right into my collection!  Back in the day, the obsolete Pinkerton photo-files were occasionally cleared out to make room, and they disposed of many decades of images, unscrupulously collected in the worlds largest criminal file... No doubt somebody made a haul around a half-century ago, when such things were only dark curiosities... and acquired this huge image file, or at least part of it, and then they failed to provide an index to the present owner...

I had been pondering one tintype of a group of derby'd men-  and thought one was very possibly a famous Pinkerton agent from Texas. I did not buy it, as I could not identify any of the others, and it would have been hard to authenticate... The Pinkertons were not that high-profile, in fact they forbade any literary profiteering by agents, (except by the owners) retired or otherwise, from writing their memoirs. Few photographs of their active agents were ever put into circulation, for obvious reasons.  The tintype above of Charlie Siringo (known well only because he disregarded the Pinkerton's rule!) and his associates, was quite possibly the rarest of them all, but there was no way to compare it to try and validate it. 

THEN, I encountered another intriguing tintype in this same collection, this time with Siringo and one of his bosses, probably Robert Pinkerton, and then another, and another... I have since acquired perhaps a dozen Pinkerton images, including one of Allan Pinkerton, William Pinkerton, James McParland, "the Great Detective," and Robert Linden.

 James McParland, "the Great Detective" who exposed the "Mollie Maguires."
 Three of my Pinkerton images...

Then came a shower of images of the true rogues, outlaws and gunslingers and a few more lawmen came marching by, and THIS was my favorite subject... and I just quit blogging for awhile and concentrated on the find of lifetime! 

My image of "Black Bart" (on the left) is perhaps the only known image of him as a 
mid-aged man when he committed his robberies. Before now we have only seen him after his prison term.

Nuff said... mine is the large sepia-toned one in the middle... incredible find.

 Actually Henry Starr was far more successful than most other train robbers...
What I have acquired, among all the various suspicious and nefarious characters, is an astonishing collection, unpublished, never-before seen images of the men and some women who were the most wanted criminals in the world... and a few "lawmen" who may have worked on both sides of the law... Here are just a smattering of my purchases with comparisons offered of known likenesses of them.  OMG!

 Before "Wild Bill" went Hollywood...

One of the very first Train robbers

VERY RARE! Bob Dalton's paramour and accomplice...

O. Henry- My favorite short story writer... started out as a convicted embezzler... Three images!

Just two of twenty Irishmen hung for a rash murders in the Pennsylvania coal region.

 Once a lawyer, Jennings turned to a life of crime and after being paroled from prison by President Roosevelt, tried preaching and acting in western movies...

Oliver Perry was a cunning and daring train robber... His mistake was committing his crimes in the east... so he never got much attention and died in prison...

There are a bunch more... 


Sunday, June 26, 2016

YOU must tend the fires...

> > >
The chapters on the right are the story of an amazing collection of very old tintypes, of many famous people which I have discovered. > > >

The blog entries run below... 

On a balmy Wednesday evening last spring I came home and had a heart attack after some strenuous youth activities at church. It was my second time to ride the ambulance to the hospital and have stents pushed through my body.

But this second time, which was more painful, I was less inclined to do anything. I was depressed, fragile... too fragile to live the life I wanted to live. Something had to give... I had to cut some of the stress out of my gusto-rich routine. I pouted around and read some, and shopped aimlessly.

For a few weeks before my heart attack I had been visiting a certain vendor. This guy had hundreds of old tintypes for sale, a collection of collections, which had that distinct air of being part of somebody's life's work. There were so any rare images marching by like a Victorian parade, and I began to see related faces, whole families, and rare occupational images which I could not afford. This was a rare find, the culmination of years of searching and acquisition by a discriminating collector. I had nothing better to do, so I began to really look at the images carefully... admiring the pristine messengers of history, flamboyant ladies fashions and cute little children. What happened next is what this blog is all about.

This blog stands or collapses on my visual perception and my bedrock spiritual paradigm and it is my testimony, that the Lord God, Master of the Universe, arranged what happened next!

Sunday, June 5, 2016


 Bonjour! Pull up a chair!

You are in the right place... This blog is about art and history and almost everything THAT SHAPES YOUR LIFE. If you have the time, please read it. It is a window into my soul.  If not, just look at the pictures and it will be worth your time.  The in-depth chapters are on the right... the occasional "blogs" run below. The exciting photographs I have discovered are salted throughout, but will mostly be found as you read the chapters, which explain each of them.

The main thing we learn from the lessons of history,  is that we never learn from the lessons of history...  So I am going to take another crack at that.

Almost every photograph in this blog has never been seen in context for perhaps fifty years, and has never been published anywhere but here. Below is a kind of Forward, and on the upper right are the Intro and chapters of a "blogbook" I have made about these never-before-seen images, and their story, which has recently formed before me. I hope you enjoy it. Your fair and constructive comments are welcomed... the rest will be summarily deleted.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Welcome: some thoughts about ART and Persistence

  "Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

L@L  Walt Whitman (1819-1892), a figurehead in the Bohemian movement.

Walt Whitman simply said "We convince by our presence."

Many statesmen over decades helped to shape that first famous proverb, usually and erroneously attributed to President Calvin Coolidge, who once modified it for his own use. 

 A precious tintype I recently acquired... I believe of future President Calvin Coolidge.

I love the saying, and have lived by it, and yet it is not actually true. Only God is omnipotent. The human spirit to press on is a gift from the Almighty as well. And nothing has really ever solved the problems of the human race. But a lot of good has come out of persistence, no doubt. Persistence is what has brought me back... for one more blog... and of course, to help solve the problems of the human race!

The chapters on the upper right are like microscope slides of that stubborn flame, what we call the human spirit. The flame is of Divine origins, able to see and reflect the awesome depth and beauty of Creation, and respond with a marvelous creativity of its own. It is a sight to behold. But it has vaingloriously brought mankind to where we are today... standing with arms open wide, as we scan a dangerous precipice with no bottom. In around 150 years, man has raced from the Dark Age to the Space Age, made advances in science and technology far beyond our wants or needs, and traded the known for the unknown, without fear or trepidation. Maybe it's time to see how and why we got here so fast. Maybe it's time to question the speed and thoughtlessness of our direction.

 This is a story about Victorian times, but it is also the story of man. It is about God. It is specifically about the stubborn flame of creativity which separates man from beasts; And the very same flame which can separate us from our Creator; the stubborn flame of art and invention and competition and even jealousy and greed. It is about the flame of the human spirit, good and bad. This blog is about our history, but the flames which arose in the Victorian era are also the glowing forge coals of today, still stubbornly burning underneath our collective sub-conscious. There was a battle then and it rages on, two great armies determined and self-assured, oblivious of time, pitted in an eternal conflict where no prisoners will be taken.

One of the lessons I learned in art school was that Art is just an extension of Philosophy. I hated the idea, as it meant that there were paradigms outside of my control  which would and could govern  my art and my career potential. Not only that, but if it were true, then Philosophy would be behind every thing designed by men...  Art is the brain trust of civilization. And the wrong philosophy would spell disaster.

 As a career artist, I have always relished in my talent and in others like me. I make art, I sell art, I collect and restore art. I have made and studied art all of my life, and have a bachelors degree in the subject. But few people, I mean a very tiny minority of humans, care at all about art in general. Even though it is the "MOTHER SHIP"...  And I think that is partly due to the concept that they do not understand it. 

But it is so simple.  Art is just a basic, albeit fun and inspiring form of communication, if only with oneself. But as much as I love art, and have devoted my life to it, I still have to recognize its down-side. Art is the unacknowledged designer of our man-made world, the flower of man's highest achievement, and yet it is also the instrument of lies and confusion and temptation. 

The same genius that decorated the Sistine Chapel and Happy feet produces ill-conceived films and infinite pornography today.

 Art has always walked a fine line between worship and pure debauchery. This is the studio of Elisabet Ney, German born, classically trained sculptor and Bohemian philosopher who immigrated to Texas in 1873.

Like all creative processes, art is primarily a right-brained process. Since the right side of the brain governs the left side of the body, you might say that art, and in fact any problem solving, is a left-handed thing. Just as a tiny proof of this, consider that the three major artists of the Italian Renaissance were Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Rafael. They were all left handed. Many left-brained artists are good at copying, but the right-brained artist prefers to paint originals, sometimes completely from his imagination... Left brain dominance depends on stored information, the other merely on oneself. 

There is something special ( and hated and feared in the past) in the right-brained person that cannot be taught. Sure a right-handed person can make art, great art, but it is like a short, white guy playing basketball. There are people on the court with decided advantages, and he has a lot to overcome.

   Study of hands by Elisabet Ney

Art and Science are brothers, so it no surprise than many artists or musicians have been scientists and vice versa. DaVinci, Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Lewis Carroll and Heddy Lamarr, are just a sampling of well-known examples of this affinity. 

 A dreamscape by Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, Morse Code and hearing devices for the deaf.

 A disproportionate percentage of the great inventors, military generals and yes, five of the last seven American presidents have been left-handed. (Ford, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton & Obama). Think about the odds against that for a moment...

Several Presidents in my lifetime were painters. (Eisenhower, Carter, Bush II ) One an actor (Reagan). Consider this... In WWII, several of the major leaders in the conflict were painters. And pretty good ones!

Boats at Cannes by Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill by Dwight D. Eisenhower

A cityscape by Adolf Hitler

I like to explain the difference between left-handed and right-handed this way: The left-brain, which is most commonly dominant, is your hard drive. It stores all of your brain's programs and memories. It is what reminds you to prefer chocolate over vanilla or to brush your teeth. It stores your multiplication tables and telephone numbers, and those answers you crammed for in a final exam. The right lobe of your brain is your calculator. It tells you that you cannot make it over the ditch if you were to jump, or how or when to substitute ingredients in a recipe, or how to shape a lump of clay into a frog. It writes songs rather than memorizing them. 

The "normal" brain of a right-handed person: This excellent illustration (highlighted by me for emphasis) tries to explain the complicated, backward wiring system in our brains... right (in red) lobe of the brain controls left side of body, hand, eye, etc...

People who are right-brain dominant are usually left-handed, have immediate challenges in early life, especially in school and athletics, and a high percentage of them end up depending a great deal on their creative skills to compete and survive. These inborn skills surface in construction, engineering, advertising, photography, sales, cooking, art for a fortunate few, and crime for too many.

One the great failures of our culture is to recognize our inherent differences and to nurture right-brained children in a right- brained way. Not doing so has been a disaster. The prisons are full of young men,  a disproportionate number being left-handed, who have considered themselves subversive almost since birth. Yet there is no movement in education to rectify this injustice

A left-handed person might end up as a surgeon or an engineer- or a con-man or a forger. The “problem solving” talents are the same, but the possibilities can be varied, and sometimes disastrous. A disproportionate number of leftys end up as leaders and actors, but also as inmates in incarceration. Leftys tend to take the foreboding road less traveled, but one teasing with promise. Many leftys tend to take charge, speak with confidence, and approach challenges with uncanny skill. But they also learn the short cuts and can be a bit too gifted with the “slight of hand,” or the gift of gab. For the lefty, the key to success is communication; writing, orating, dancing, painting. All require self-assertion and risk, and are rife with temptations. No wonder we have come to expect the stereotypes of the “crooked politician,” or the self-destructive entertainer, or the “weird artist.”

Still, I have come to really savor the processes of art, and appreciate what right-brained thinkers have done for our world. From Alexander the Great to Isaac Newton to Jimi Hendrix, leftys have led the way in vision, art and innovation. But a study of these people will also reveal the costs of these gains in human terms. When I discovered the old tintypes in this story, and researched the individual stories of the individuals in this amazing network of creativity, my right brain kicked in and said, “Damn. Why don't WE know this? Why isn't all education based on the knowledge of this?” Well, immediately my left brain answered that one, “Because we live in a left-brained world, STUPID!”

So to go further, most of you (85%?) must suspend your disbelief, ignore your dominant brain lobe which is screaming, “NOOOO! Don't go there!! You can't trust that stuff!” and follow me, your right brain guide, to where few left-brained men (or women) have gone before. Don't be scared. After all, unlike me, you can always return to your safe “I know all I need to know,” left-brained existence, any time you want.

Before we dive, I must warn all of my readers, especially those of a more conservative nature, that much of what we will confront is guaranteed to be offensive and controversial, and may be a more straight forward discussion, especially from me, a Southern Baptist, than you would expect. This is a study of the Bohemian movement in Victorian times, which was all about sex and humanism and freedom and individual rights and artistic expression. I can only explain that this, the Stubborn Flame, endeavors to finally address the issues inherent to Bohemian thought honestly and without restraint or too much hyperbole, which have masked the truth for a century. The Christian Right has majored on the minors and ignored the realities of the times for so long that it has become irrelevant. Our world had gone forward without the leaven of Judeo-Christian wisdom, as we waited for it to repent and listen. And still we wait.

 Stairs to the study at the Ney studio in Austin, Texas.

 This blog is written for the objective thinker, in these times probably a pagan, who is not offended by candor, and secure and inquisitive enough to experience a different point of view. Perhaps, a “right”-brained perspective on the runaway train of our left-brained world. 

 Suggested reading: A Left-handed History of the World by Ed Wright.