Courtesy Liljenquist Collection, Library of Congress

Courtesy Liljenquist Collection, Library of Congress

The Liljenquist Civil War Photographs collection is a rare and wonderful thing. In remembrance of the Union and Confederate soldiers who served in the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Liljenquist Family recently donated their rare collection of almost 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs to the Library of Congress.

More than 1,000 special portrait photographs, called ambrotypes and tintypes, represent both Union and Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War (1861-1865). The photographs often show weapons, hats, canteens, musical instruments, painted backdrops, and other details that enhance the research value of the collection. Among the most rare images are sailors, African Americans in uniform, Lincoln campaign buttons, and portraits of soldiers with their families and friends.

Tom Liljenquist and his sons Jason, Brandon, and Christian built this collection in memory of President Abraham Lincoln and the 620,000 Union and Confederate servicemen who died in the American Civil War. For many, these photographs are the last known record we have of who they were and what they looked like. See “From the Donor’s Perspective–The Last Full Measure” for the full story.

The Liljenquist Family began donating their collection to the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division in 2010 and continues to add to it. In addition to the ambrotypes and tintypes, the collection also includes several manuscripts, patriotic envelopes, photographs on paper, and artifacts related to the Civil War.

At the online site for the exhibition, you can read more about the donors and their collection; the photographic processes; the photographers and their studios; and revealing details that can help identify photographs.

Most of the people and photographers are unidentified, and LC wants to know more about them. If you recognize a face from your family, a regiment, or a photographer’s painted studio backdrop, it can help LC with identification.

You can read some of the personal stories that did survive in notes found with the photo cases.

Visit the Liljenquist Civil War Photographs online exhibition here. There’s also a set up at LC’s Flickr Commons site.