Before there were baseball cards…

The Milton Historical Society has several 19th century photograph albums in its collection, with close to 150 cartes de visite (“visiting cards,” or calling cards, often abbreviated as CdV) and cabinet card portraits dating from the 1860’s to 1900. The subjects of only a fraction of those photographs have been identified, and only when the previous owner of the album had labeled the photograph on the album page or on the back of the picture itself.

In the course of examining and cataloguing these old photographs, I have run across a number of CdV’s labeled with the names of preachers. Curiously, none of these preachers had a family relationship with the assumed original owner of the album, nor were they resident ministers in Milton, as far as can be determined. This begs the question, how were these CdV’s acquired, and what is their significance to the owner?

This posting begins a series focused on 19th century Methodism in Delmarva, especially the circuit riding preachers of the pre-Civil War (Antebellum) era, and the camp meetings. In the first of this series, I am presenting some of the CdV’s of preachers found in the MHS collection, and the hypothesis that these CdV’s, some of which portray very well-known Methodist Episcopal preachers of the time, were collected at camp revival meetings. Given the evangelistic nature of Methodism in the 19th century, summer camp revival meeting was one of the spiritual and social high points of the year, when believers and a few of the curious would gather at a camp ground, live in tents for a week or so, and listen to an array of guest preachers. These included local ministers, exhorters (licensed lay preachers), and a few “stars” – preachers with a broad following, known at least across Delmarva and sometimes beyond.

Rev. Curtis F. Turner (1823 - 1900)
“Rev. Turner,” CdV in the Bellows Album, MHS Collection

The above CdV portrait is believed to be that of the Rev. Curtis F. Turner (1823 – 1900), born in Sussex County. Among the many posts he assumed during a career of 51 years were those of itinerant preacher on the Georgetown Circuit and resident minister of the Odessa M. E. church. He is a contemporary of Adam Wallace (below), and they were both ordained as deacons in the annual Philadelphia Conference of 1852 (Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 30, 1852). Both led the life of a circuit rider in their youth, and both rose to the rank of Presiding Elder, but their careers would take different paths after the Civil War. Turner would remain active in ministering to congregations and in the administrative affairs of the church, and Wallace focused more on writing and editing a newspaper.


Rev. A. Wallace, undated photo
“Rev. A. Wallace,” undated CdV in the Bellows Album, MHS collection


The minister pictured above is the Rev. Adam Wallace (1825 – 1903), one of the best documented Methodist ministers of the era because of his prolific writing and the book by Rev. Joseph F. DiPaolo which collected those writings and added a biographical sketch. During the 1850’s he was an itinerant preacher on the Georgetown and Lewes Circuits, and during the latter assignment made friends with many of the most prominent people of Milton. His life story is unusually colorful, and will be the subject of a future posting.

Preacher Smith
“Preacher Smith,” from the Fredonia Clowes Wilson Album, undated


“Preacher Smith” has not yet been identified. Use of the title “Preacher” instead of “Reverend” suggests that Smith was not an ordained minister. He may have been a licensed exhorter (lay preacher) or a circuit rider serving in the apprenticeship stage of career development, as many young men did in the mid 19th century.


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