Have you ever seen this photo of Frederick Douglass seated at a dinner table before?

cropped _ FD seated at a dinner table, looks to be late in his life -- SmithsonianAnaCommunityMuseum

Courtesy of Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

In recent years a team of meticulous researchers have determined Frederick Douglass was the most “photographed” person (American) of the 19th century. More than 160 known images exist in public and private collections on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean from daguerreotypes to carte-de-vistas either as the cynosure or with company, such as his grandson Joseph Douglass.

Last week I took a tour of the Douglass-related holdings at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. Items included copies of Douglass’ autobiographies, Douglass’ Monthly and a couple of photographs, including this image of an aged Douglass seated at a dinner table.

Have you ever seen this photo before? Where was this photo taken? Who is Douglass with? (Helen Pitts Douglass seems to be 3rd seated from the right.)

According to Jennifer Morris, archivist at the museum, this was donated many, many years ago without gathering complete information about his provenance. Speculative chatter has been this is Douglass in Europe. Douglass traveled throughout Europe and North Africa from the fall of 1886 until mid-1887. However, as NPS Ranger Nate Johnson pointed out that is unlikely due to Douglass’ appearance which is more closely consistent with photos taken in the last years of life.

Was this photo captured in Cedar Hill? There are contours of the room that appear both similar and dissimilar. What do you think? Anyone out there have any information on this image?

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  1. #1 by Leigh Fought on February 25, 2015 - 12:34 pm

    What a great photo! The ladies’ dresses and hairstyles put this in the 1890s, so not Europe. Probably not Cedar Hill, since the doorways are not quite right, especially the archway in the center, and restoration would probably have discovered some evidence of that paneling. The places seem to be set with water glasses, and the stemmed glass on the far left is upside down, so maybe a temperance meeting, or at least all temperance advocates? Thank you for sharing!

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