Early Carte-de-Visite Photo of Longtime U.S. Consul to Jerusalem, Selah Merrill[in an unidentified hand, on verso]
Joslyn, Smith & Co.
Merrill, who served as U.S. Consul to Jerusalem under three presidents over the course of three decades, is best remembered, there, for his virulent antisemitism, and here, for the effect that prejudice had in shaping the State Department’s infamous hostility to the presence of the Jewish people in the Holy Land. What Merrill believed, and indeed may be said to have "modeled,", was simple: Jews were opportunistic and parasitical outsiders who did not want land to colonize but rather cities, where they might, in his words, "live on the fortunes or the misfortunes of other people." That Jews were persecuted - in Russia, say - only served to convince him that there must have been good reason for it. His malignant antipathies, however, were not just restricted to Jews: those gentiles who fell outside of mainline Protestantism also felt his antagonism, as was attested by his long-standing feud with Jerusalem's utopian American Colony. Yet, as a clergyman, archeologist, scholar, and (alleged) exporter of taxidermic Palestinian wildlife, Merrill was popularly thought to know more about the Holy Land than any other American.
But long before Merrill was a Consul, or an archeologist, or a Professor of Hebrew at a theological seminary, he was a chaplain with the 49th U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War; this rare carte-de-visite photo dates from his year's service in that capacity.
Carte-de-visite portrait photograph, sepia-toned, duodecimo, no place (Vicksburg, Mississippi), circa 1864-1865, and bearing the photographer's imprint on the verso: "Joslyn, Smith & Co. Washington Gallery. Vicksburg, Miss." Also on the verso, in an unknown hand, is this manuscript identification: "S. Merrill / Chaplain / 49th U.S.C.T. / Westfield, Mass." Very rare.