Is This Henry Tompkins Paige Comstock?
|Old Photographic Photography Collection - Old Photographic Tintype Collection|
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Could this cased tintype be the second known image of Henry T. P. Comstock?
We recently acquired a cased tintype purported to be Henry Tompkins Paige Comstock, and although we have tried to research this image, we have so far been unsuccessful.
In this article we will present our evidence and the research we have done to identify the man in this tintype, and then we will appeal to our readers to help us make a positive identification.
On May 10, 2009. At the Palmer antiques show in Palmer Ma. We purchased a cased tintype from a dealer who was set up in the booth next to ours. The dealer stated that the image was Henry Comstock. Not knowing what Comstock looked like we were naturally skeptical of that statement, so we asked him if he had some kind of documentation to back up his claim.
The following is the story the dealer told us
He stated that he purchased the contents of a house in Maine where he found a document from Henry Comstock discussing the discovery of the silver mine in Nevada that was subsequently named after him, and to which is well known as the Comstock Lode.
The dealer stated that he sold the document to a collector for an undisclosed sum and that he later went back into the house and discovered the tintype of Comstock. He stated that he then tried to sell the image to the document collector, who stated that he was not interested, and then he instructed the dealer not to bother him anymore.
The dealer surmised that the collector was not interested because he had already sold the document.
Is this all just some fantastic story?
After talking with the dealer in length, and becoming friendly with him, we asked to take another look at the tintype. At this point he adjusted his price and we purchased it on the merits of the image and the condition of the Union case it was in.
Now, the dealers story seems fantastical on the surface, but lets examine the facts for a moment.
How could the dealer just pull the name Comstock out of thin air?
Well Let's just say that for some reason the dealer was out to pull a scam on us. I then ask you why would he make up such an elaborate story just to sell the image to us for the price of an average cased image? And even if he was a fanatic Comstock Lode buff, how long would he have to search for to find a tintype of a man who looks so close to the only confirmed image of Comstock? It just doesn't make any sense.
When we got home from the antiques show, we were excited to get online and confirm the dealers claims of the tintype being Comstock, but to our dismay we were only able to find one actual photograph of Comstock on the whole Internet, and the one photograph we could find was grainy and out of focus, but close enough to the image of the man in our tintype to warrant further research.
What to do next?
Not being quite sure where to turn next, we decided to contact the Nevada Historical Society, so we sent off an email to the director of the photography department, Lee Brumbaugh.
While waiting for a reply from Lee, we decided to see who else we might be able to contact in regards to the identification of the Comstock tintype, and we eventually came across the name of the writer of a couple of books on the history of the Comstock Lode, and the Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer, Ronald James.
After doing a little more research on the internet we finally found a phone number for Ronald and we made a phone call to him.
While we were waiting for Ronald to call us back, we got an email reply from Lee, who stated that the one confirmed image of Comstock in the Nevada Historical Society archives was the only known image of Comstock, but that Ronald might be of more help.
We have been in steady contact with Lee and Ronald since our initial inquiries, but because there is only one known confirmed image of Comstock in existence, our efforts at identifying our tintype of Comstock has effectively come to a dead end.