"FOR PRESIDENT GEN. FRANK PIERCE" PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN 1852 OVAL 2.5" TALL WITH DAGUERREOTYPE PHOTO.
This is an object of major importance and rarity in the historical development of presidential campaign items designed to be worn. This Pierce was previously unknown in the hobby and is a perfect match to two known examples for his opponent Winfield Scott. Created between the Democratic convention in Baltimore that nominated Pierce on the 49th ballot in June, 1852 and the election in November, 1852, this and the matching Scott are the earliest known items to feature a photographically created image of the candidate along with the words "FOR PRESIDENT." There are a few known daguerreotype images of Clay, Taylor, Cass, Pierce and Scott, all presidential candidates, but nearly all the others are in hinged cases, not designed to be worn and with only two 1848 Taylor and Cass exceptions that carry their names but not the words "For President." For example, a Pierce 1/6 plate daguerreotype in a case realized $15,525 in a 2003 Heritage auction. This Pierce and the matching Scott, has a tiny 1/16" hole at the top of the oval indicating it was meant to be worn on a ribbon around the neck. From eight years later, there are also holed examples to be worn with a ribbon of the famous similar size oval 1860 Abraham Lincoln ambrotype by George Clark of Boston. This Pierce has the overall impressive large oval size of 2-1/8" wide by 2-9/16" tall. The oval is 3/16" thick with a reddish brown cardboard backing. Six of the 24 folded brass tabs that hold the pieces together have lost their luster and show traces of verdigris. One tab has a crease line while the others do not. We feel this crease occurred in the original assembly as there is no evidence on the other 23 tabs that they have ever been opened since 1852. These tabs are very similar to those on the 1860 Lincoln and matching Douglas 2.5" tall ambrotypes, but the end of each tab on the Pierce is a bit more blunt while the 1860 style is more rounded. The cardboard back has a couple of .25" scratches on the surface and a shallow 1/8" long slightly deeper cut but these marks are all very minor traces of wear. The front of the oval consists of the outer 1/8" wide rim (joined to the tabs on the reverse) with flower and leaf designs alternating over a ribbed pattern background. Next is the slightly recessed brass luster metal plate .5" wide with oval opening at its center. The individual letters are 1/8" tall forming an upper arc reading "FOR PRESIDENT" and a lower arc reading "GEN. FRANK PIERCE." The use of a nickname (Frank instead of Franklin) on a campaign item of this age is very unusual. Presumably, this was intentional to create a more familiar and friendly presidential candidate. There is a narrow band of verdigris on the rim and outer edge of the oval plate from 2 o'clock to 8 o'clock plus scattered additional luster dots gone from the oval plate, although well over 50% luster remains on both the rim and oval plate. The oval cut-out at the plate's center has a thin beveled interior edge surrounding the very slightly recessed glass sheet over the daguerreotype seen in an 1" wide by 1.25" tall opening. The glass has a virtual pinpoint and very shallow surface nick positioned over Pierce's mouth at far right. The overall size of the daguerreotype is likely a 1/16 plate measuring 1-3/8x1-5/8". The daguerreotype's surface has some irregular lines of quite light brownish tarnish on the background, but other than one line touching his shoulder, none of these lines overlap his image. There is an arc of much darker tarnish at the very top of the daguerreotype's visible area. The photographic image of Pierce shows some very tiny lighter color accent lines on the cloth wrap around his neck and throughout his wavy and uniquely styled hair. Likely, although the facial details are remarkably life-like, this indicates the daguerreotype image was copied from a print or another daguerreotype that the photographer hand touched on the hair and fabric, a common practice among daguerreotype photographers. Pierce was 47 years old during the campaign and 48 years old when inaugurated in March 1853, the youngest president up to that time. However, the image on this daguerreotype shows Pierce looking very youthful and younger than the many images of him on Google which include prints, paintings and a few daguerreotypes. We believe the image on this item is previously unknown and possibly the earliest dating from the early 1840's taken perhaps during or shortly after 1842 when he resigned his term as US Senator from New Hampshire and returned to his home to practice law. Although showing very little without magnification, under the glass are many essentially microscopic fibers originating from some unknown material used as a spacer on the interior between the metal front plate and the reverse cardboard backing. A purchaser may want to have this item examined by a professional conservator of daguerreotype photos. While barely noticeable to the naked eye, the microscopic fibers could be removed thus adding clarity when the image is viewed with magnification. There is also a slim chance of finding a plate manufacturer's name and/or date on the reverse of the plate. This remarkable presidential campaign item was recently discovered in Pierce's home state of New Hampshire. It was in the cellar of a home in a box containing letters of a woman named Sally York Horne Fernald (1818-1894) whose only son, coincidentally, was born in 1852, the year this piece was created for Pierce's presidential campaign. The consignor is a family descendant. In researching the piece, he sent photos to the Director of the New Hampshire Historical Society. The Director stated the image was previously unknown to the society and unique in his experience, as it is in ours. The Daguerreian Society website shows one Pierce in military uniform daguerreotype but no presidential candidate daguerreotype image designed to be worn for any candidate. Here is a special opportunity to own a presidential campaign artifact of major historical importance and of extreme rarity.