[Album of Photographs of Cuba from Just Prior to the Spanish-American War]. J. T. Long.
[Album of Photographs of Cuba from Just Prior to the Spanish-American War]
[Album of Photographs of Cuba from Just Prior to the Spanish-American War]
[Album of Photographs of Cuba from Just Prior to the Spanish-American War]
[Album of Photographs of Cuba from Just Prior to the Spanish-American War]
[Album of Photographs of Cuba from Just Prior to the Spanish-American War]
[Album of Photographs of Cuba from Just Prior to the Spanish-American War]

[Album of Photographs of Cuba from Just Prior to the Spanish-American War]

Des Moines: J.T. Long & Son, [1898]. Twenty-one mounted photographs on twenty leaves; five more loose and unsigned. All but one photo approximately 6 x 8 inches; first photo 4.75 x 4 inches. Loose images approximately 3.75 x 2.75 inches. Oblong quarto. Original green cloth boards, cover gilt; tied with new string. Boards lightly worn at extremities. Printed card mounts with albumen photographs. Mounts a bit chipped; one image defaced, otherwise generally clean. Very good. Item #280

Wonderful album of photographs taken in Cuba at the beginning of 1898, just prior to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. The opening image is the wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, which exploded unexpectedly in Havana harbor on February 15th, killing nearly all her crew. The Maine was in Cuba protecting American interests in the area during the Cuban revolt for independence, and the sinking of the Maine sparked the start of the Spanish-American War. There is also a photo of the cemetery containing the dead of the Maine. There are also scenes of cathedrals, the city of Matanzas, and military forts. Most of the images, however, depict life in rural Cuba at the turn of the century. One photograph shows a tobacco wagon with farmers; another shows workers building a dam at San Antonio; several others show the countryside. One fascinating image shows a “street scene” in San Antonio, which is little more than a dirt track between two rows of palm-thatched huts; several men lean against the houses, enjoying the shade.

Three images are specifically captioned as being “reconcentrados.” These were ordinary Cuban citizens who were held in centralized locations by the government in order to prevent aid being given to guerillas and revolutionaries who were in revolt against the government. In essence, early internment camps. Two of the images show groups of people -- primarily women and children -- around palm-thatched huts. The first of these is only loosely posed, and seems to have been captured in the midst of a disruption caused by one of the children. The third photo of “reconcentrados” depicts a single woman smiling and looking off-camera at someone on the left. The mounted images are as follows:

“Wreck of Maine Havana, Cuba”
“Entrance to Yumari Valley” on a leaf with
“Harbor of Matanzas or Matanzas Bay”
“City of Matanzas, Cuba”
“Dam at San Antonio, Cuba”
“Entrance to Christobal Colon Cemetery - Havana” (image defaced by washing)
“Scene in Yumari Valley - Matanzas, Cuba”
“Church of Montserratto - Yumari Valley Matanzas”
“Grave of Victims of Maine”
“El Morro - Havana, Cuba”
“Tobacco Wagon and Tobacco - San Antonio, Cuba”
“Cactus Hedge - Cerro”
“Ruins of Ten Years War - Alacazar, Cuba”
“Reconcentradoes of Matanzas Cuba”
“Cathedral of Havana - Havana, Cuba”
“Railroad Bridge at Alacazar, Cuba”
“Reconcentradoes of Matanzas, Cuba”
“San Antonio, Cuba”
“Reconcentrado - Matanzas, Cuba”
“Residence of Matanzas, Cuba”
“Street of San Antonio, Cuba”

The five loose images depict U.S. Troops and their encampment, a harbor and fort, some ruins, and a funeral procession carrying a coffin. They are unsigned, but are also presumed to be Long’s handiwork.

J.T. Long of Des Moines remains a bit of a mystery. Though the search has not been exhaustive, we have not been able to find out anything about Long through standard searching or enquiries made at several institutions. Photographic directories list a J.D. Long in Sanborn, Iowa, in the far northwest corner of the state, active at the beginning of the 20th century, but no clear link can be found to a Long in Des Moines. Given that the images are on printed mounts, one assumes that Long may have run a studio in Des Moines, though we were unable to confirm this. Though it seems strange to find an Iowa photographer in Cuba, the images he has captured reasonably well-composed and capture Cuba at a turning point in its tumultuous history.

Price: $3,750.00

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