Zouave Ambrotype Returns to Campus Martius Museum

A rare photograph that went missing from the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta, Ohio will return home. On November 21, 2014 Ohio History Connection staff will install the unique photograph of Zouave soldiers taken early in the Civil War on the exhibit floor.

Zouave Ambrotype

What is an ambrotype?

Popular in the mid to late 1850s, ambrotypes are negative images developed on glass that appear positive when backed with dark material. Each image is unique. They were available in different plate sizes and assembled in cases.

When did the Zouave ambrotype come to Campus Martius?

The Zouave ambrotype was collected by the Women’s Centennial Association when they assembled an exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Marietta in 1888. Many of these items were eventually put on display at the Campus Martius Museum. The ambrotype is listed in the WCA log book as “Soldiers of 1861.”

Why is the Zouave ambrotype unique?

The size, coloring and soldiers dress make this photograph unusual. Measuring about 6 x 8 inches, this was a full plate ambrotype which was not as common as smaller plates. Photographers often added color to ambrotypes, but few were colored so extensively. There were also fewer soldiers who wore Zouave uniforms in the Civil War than standard uniforms.

Is this a battle scene?

The soldiers posed dramatically as if in hand to hand combat, but they are not on a battle field. If you look carefully at the sides of the ambrotype you can see the edges of the photographer’s back drop.

Who are the soldiers in the picture?

There are multiple theories regarding the soldiers’ identities. Based on another photograph of soldiers wearing similar uniforms one historian believes these soldiers may have members of the Dayton Zouave Rangers. Another possibility is that they were the Fireman Zouaves, a Marietta company called up for guard duty in 1861 and lead by Captain Sidney Shaw. Research to identify the soldiers continues.

When did the ambrotype leave Campus Martius?

Campus Martius staff reported the ambrotype missing from the museum in November 1978. Stories in the Marietta Times and other publications brought attention to the theft, but did not lead to the ambrotype’s return.

How did the ambrotype return?

After being bought and sold several times by private collectors the ambrotype was donated to a public repository as part of a large collection of Civil War images. Once the ambrotype was returned to the public trust an investigation led to its transfer. Ohio History Connection staff regained possession of the object in July 2014.

L. Wood, Curator for Visual Resources

This entry was posted in Civil War, collections, Current News, Photograph Collections. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Zouave Ambrotype Returns to Campus Martius Museum

  1. Peggy Mershon says:

    “Went missing”? “Regained possession”? Could you be a bit more specific? Right now, the story casts a rather poor light on museum caretakers as well as collectors.

    • ohiohistory says:

      It was on display at the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta and stolen in November 1978. When they found that the display case had been tampered with and the artifact was missing, staff at the Campus Martius Museum informed local police and the Ohio History Connection (then Ohio Historical Society) staff in Columbus. The whereabouts of the ambrotype were unknown to the Ohio History Connection and Campus Martius Museum from November 1978 until 2011. It was eventually donated to the Library of Congress. After it was determined to be the missing artifact was returned to the Ohio History Connection.

      I hope this helps to clarify the situation.

      L. Wood, Curator for Visual Resources

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