Adalbert Johann Volck photograph collection
This collection contains photographic prints, negatives, and prints of the work of Adalbert Johann Volck (1828-1912), a Baltimore dentist, artist, cartoonist, sculptor, and silversmith during the American Civil War.
- Volck, Adalbert John, 1828-1912 (Person)
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This collection is open for research use.
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Biographical / Historical
Adalbert Johann Volck (1828-1912) was born on April 14, 1828 in the town of Augsburg in
Bavaria, Germany. As a youth he studied art in Nuremburg and Munich, and in 1848 participated in the revolutions then sweeping through Germany and parts of Europe. Volck was captured and sentenced to four years of service in the Bavarian Army. Rather than serve, he deserted and fled to the United States. Volck arrived in Boston and headed west. In 1849, he followed the gold rush to California but soon returned east, finally settling in the Baltimore area, where he would remain for the rest of his life. He entered the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery as one of its first students, graduating in 1852. Volck was a member of the Association of Dental Surgeons and served as president of the organization. He was one of the first dentists to use porcelain fillings. In 1852, he married Letitia Robert Alleyn, one of his patients, and their union produced two sons and three daughters.
During the Civil War, Volck became an ardent supporter of the Confederacy. According to som accounts, he served as a personal courier for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, carried dispatches across the Potomac River, smuggled medicine and other contraband for the Confederacy, assisted volunteers, mechanics and artisans with their defection to the South, and used his Charles Street home as a rendezvous and hiding place for Confederate sympathizers. Other sources dispute these exploits. Volck is most famous for his political drawings and etchings produced during the Civil War, although this is largely due to a later rediscovery of his work, rather than any contemporary impact. There was limited circulation of his drawings in the North and most likely none in the Confederate States until after the war. Under the pseudonym V. Blada, Volck printed three series of thirty Civil War sketches, titled Sketches from the Civil War in North America. Another series, Comedians and Tragedians of the North, caricatured prominent northern figures including President Lincoln, General Benjamin F. Butler, General Winfield Scott, and Thomas Hicks, Governor of Maryland. Benjamin Butler and President Lincoln drew particular scorn from Volck’s pen; Volck produced a series of sketches and two books lampooning Butler, and nine images featuring Lincoln. Although his feelings toward Lincoln softened over time, he maintained a lifelong affection for the Confederate ideal; discussing his Civil War sketches in a letter to the Library of Congress in 1905, he wrote that his “greatest regret ever was to have aimed ridicule at that great and good Lincoln - outside of that the pictures represent events as truthfully as my close connection with the South enabled me to get at them.”
Following the war, Volck continued both his dental practice and art. He produced portraiture and works in silver, bronze, oil, and sculpture, while largely avoiding the political slant of his earlier work. Volck was also a fixture in the cultural and artistic life of Baltimore. He was a founding member or member of various organizations devoted to the arts including the Academy of Art,the Allston Association, the Wednesday Club, the Athenaeum Club, and the Charcoal Club.
Volck died on March 26, 1912 and is interred in Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore.
7.25 Linear Feet (2 full Hollinger boxes; 4 Oversize flat boxes)
Language of Materials
The collection was compiled from items housed in the Volck Collection in the Graphics Division of the Special Collections Department. The collection consists of five series by subject. Box six contains oversize images of items from Series I, II, and III.
Series I: Civil War Sketches (Box 1 and 2: Folders 1-37, Bound Volume; Boxes 3 and 6)
This series consists of drawings from the civil war period. Volck published a series of images entitled Sketches from the Civil War in North America. These which were printed in three issues between 1861 and 1865 under the titles Sketches from the Civil War in America, 1861, ’62, ’63 and Second and Third Issues of V. Blada’s War Sketches. In “flyers” printed by Volck advertising the war sketches, 30 drawings are listed, with more “ready for printing.” All 30 are represented in this collection. Below is a listing of the etchings as indexed on the flyers.
Sketches from the Civil War in America, 1861, ’62, ’63
No.1 – Worship of the North
No.2 – Passage through Baltimore
No.5 – Searching For Arms
No. 6 – Enlistment of Sickles Brigade
No. 7 – The Fight at Santa Rosa Island
No. 12 – Slaves Concealing their Master from a Search Party
No. 15 – Tracks of the Armies
No. 16 – Formation of Guerilla Bands
No. 21 – Gen. Stewart’s [sic] Raid to the White House
No. 24 – Scene in Stonewall Jackson’s Camp
Second and Third Issues of V. Blada’s War Sketches
No. 4 – Battle in Baltimore, April 19, 1861
No. 8 – Marylanders crossing the Potomac to join the Southern Army
No. 9 – Election in Baltimore, November, 1862
No. 10 – Stone Blockade off Charleston
No. 11 – Making clothes for the boys in the army
No. 14 – Valiant me “dat fite mit Sigel’
No. 17 – Jemison’s [sic] Jayhawkers
No. 18 – Smuggling Medicines into the South
No. 19 – Offering of bells to be cast into cannon
No. 20 – Albert S. Johnston crossing the dessert [sic] to join the Southern Army
No. 23 – Butler’s victims of Fort St. Philip
No. 25 – The Emancipation Proclamation
No. 26 – Free Negroes in the North
No. 27 – Free Negroes in Hayti [sic]
No. 28 – Vicksburg Canal
No. 30 – Cave Life in Vicksburg
No. 32 – Gen. Stewart’s [sic] return from Pennsylvania
No. 33 - (Untitled)
No. 40 – Substitute Office
No. 45 – Counterfeit Confederate Notes publicly offered for sale in the City of Brotherly Love
Images from Sketches from the Civil War in North America, 1861, ’62, ’63 can be found in Folders 1-11. Images from the Second and Third Issues of V. Blada’s War Sketches are in Folders 12 – 33. Folder 12 contains a set of Second and Third Issues of V. Blada’s War missing No. 4 - Battle in Baltimore, April 19, 1861.
Folders 34-37 consist of sketches from the civil war period that not part of Sketches from the Civil War in North America. Included are alternate versions of “Worship of the North” and “Battle in Baltimore, April 19, 1861,” a print of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and an untitled print that may have been designed for inclusion in future issues of Sketches from the Civil War in North America that were never produced.
Box 3 contains 4 volumes of Confederate War Etchings. In 1882 the Philadelphia Publisher, Porter and Coates reprinted Sketches from the Civil War in North America under the title Confederate War Etchings. Limited to 100 sets, it was supposedly printed from Volck’s original plates. A second edition was printed again around 1892, with smaller images lithographed on thin tissue paper. The Collection contains one volume of the 1882 edition, missing one print and 3 volumes of the 1892 edition, 2 of which are complete. The sets include indexes. (Note: Some of the titles of the drawings are slightly different from the titles as they appeared on the original flyers for the Sketches from the Civil War in North America. In addition, “The Fight at Santa Rosa,” was not include in the editions printed by Porter and Coates. Also, plate No. 33 – Untitled from Volck's original printings of the Sketches was titled “Return of a Raiding Party from Pennsylvania” in the Confederate War Etchings.
Box 6 contains matted prints of 9 of the images from Sketches from the Civil War in North America. There is also a print of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson with a typed description of how Volck created the image, and a print of an untitled civil war sketch that may have been designed for inclusion in future issues of Sketches from the Civil War in North America that were never produced.
Box 2 contains a bound volume consisting of complete sets of the following series of prints: Sketches from the Civil War in North America, Comedians and Tragedians of the North, and Ye Exploits of Ye Distinguished Attorney and General B.F.B. (Bombastes Furioso Buncombe).
Series II: Comedians and Tragedians of the North (Box 2: Folders 38-48, Bound volume; Box 6)
Series II consists of images from a series of etchings which caricatured prominent northern figures including President Lincoln, General Benjamin F. Butler, General Winfield Scott, and Thomas Hicks, Governor of Maryland. (Note: The image, Don Quixote and Sancho Panzo, may not have been part of this series)
Series III: Benjamin F. Butler (Folders 48-52, Bound volume; Box 6)
This series contains images of drawings caricaturing Union General Benjamin Butler. In 1861-1862, Volck produced two series of six sketches under the title, Ye Exploits of Ye Distinguished Attorney and General B.F.B. (Bombastes Furioso Buncombe)shortly after Federal Troops occupied Baltimore under Butler’s command following the April 19, 1861 riots. This collection contains one complete set including indexes, and one incomplete set of each of the series. 4 of the prints from the complete sets found in Folders 49 and 52 were removed and matted and are located in Box 6
Some of these sketches were updated and used again along with additional drawings in two small books, Life and adventures of B. F. B. (Bombastes Furioso Buncombe,) the warrior, sage and philanthropist / a Christmas story (1862) and The American Cyclops, Hero of New Orleans, and Spoiler of Silver Spoons (1868). Images from these volumes can be seen in PP 247.
Series IV: The Wednesday Club (Folders 53-66)
This series consists of images of drawings done by Volck for events at the Wednesday Club, a Baltimore cultural groups of which Volck was a member. The Wednesday Club, met from 1877-1883 with an emphasis on music and theatre. In addition, there is an untitled drawing of a tree, a print depicting a Musical Soiree at the Peabody Conservatory in 1872, and a drawing of the Canongate Tolbooth, Edinburgh. These drawings may not have been done by Volck.
Series V: Negatives (Folders 67-82)
This series consists of glass plate negatives and one photograph of Volck silverwork and unidentified architecture and portraits. There is also a negative of an image, possibly of Volck in his home.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was compiled from items housed in the Volck Collection in the Graphics Collection.
Keidel, George C., “Catonsville Biographies: A Series of Personal Sketches,” The Argus, October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, November 13, 29, 1915.
Neely, Jr. Mark E., Harold Holzer and Gabor S. Boritt, The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987)
Van Dyk Macbride, “The Lincoln Caricatures,” The Lincoln Herald Vol. 56, no. 3 (1954): 23-43.
- Guide to the Adalbert Johann Volck photograph collection
- Under Revision
- Damon Talbot
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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- 2020-02-26: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.