This is a very early hard image of an armed pre-war militiaman. Take note at the bottom of the image (upside down) it says: "MELAINOTYPE PLATE FOR NEFF'S PAT. 19 FEB 56".
The melainotype process was developed in America in 1854 by Hamilton Smith, a chemistry professor at Kenyon College in Ohio who then sold the patent rights to Peter Neff Jr., one of
Smith's students. The melainotype process was patented on February 19, 1856. The use of an iron plate instead of glass (ambrotype) greatly reduced the cost of the photograph. The Melainotype
photos used a thicker iron plate, than that of the more modern tintypes. The quality is also typically better than those same tintypes.
This soldier wears an early shako hat with, what I believe, is an 1835-1845 brass cap plate. Reference page 100 of "American Military Headgear
and Insignia", J. Duncan Campbell and
Michael O'Donnell. This was a cap often used by volunteer militia units. This soldier could easily have served in the Mexican War (1842). He has a large decorative plume on top of
his shako, a leather belt plate across his chest likely attached to a cap box and a double breasted frock coat. The buttons and the buckle have been guilded and I can't make anything out on them, unfortunately. He holds is a US Model 1816 Type II .69 caliber musket. These muskets were originally flint, but this one is likely a percussion conversion. These are also
referred to by collectors as the US Model 1822 musket. You can even see the arsenal brown finish on the barrel and the bands. Special thanks to my friend Dan Binder for the information on this musket!
This is a 1/6 plate that comes in a leatherette case that is split at the seam. Notice that there is a name in the back in pencil. I can't quite make it out, but it looks like it could be something like
"Y.J. Burtmann" or maybe "T.J. Bostrum". I suppose it merits research, but it might be a stretch for this early of an image. The image is brilliantly focused. Under a loop you can see
reflections in the leather on his shako and in the reflection of his eyes. #6531=$900.00