BUTTRE, John Chester (1821-1893, engraver)
[circa 1880]. Original metal printing plate, engraved by Buttre, impressed manufacturer's name "John Sellers & Sons / Sheffield" on verso. Plate Size: 10 5/16 x 7 inches.
A very rare original 19th-century printing plate: a portrait of Jefferson Davis.
A fine half-length portrait of Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), with his facsimile signature beneath (in reverse) as title. The President of the Confederacy is shown standing with his forearm resting on a chair back. After a distinguished career in both the army (he commanded a Mississippi regiment with distinction during the Mexican War at the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista), and in political life (he served as a Senator and as Secretary of War in Franklin Pierce's cabinet), Jefferson Davis became a leader in the defense of slavery in general and of slavery in the territories particularly. Even more controversially, he advocated the revival of the slave trade. Although not in favor of immediate secession following Lincoln's election, Davis accepted his state's decision to leave the Union. With the formation of the Confederacy, he hoped for a military position, and when news arrived at Brierfield of his selection as provisional President, his wife described him as 'so grieved that I feared some evil had befallen our family.' Davis, nevertheless, accepted the position, and on February 18, 1861 was inaugurated President. Davis was passionately committed to the cause of the Confederacy, and his labors on its behalf took a heavy personal toll. While contemporaries and historians have found much to criticize about his leadership, most scholars consider that he guided the Confederacy as well as one could expect under the circumstances. According to Stauffer, the engraver, John Chester Buttre was born in Auburn, New York in 1821. He studied under a polish artist Hulaniski, and started in business as a wood-engraver. "In 1841 he removed to New York, became a line-engraver of reputation, and a considerable amount of his work of this period appeared in magazines. As a member of the firm of Rice & Buttre, and later under his own name, he established an extensive engraving business in New York." Throughout his career he maintained a reputation as a master craftsman, as engraving established itself through the efforts of Buttre and some other as a superior means of reproducing images.
Stauffer, American Engravers Upon Copper and Steel, I, p.139.