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Carte de Visite signed by Robert E. Lee, Vanderson & Jones, Photographers, Richmond, Virginia(1866 March 16)

  • Part of collection: MS 1991.1

Inscribed “For Mrs. Robert Carter from her affectionate cousin M.C. Lee. Lexington, March 16, 1866,” this photo of Civil War general Robert E. Lee was presented by Lee’s wife, Mary Anna Randolph Custis (1808–1873), to Mrs. Robert Carter of Shirley Plantation. Robert E. Lee’s mother, Anne Hill Carter (1773–1829), was the great-aunt of Robert Randolph Carter (1825–1883).

Mrs. Robert (Louise Humphries) Carter (1832–1906) was the daughter of the Reverend Hector Humphreys, president of St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland. Louise married naval Lt. Robert Carter on the same day that her sister married Lt. Samuel Marcy. When the Civil War came, Lt. Marcy stayed in the U.S. Navy, while Robert resigned to enlist in the Confederate Navy. Marcy was killed in 1862 in action off Charleston South Carolina. Robert Randolph Carter survived the War.

Introduced in 1854, carte de visite photos consisted of a 2.5″ x 3.5″ albumen print mounted on a card. They became popular during the Civil War as calling cards to be passed out among friends. Their small size also made them portable reminders for soldiers of loved ones left behind. After the Civil War, many Americans began collecting carte de visite photos of important Civil War leaders, along with those of popular entertainers and politicians. Special albums whose pages contained slots for storing carte de visite collections became favorite mementoes.

From the Shirley Plantation Research Collection (MS 1991.1).