Find The Lawrences: USCG Painting Photos @ Swann

It feels like a good time to be looking for lost Jacob Lawrence paintings. The publicity around the Metropolitan Museum’s show of his 1942-43 series The American Struggle has so far helped surface two of the original 30 works. Three more remain unlocated, and one of those is known only by its title.

See those four Jacob Lawrence paintings on the left that aren’t from The Migration Series? Coast Guard paintings. image: MoMA, 1944

Which is still more information than is known about the works Lawrence made next, in 1944-45, while serving as a combat artist for the US Coast Guard. Tallies differ, but Lawrence painted either 17 or 48 paintings in the Coast Guard, and all but three are lost. Images exist of twelve more, including the eight shown at MoMA in 1944. And except for a few mismatched titles, that’s it. Until now.

A group of 14 publicity photos for Lawrence’s 1944 MoMA show is up for sale at Swann Galleries next week in New York, and it includes pictures of four previously unknown Coast Guard paintings. Along with one photo that was first published in 2015, that makes five paintings which don’t appear in the artist’s 2000 catalogue raisonné. According to Swann, it appears none of the five were included in MoMA’s show.

Continue reading “Find The Lawrences: USCG Painting Photos @ Swann”

Joseph Carrier, RIP

Danh Vo, Good Life, Army Boys, 1966/2007, selected from photos taken by Joseph M. Carrier in the mid-1960s in Vietnam

I just learned that Joseph M. Carrier, the former RAND Corporation analyst in Vietnam, who cruised Danh Vo in 2006 at an artist talk for a residency in Pacific Palisades, then invited him to his house, showed him his vast archive of photos, documentation, research, ethnographic material, and erotica, then invited him to go to Vietnam together, has been alive all this time, and only passed away at the end of November 2020.

Carrier has been an important presence in Vo’s work and career. Vo first showed creepshots Carrier took of young men on the streets of Vietnam as Good Life (1966/2007) at Bartolozzi in Berlin, but these homosocial images have been included in many of Vo’s shows since. He’s discussed them both in terms of Carrier’s own experience as a gay man fired for his gayness, and as projected autobiographical content of Vo’s own lost life in the war-wracked country he fled as a child in the 1970s.

As Vo explained to Adam Carr in 2007 before the Berlin show opened:

What is incredible is that he kept diaries, papers from the RAND Corporation, love letters and lots of photos and original negatives. What’s more incredible is that he gave it all to me! 

Primarily I think this whole affair I have with Joe’s material is an act of divine justice for not really having my own history. As a refugee my parents left it all behind, mentally and also physically. No pictures or documents of my family’s life in Vietnam exist, and its a kind of magical coincidence that I got this archive which I strangely but sincerely feel belongs to me. 

Sure enough, at an Art Basel Statements installation in 2008, Vo exhibited a copy of Carrier’s will, which mentioned Vo’s inheriting Carrier’s archive.

Danh Vo, “Boys seen through a shop window,” Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Köln, 2009, installation view via GB

The three-way affair between Vo, Joe, and his material also manifested in a 2009 show at Buchholz in Cologne, “Boys seen through a shop window.” Carrier wrote the press release for the show [pdf] in strikingly personal first-person non-artspeak, but the show really did look like Vo had cleaned out Carrier’s house and turned it into one giant installation piece.

But Carrier was still alive and going strong in 2010, when Vo talked of staying with him on another trip to LA, before his Artists Space show which featured photogravures made of Carrier’s images.

At the time the perceived dynamic of Vo’s relationship with Carrier was colored by Vo’s relationship with Michael Elmgreen, who he was dating at the time, but whose signature he also secretly forged on a Danish Arts Council grant so he could go to the opening of Prada Marfa as a photographer’s assistant.

Vo talked a bit about the ambivalence and instrumentalization of relationships and relationship structures in 2007 [when he was still marrying friends and immediately divorcing them, just to add to his official last name], in the context of a refugee’s desperate survival tactics. But, as he said even then, “I was a boat refugee when I was four, but I’m pretty dry now.”

Vo’s work, and his collaborations, especially early on, were unsettling, not just because of what he called “parasitism,” but because of his forthright ambivalence even then to forefront his questioning of the fundamental assumptions of human interaction. Finding out about Carrier’s death–and the fascinating, complicated and varied life he led–underscores the efficiency of the art context to reduce him to a sort of found object. But it also exposes the limitations we all face in understanding the nuances of someone else’s relationships. Which feels like part of Vo’s point all along. Meanwhile, I think Danh’s gonna need a bigger storage unit.

Obituary: Joseph M. Carrier [palipost.com]

The World’s Most Unwanted Baldessari Will Finally Find A New Home

Lot 543, John Baldessari, Untitled (Free All Artists), 2010 (sic), ink stamp on mat board, 8×10 in., image: sothebys

The provenance of this John Baldessari states that it was purchased at the 2010 installment of Incognito, the Santa Monica Museum of Art’s popular annual sale of identically sized, anonymous artworks donated by hundreds of local artists, famous, not, and in between. It is an inkstamp on an 8×10 mat board that reads, “FREE ALL ARTISTS.”

same, but backwards

It is listed as an open edition, executed in 2010. Which is cool, except that there’s an Incognito label on the back of the mat board–again, this is the entire work, an ink-stamped mat board–from 2008. And then that date is crossed out, and replaced with the date of the 2009 sale.

Can you just see how this went down? Hundreds of people buying VIP preview tickets in order to scan the hundreds of anonymous works, and to scope out the big scores, the big names, before anyone else. And for two years in a row, they left the Baldessari, the biggest name in town, sitting on the shelf.

It was only in 2010, that the art advisor Will Kopelman told the LA Times that he’d gotten a Baldessari, a Ruscha AND a Pettibone by getting to the front of the line at the preview. Was this the one? Was this the moment? Did he really have to elbow his way toward it? Was there a tipoff, perhaps, three years in, that a visually slight but conceptually robust Baldessari was lurking in plain view?

form filled out by John Baldessari in 1978, later published in The Form, 1970-1979, image: burningbooks.org [pdf]

When I googled to see how large this open edition was, I found two things. The source of the text seems to be one of the stamps Baldessari used to fill out the form Melody Sumner Carnahan sent him in 1978, which ended up in The Forms, 1970-1979, the debut title of her independent press, Burning Books.

The second thing is that every other mention of this edition seems to be this same print. Before yesterday’s auction, it has been put up for sale two times–once in 2014, and once last year–and it has failed to sell twice. So it was unloved twice when it was anonymous, and it was unloved twice when it was a Baldessari. It cannot catch a break.

This third time, it had no reserve price, and I so I bid a dollar for it, guaranteeing that it would, at least, find a new, happy home. Then today, someone outbid me. Right now the bid is $200, with fees, it’s close to the $300 the Incognito buyer paid for it. Meanwhile, if this is really an open edition, only one example of it seems to have surfaced; so what was unloved as a Baldessari edition may turn out to be a unique work. And right now it is quite a bargain, if not free.

Lot 543: John Baldessari, Untitled (Free All Artists), est. $3,000-4,000, auction ends March 18, 2021 UPDATE: sure enough, it sold for a top bid of $2,400, or $3,024 with premium. Finally. [sothebys]

Nyan Cats & FO Dogs

a facsimile object of Chris Torres’ nyan cat dot gif, ganked from giphy

Earlier this week a restored original animated gif of nyan cat sold for 300 Ethereum. And today the order book was closed for Édouard Manet Facsimile Objects when Manet’s painting, le chien Minnay, sold for EUR520,800 in Paris.

@drouot_estimations hyping the sale of Minnay on IG

Both of these transactions take place in a world where the experience of art is decoupled from a physical artwork. In one case, a digital object is rendered auratic through a purchase premised on an imaginary scarcity. In the other, frank facsimiles of a unique and long unseen object mitigate the inability to travel and experience the object in person.

Minnay selling for EUR420,000 (nice) plus premium, image via @drouot_estimations

It was literally not until after the auction of the Manet, despite spending weeks thinking about it, and weeks of seeing people talk about NFTs as Niftys, that I saw that Facsimile Object, abbreviated, could be pronounced faux, as in FO Dog. So you’ll excuse me if I can’t elucidate on the concept of a unique copy of a restored original animated gif.

Minnay Display Day

It’s my dog in a box, baby! image via @drouot_estimations IG

The day is here, and I am not. Édouard Manet’s Minnay went on public view today at the Drouot galleries in Paris, the first time in its history. It will be on view again tomorrow, and for a brief hour on Friday, before it is sold.

I doubt you will be allowed to pet it, but maybe go and find out? These do make me wonder if the Facsimile Object should have been a cutting board. image: @drouot_estimations IG

If you are there, or will be there, look at it, study it, and send a pic. But do not get a Manet Facsimile Object (M1), because it will do you no good. It is not intended as a souvenir of your visit, but a cover for the gaping void in the lives of the rest of us who cannot see the painting itself.

–– Woof, ‘grammed the oldest auction house in France. image: @drouot_paris via drouot_estimations

Turns Out This is Not Cy Twombly’s First Picasso

A screenshot of Simon Watson’s photos of Nicola Del Roscio’s house in Gaeta, including a copy of a Picasso which Cy Twombly painted over one of his own works. image: nytimes.com

In 2015 T Magazine ran this feature on Nicola Del Roscio, Cy Twombly’s partner, studio assistant, and the head of the Twombly Foundation, and his house and palm tree garden in Gaeta. On the dining room wall was a copy of a Picasso which Twombly made, painted over one of his own works.

This instantly reminded me of the big Arts & Leisure profile that Twombly dutifully sat for when he had his 1994 MoMA retrospective, where the artist talked of the first painting he recalled making: a copy of a Picasso portrait of Marie-Therese Walter. I always understood this to have been in his teens, under the influence of his first art teacher/mentor, the Spanish painter Pierre Daura, who settled in the rural Virginia of his wife’s family in 1942.

Continue reading “Turns Out This is Not Cy Twombly’s First Picasso”

Chien Sauvage

Triptych of Manet Facsimile Object proofs, of incorrect size (L) and a couple of cropping formats.

Now that I got the size right–or closer to the original, at least–I moved to the question of whether the Manet Facsimile Object (M1) should be cropped or not.

As soon as I put this triptych up on the wall, I saw that the tidier, cropped version on the right not only misses a couple of brush strokes that you’d kind of want to keep; Minnay is slightly larger, too. So I ordered a slightly smaller version, the equivalent of slicing off the unfinished 1/4″ edges of the uncropped object in the center. That should be a definitive pair from which to make a decision.

“So we are really in front of a small masterpiece by Manet”: Édouard Manet’s le chien “Minnay”, as seen on the Instagram page of @drouot_estimations

And then I found a brief video about Minnay on Drouot Estimation’s Instagram. There is the painting, fierce and frameless, on a tiny chevalet de table, and I cannot believe there’s even a question. It’s a facsimile object, after all, not a facsimile picture.

Manet’s Minnay on a Sennelier on a Louis (facsimile), image via @drouot_estimations

And if you want to display your Manet Facsimile Object on a Sennelier RS N.24 support de table en bois, I heartily approve. [I’m still going to look at the cropped and uncropped versions side by side, though; because it’s on the way.]

Facsimile of Authenticity

Love the concept, but this pad of Arches watercolor paper is about an inch too small in each direction. [UPDATE: IT IS NOT, IT IS JUST FINE. The catalogue just dropped with new, slightly smaller dimensions for the Manet: 32.8 x 24.8 cm. The difference is probably the frame, but it’s good to pin these things down!]

Orders are coming in, facsimile objects are being needed, and so certificates of authenticity must also be realized. So I’ve been thinking about them.

The 1:1:1 scale of the certificate to the facsimile object to the work felt right immediately for many logical, conceptual, historical, and aesthetic reasons.

Walter de Maria, one half of his High Energy Unit (1966/69)

The coexistence of the certificate and the object remind me of Walter de Maria’s High Energy Bar, an infinite series he insisted was not a multiple, but which he also considered to unite with its certificate of authenticity to become a distinct work, a High Energy Unit. De Maria bought his fancy certificates from the old-timey stock certificate printer, and kept the registry of owners’ names secure, he promised, in a Swiss vault.

Stephen Prina, Exquisite Corpse: The Complete Paintings of Manet, 232 of 556, Berthe Morisot à l’Eventail, (Berthe Morisot with a Fan), 1874, (March 4, 2012), ink wash on rag (L) and offset print (R), image via maureen paley via ocula

Obviously, when it comes to embodying Manets, Stephen Prina’s Exquisite Corpse: The Complete Paintings of Manet (1988– ) comes to mind. I do not envision making a career of making 556 Manet facsimile objects. The circumstances that compel this one are highly specific and, if civilization (sic) can get its socio-political act together and end this pandemic, very limited. Please do not let the world of Manets exist beyond our experiential reach for much longer.

Anyway, though I have a deep spot in my heart for the monochrome, I feel like making a monochrome ink wash Minnay would end up more a Prina Facsimile Object than a certificate of authenticity for this Manet Facsimile Object. So I’m still thinking, staring, and experimenting, but soon I will also be getting paper of the appropriate size.

Also, I guess I wrote this in 2009:

Interestingly, though there are hundreds of mentions of High Energy Bar, there were only two mentions of the “complete” piece, High Energy Unit. [It makes me start to wonder about the underappreciated existence our poor certificates must lead, even as they’ve become so important to the authenticity and integrity of the work. Is anyone else making sexy artist certificates–or art about certificates, even–that remain ignored or unknown by everyone but the work’s purchaser? Will an artist make a work whose aesthetic or artistic payoff is actually the [secret] certificate itself? If you have or know of any awesome certificates languishing in any file cabinets out there, by all means, let me know.]

And here we are.

Also, related: Paul Revere (attr.), Time Capsule Plaque, engraved text on silver, c. 1795
Engraved on my memory, perhaps

Édouard Manet Facsimile Object

Édouard Manet, Minnay, 1879, 38 x 28 cm, [update: I legit have no idea where these dimensions came from, perhaps my photoshop settings? Anyway, the Manet is 34.8 x 24.8 cm] oil on canvas, to be publicly exhibited for the first time beginning 24 Feb., in advance of being sold at Drouot

I want to go to Paris. I want to see this little Édouard Manet painting of a dog that has never been shown publicly, not once in 142 years. I want to go to Paris to see this Manet painting of a dog which, in just a couple of weeks, will be on view at Drouot for two days and an hour. I want to own this Manet painting. I want to stand in front of it whenever I want, and to watch the features of this dog, and the dashed off brushstrokes that conjure them, dissolve into the vibrations of the atmosphere.

As the world stands right now, the probability of my achieving any of this is low. But it will be at least theoretically possible until Friday the 26th of February, when the two-day exhibition closes, and the painting, Minnay, is sold in an auction starting at 2pm.

selfie with Édouard Manet Facsimile Object (M1) “Minnay” proof, 2021, 38 x 28 cm, dye sublimation print on aluminum panel, installation view that could probably use a white-balance tbh [update: also, these dimensions are off, I realize now, and the actual facsimile object will match the Manet at 34.8 x 24.8 cm.]

It is in this window of possibility that I propose the Édouard Manet Facsimile Object (M1) “Minnay” as a contingency, an experiential hedge. It is a full-scale image of Minnay, printed on a sheet of aluminum. It is high-resolution and high-gloss. I taped the proof to the wall, and it looks extremely authentic. How does it compare to seeing or owning the painting? LITERALLY ALMOST NO ONE CAN SAY, CERTAINLY NOT ME, NOT YET.

an image of gerhard richter's painting Annunciation after Titian (1973), which is a blurry rendition of a red-robed angel alighting from the left, and a kneeling Mary on the right, set on a classically styled terrace, with beams of light between and around them, but printed and mounted between plexi and aluminum in an edition of 53
P12 “Annunciation after Titian”, 2015, 135 x 200 cm, they say it’s a facsimile object, but how can we tell?

When first asked by an interviewer if he painted five versions of a postcard of Titian’s Annunciation “to counteract the all-encompassing terror of reification,” Gerhard Richter was like, llol, “Maybe [it was] because I wanted to own such a beautiful Titian.” By making 53 full-scale facsimile objects of his Annunciation After Titian after it ended up in a museum, though, he managed to do both. These are the goals here, too. We will get or get through this.

In the event I do not get to Paris, and/or do not buy Minnay, but you do, I will offer this facsimile object to you in exchange for the painting. Then let us discourse on the differences, if indeed there are any.

In the mean time, everyone with a not-yet-zero-but-diminishing-daily probability of seeing or buying Minnay is invited to acquire their own facsimile object, to hedge their potential experiential loss. They will available from today until the moment the painting sells in Paris [tbc, but some point after 1400 CET on Feb. 26].

Each facsimile object will be accompanied by a hand-made certificate of authenticity, executed in watercolor on Arches at a scale identical to the facsimile object itself.

The COA will also bear the number of each facsimile object, based on the order orders are received. Without knowing the scale of our exposure, it feels important that the facsimile object be available to as many people who need it during These Trying Times, whether that number is 5 or 500 or 6,000 or zero. When the hammer drops in Paris, the facsimile object will become unavailable, and the number ordered, representing the full extent of our collective deprivations, will be known and executed.

The facsimile object is made using a dye sublimation process. Unless it is destroyed, it will last forever. But it will not look the same forever. Some dyes change when exposed to sunlight over a prolonged period of time. Let’s all just strive, though, to live lives and create a world where the status, condition, or ownership of this facsimile object is not a source of stress or inter-generational conflict. It is meant to mitigate loss, not foment it.

Anyway, the facsimile object is available for order below. The price is set at 0.1% of the painting’s probable reserve price. If you need a method other than paypal, let me know. If, after ordering one, you end up either seeing the painting IRL or buying it, also let me know. If you act in a timely manner, you can unwind your hedge, or keep the facsimile object as an historical document. Or, of course, we can exchange it for the painting and some discourse.

[2/26 update: the Manet was sold for EUR420,000, or EUR520,800 with premium, or USD$632,058, and so this offer is ended. For everyone except whoever bought it, of course. HMU]

Previously, related:
Show Me The Minnay
Manet Paints Dog
Gerhard Richter Facsimile Objects

Better Read 032: Kozloff vs. Reinhardt

For the handout at “Ten Approaches to the Decorative,” a 1976 group show at Alessandra Gallery curated by fellow artist Jane Kaufman, Joyce Kozloff contributed two texts: “Negating the Negative (An Answer to Ad Reinhardt’s ‘On Negation’)” and “On Affirmation,” which was also an answer to Ad Reinhardt’s “On Negation.” Recently David Rimanelli posted an image of the handout on instagram. Kozloff first heard Reinhardt read the text at Columbia, when she was in graduate school. It was only published in 1975, in Reinhardt’s collected writings, edited by Barbara Rose. Kozloff’s text is available on the artist’s website.

“Ten Approaches to the Decorative” was a foundational show in what would become known at the Pattern & Decoration movement. Artforum had a lengthy review which mentioned Frank Stella a disconcerting number of times.

Download Better-Read-032-Kozloff-Reinhardt-20210125.mp3 [9:29, 4.7mb]

Show Me The Minnay

Edouard Manet, Portrait of Minnay, 1879, image via Drouot via The Guardian

OK, 2021 can stay for now.

The most conceptually Manet of Manet’s dog paintings was also the most mysterious. On a visit with the Gauthier-Lathuille family in 1879, Edouard Manet comandeered the tiny portrait Louis had begun of his sister Marguerite’s dog, Minnay, and cranked out his own version in 20 minutes. The resulting canvas had stayed in the Lathuille family ever since, documented in the early 20th century for the artist’s catalogue raisonné but never exhibited.

Minnay until now, via the CR, 34×26 cm

Now it is being sold.

Longtime greg.org reader and fellow Manet dog painting enthusiast TG reports that it will be auctioned by the family next month in Paris. The estimate: a ridiculously low EUR220,000-280,000. The auction is also the occasion for a new photograph [top], which does support the painting’s origin myth: it really does look like Manet slapped a blizzard of brushstrokes on top of a vaguely dog-shaped white blob before his coffee cooled. And I mean that in the best possible way.

The auction will be preceded by two days and one hour of public exhibition, after which time the painting will be bought by someone–you, perhaps!–who will then give it to me. Who will then give it to me. Who will then give it to me. Who will then give it to me. Who will then

Previously unseen dog painting by Manet to be sold at Paris auction [guardian, thanks TG]
26 Feb 2021, Lot No 97 Édouard Manet, le Chien Minnay, 1879, est. EUR220-280,000 [drouot]
Previously: Manet Paints Dog

Untitled (News Coverage), 2021

Untitled (News Coverage), 2021, Fox News marquee signage, garbage bags, tape, dimensions variable, installation view Jan 18, 2021 at 444 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC, image: @jimswiftdc

Seeing this work installed for the first time, I am reminded of earlier works, like Untitled (Protestors’ Folding Item) of 2014, an LRAD cover installed on an LRAD;

nypd_lrad_seismomedia_1.jpg
Installation view: Protestors’ Folding Item (LRAD 500X/500X-RE), ink on Cordura, nylon webbing, LRAD, 2014, Collection: NYPD Order Control Unit

and the series of black monochrome on plywood pieces from 2016 titled Untitled (Trump Plaza Black),

trump_plaza_monochrome_pofac_blk-3.jpg

Untitled (Trump Plaza Black) Nos. 4 & 5, 2016, paint on panel, each in two parts, collection: Trump Entertainment Resorts/Carl Icahn, installation photo via Press of Atlantic City

which were hastily installed during the 2016 campaign over the dingy palimpsest of Trump’s name on the facade of the abandoned and bankrupt casino in Atlantic City.

And it reminded me that it very much mattered to the works that they were in the collections of the NYPD Order Control Unit and Trump Entertainment Resorts & Carl Icahn, respectively.

So when this piece went up on the facade of the Fox News studio facing the US Capitol building, in between the white supremacist insurrectionists’ attack on vote certification slash barely thwarted massacre of politicians, and the hastily militarized inauguration, where troops are literally–I hope–protecting the elected president and vice president from the paramilitary mobs of the current/outgoing president, it feels very important to point out that Fox News absolutely owns this.

Signed, J(ohn) F(olwell)

a mahogany chest-on-chest from philadelphia, with original brass hardware, intricate carved ornament on top, and a solid provenance, being sold at sotheby's
Chest on Chest, c 1770, attributed to Philadelphia cabinetmaker John Folwell, for sale at Sotheby’s

I love the idea that some furniture is “important.” This chest-on-chest has descended through some Philadelphia/New Jersey families since it was originally ordered sometime before the Revolutionary War, and those family connections are important, but not right here, not right now. The finish is old and excellent; the hardware is original; the elaborately carved cartouche is intact, and it’s all similar to similarly important pieces in important collections, but that is not really important right now, right here, either.

But because of all this, this chest was attributed to the most prominent Philadelphia cabinetmaker of the time, Thomas Affleck, one of the few guys in town known to have his own copy of Thomas Chippendale’s gentleman furniture pattern book.

gorgeously carved initials JF, hidden inside a circa 1770 chest-on-chest from Philadelphia being sold at Sotheby's
JF, likely John Folwell, initials carved into the top of the bottom of an important Philadelphia chest-on-chest formerly attributed to Thomas Affleck, to be sold at Sotheby’s this week.

But then when this thing came in, and came apart, this giant, gorgeous, script monogram JF was found carved in the top of the lower chest, invisible to anyone except the movers, or the maker. And so now this important chest-on-chest is attributed to John Folwell, another Philadelphia cabinetmaker, and its similarity should prompt a re-examination of the attribution of some of the other important furniture out there. I would like more things to have been elaborately and secretly inscribed by their makers, please.

Jan 21, 2021, Lot 34: The Important Stratton-Carpenter-Wheeler Family Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Chest-on-Chest, cabinetwork attributed to John Folwell (w. 1762-1780); carving attributed to James Reynolds (w. 1766-1794), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1770, est. $50-100,000 [update: sold for $69k. nice.] [sothebys]

Previously, related attributed 18th century carved scripts: Paul Revere (attr.) Time Capsule Plaque, silver, engraved text

Quartered

a bronze plaque with raised text listing the regiments that quartered in the us capitol after Lincoln's call for volunteers on April 15, 1861, which was installed in 1964
Bronze plaque commemorating the quartering of US military troops in the US Capitol after the onset of civil war in 1861, image: aoc.gov, which is actually architect of the capitol, not, you know

On April 15, 1861, following the attack on Fort Sumter, SC, President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to serve in state militias for three months and to defend the Union:

Whereas the laws of the United States have been, for some time past, and now are, opposed, and the execution there of obstructed…by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by law…I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular Government, and to redress wrongs already long enough endured.

A Proclamation by the President of the United States, April 15, 1861

The headcount, militia structure, and time limit were written into law in 1795 and had not changed, because the US did not have a large, standing army before the Civil War. By 1861, large numbers of officers in the small US Army had already begun leaving their posts to join the Confederacy. Governors from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and Arkansas refused, and began seceding.

Volunteers from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia who responded to the call billeted in federal buildings, including the US Capitol. The first troops to arrive, from Pennsylvania, pushed through a mob in Baltimore to reach DC by train on April 18th. They headed straight for the Capitol. As more forces arrived, they fanned out across the District, in buildings rapidly converted to military use.

In the Summer of 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, strengthening Black Americans’ right to vote. The FBI and members of the US Navy searched the swamps outside Philadelphia, Mississippi for missing voter registration activists John Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Local media and white supremacist politicians dismissed their disappearance as a publicity hoax. During the two month-long search the bodies of seven other murdered Black men and one Black boy were found in the swamps of Mississippi. Five have not been identified. After receiving a tip, troops found the young men’s bodies buried under an earthen dam on August 4th. Local members of the KKK, the county sheriff, and the Philadelphia police department were all implicated in the kidnapping and killings.

On August 17th, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution to install a plaque inside the Capitol to commemorate the quartering of volunteer troops at the outset of the Civil War. $2,500 was appropriated for the plaque in 1966.

A week after an insurrection beginning January 6, 2021, which was instigated and led by the president and abetted by congressional representatives from Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, New York, and North Carolina, plus others currently unknown, and which resulted in the storming of the Capitol, the killing of at least two police officers, four mob deaths, and the failed attempted rapes, torture, and public execution of multiple elected officials, and the failed attempt to stop the constitutionally mandated certification of the results of the presidential election, National Guard troops are once again quartering in the Capitol building, as the outgoing president and his collaborators continue to threaten violence against the country and elected leaders. Only this time they’re doing it under this plaque.

a photo by the NY Times' Erin Schaff showing six national guard troops sleeping on the floor of a hallway in the US capitol on Jan 11, 2021, under a large marble bust of Abraham Lincoln and a bronze plaque commemorating the last time troops slept in the Capitol to guard it, at the outset of the Civil War.
National Guard troops sleeping in the hallway of the US Capitol under a plaque commemorating troops sleeping in the US Capitol, image via NYT photographer @erinschaff

If the 103-year gap between the quartering and the commemorating teaches us anything, it’s that it’s probably good to give it at least a minute, history-wise, to see which side everyone ends up on.