The CDV of Jefferson F Davis

Leamington History Group has recently been fortunate to receive information from Jacksonville, Florida. We are grateful that William J Stier has presented us with images of an original unpublished postwar carte de visite of Confederate President Jefferson F. Davis (1808 to 1889). Initially the connection with our town is obscure, but the CDV bears the photographer’s imprint of Netterville Briggs, Leamington, England.

Mr Stier wrote – I would like to proudly present my original unpublished postwar (i.e. American Civil War) carte de visite of Confederate President Jefferson F. Davis.  Following the collapse of the Confederacy in 1865, President Davis was charged with treason by Federal Government officials and imprisoned at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.  Subsequent to his release in May 1867, President Davis travelled to Europe with his beloved wife, Varina, to recuperate from that long and painful ordeal.  For approximately six weeks, beginning on November 9, 1868, the Davis family resided at the Dormer House in the Warwickshire resort town of Royal Leamington Spa in the West Midlands region of England.

“I learned to love the English people and acquired a sense of home among them,” Mrs. Davis would recall, “We lived in Leamington during the hunting season, and everywhere Mr. Davis attracted all who saw him.  Many civilities were offered us there, and especially by Lord and Lady Leigh, of Stoneleigh Abbey.  Under the influence of new scenes and cheerful company his health began to improve slowly, and by the winter, when we removed to London, he began to look less like a skeleton, and of his own choice to walk about and take more interest in affairs around him.”

At some point during his stay in Leamington, President Davis clearly stopped by the photographic studio of Netterville Briggs, located at 16 Upper Parade, and had this carte produced.  According to records, Mr. Briggs operated that studio in the Upper Parade from 1864 to 1877 and was under the patronage of Her Majesty and H. R. H. The Prince of Wales.  This rare CDV bears the imprint of Netterville Briggs on both the front and verso.

Verso of the CDV

The verso of several other Netterville Briggs CDVs include an address in London at 20 Baker Street, Portman Square, which helps to clarify the connection with the Royal Family.
Local Research confirms that Mr Davis was at Dormer House, Dormer Place at the end of 1868 and that the house was derelict around 1950 and has since been demolished.
There is a substantial biography of Mr Davis on the Wikipedia website.

July 2021