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Miniature portrait of Alexander Young

Alexander, Isaac Brownfield
Place Made:
Camden South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
watercolor on ivory
HOA: 4 1/4″; WOA: 3 1/4″
Accession Number:
SITTER: Alexander Young (1783-1856) was born in Fifeshire, Scotland, but had immigrated to the United States by 1799, first training with Baltimore silversmith George Graham, before moving to Camden, South Carolina. Settling in Camden with his wife Elizabeth Rowe by 1807, Young worked as both a bookseller and silversmith until his death in 1856. An experienced and skilled craftsman, Young is most famously known for the silver trowel he crafted for Lafayette to use when laying the cornerstone of the DeKalb monument in 1825. Throughout his career as a silversmith, Young occasionally took up partnerships with other silversmiths, working under the firm of Young & Veal (Columbia, SC) and A. Young & Son (with his son Edward, Columbia, SC).

ARTIST: Isaac Brownfield Alexander (1812-1884) was born in Camden, South Carolina. His father, Dr. Isaac V. Alexander, had been educated at Princeton. Isaac Brownfield Alexander and his brother Henry Dana Ward Alexander (1810-1865) were both educated at the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy in Norwich, Vermont. In a miniature self-portrait on paper (MESDA Acc. 5661), the artist surrounds himself with the ephemera of a classical education.

In 1842 Alexander advertised as an artist, jeweler, and silversmith in the Camden Journal. Alexander embraced the newest technology of his day, becoming an early practitioner of photography. He opened early daguerreotype studios in Camden and Columbia, South Carolina, and in Charlotte, North Carolina. This new technology helped to eliminate the demand for portraits on ivory and democratized portraiture.

DESCRIPTION: Miniature portrait of a man with dark hair and blue eyes; he is wearing a white shirt, black cravat, black vest, and a black coat; he appears to be seated on an upholstered chair; in original hinged brown leather case.

Descended in the Young family. For other items that descended in this family, see MESDA Object Database records D-33193 miniature of Edward Young (son of Alexander Young); D-33196 Lewis Miles Edgefield jar; D-33197 I. Duffel goblet and tintype of Mary L. Young (daughter of Alexander Young); and D-33207 E A Young matchbox.

This miniature portait was published in the first edition of E. Milby Burton’s “South Carolina
Silversmiths, 1690–1860” (Charleston, SC: Charleston Museum, 1942).

Credit Line:
James H. Willcox Jr. Silver Fund