National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

This album was given by Captain H.D. Brown of the 100th New York Volunteers to Emma, ca 1864. The commercially available album, embossed with the words "Leaves of Friendship", includes pre-printed drawings and pages to insert the algae or seaweed specimens. Pressing and mounting seaweed and algae (referred to as "sea mosses") was a common pastime in the 1800s for those who lived near the sea. Cards of mounted specimens were sold by individuals and dealers or traded among collectors. During the 1860s-1870s, some soldiers and prisoners at Fort Jefferson combated boredom and earned money by making "moss cards." Some were sent home to family and friends, while some were sold to sailors or others who came on ships that docked at the Dry Tortugas.

This album is one of four in the Dry Tortugas National Park's museum collection. Although considered historic artifacts, these albums also represent the earliest algae and seaweed specimens in the collection. Unlike scientists who generally only put one species on each sheet or card, creators of "moss cards" were encouraged to disregard that rule and use multiple species for best artistic effect. The specimens were sometimes incorporated into drawings as wreaths or plants. Although the collector of the specimens in this album is unknown, the artistry evident in it suggests considerable practice in preparing the moss cards.

Most specimens in the album have been identified by an algae specialist, at least to genus level. The sea mosses present in this album are common and known to be present at the Dry Tortugas. Although unsurprising from a scientific standpoint, their decorative use provides insight into aspects of daily life at Fort Jefferson in the 1800s.

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  • Title: Album
  • Contributor: Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Park Website: Park Website
  • National Park Service Catalog Number: DRTO 4325
  • Measurements: W 19.69, H 16.51, T 1.27 cm
  • Material: Leather bound album featuring marine algae
  • Date: ca. 1864