A startling new photograph of Harriet Tubman has been discovered, a portrait of her as a younger woman in her 40s. When I wrote the young adult biography of Tubman in 1990, the available photos of her were pictures dating from 1894 and an early 1900s photo showing her with white hair, decades past her most active years as an underground railroad conductor and spy in the Civil War.
The new photo has emerged in an album kept by Emily Howland, an abolitionist in upstate New York. Howland lived in Sherwood, not far from Auburn, where Tubman settled after the Civil War. Cayuga County was a nest of abolitionists, including William Seward who helped Tubman purchase land there in 1859 for a home she shared with anyone in need. The new photograph is an 1860s carte de visite, a small (typically 2 1/2″ x 4″) photograph mounted on a calling card handed out to family and friends, which suggests there might be more of the cards in existence. They were particularly popular among soldiers during the Civil War, as described by Andrea Volpe in an article in The New York Times.
The discovery of the new photograph was brought to my attention by Grace Bentley, my 98-year-old mother-in-law who lives in upstate New York.