Published: June 28, 2021
CINCINNATI- A half-plate daguerreotype featuring San Francisco firefighter Walter Van Erven Dorens was alit with desire at Cowan’s June 25 American Historical Ephemera & Photography auction as it sold for $31,250.
The auction house said it was found in the Netherlands, where the subject emigrated from.
Cowan’s described the work thus: “…Walter Van Erven Dorens posed in a red-tinted coat with a leather belt studded with letters spelling ‘Sansome.’ His leather helmet ornamented with ‘Sansome,’ crossed ladders and the number ‘3,’ with the initials ‘WVED’ below. His hand rests on a ladder, perhaps used to adjust a skylight in the photographer’s studio hidden under the mat; it is not of the type used by a fire company.
“The Sansome Hook and Ladder No. 3 of San Francisco, was organized on 14 June 1850, primarily by men residing on Sansome street and the surrounding neighborhood. The company’s house was located on Montgomery Street between Jackson and Pacific. By 1855, their ladder truck was the largest in the state and carried 50-foot ladders. Their motto: ‘Though Last Not Least.’ The company was disbanded in 1860.”
Van Erven Dorens is listed as a member of the company between 1854 and 1855, the auction house found. The firm believed this image was taken by photographers Robert H. Vance or James Ford, both of whom had studios within a few blocks of the Sansome Firehouse.
Watch for a full review of this sale in a future issue.
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