Washington DC History Resources

Matthew B. Gilmore

Pensions, portfolios, and printing: J. Worth Carnahan in Washington, DC

Easel-Shaped Monument

By Matthew B. Gilmore

The November 27, 1901 Evening Star announced the incorporation of The Soldiers and Sailors Historical and Benevolent Society, with “the object of the society. . . [being the] collection of the history of soldiers and sailors who served or may serve in the United States forces. . . .” Incorporators listed were Israel W. Stone, Benjamin P. Entrikin, Osborn H. Oldroyd, W. Clark Schaefer, and John Worth Carnahan — all men affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) or the Sons of Veterans (SoV) veterans organizations. Stone, for instance, had been intimately involved with the management of the 1894 GAR annual encampment in Washington, DC and had organized one of the local posts.

The timing for creating this organization might seem curious, given that it had been 40 years after the start of the Civil War, and it was by now the twilight of the era of the Civil War veteran — yet the Pension Office had hundreds of thousands of veterans and surviving widows and orphans on its rolls.

In fact, Soldiers and Sailors was Carnahan’s third, and most successful, business marketing value-added military records service to veterans and their families.

The following month saw Carnahan being sued for conspiracy and for the misrepresentation by his agents as pension officials. This had nothing to do with the new organization but with another, the “United States Army and Navy Historical Association” (his second veteran’s record operation). Carnahan was also president of the United States Army and Navy Publishing Company of Washington, DC.[1] After a brief trial, he was acquitted.


Easel Monument and the GAR

But what Carnahan should be known for is a quirky (and shady) scheme known at the “Easel-Shaped Monument.” The project consisted of two parts, the monument itself and the sale of copies of military service records to raise funds for it.

Depiction of the Easel-Shaped Monument from History of the Grand Army of the Republic by J. Worth Carnahan. Library of Congress.

First, the monument. It’s origins are a bit murky, but the August 18, 1892 issue of the New Haven Daily Morning Journal and Courier made note of J.G. Phelan and F.W. Richards canvassing Worcester County, Massachusetts “for the Sons of Veterans easel monument scheme.” This is the first identifiable mention of the monument project. The Sons of Veterans was one of numerous veteran and veteran-related organizations flourishing (or not) in the late 19th century. Others included the Grand Army of the Republic, limited to actual veterans, and its related organization for their sons), the — Sons of Union Veterans.[7]



J. Worth Carnahan

Carnahan narrates the story of the origin of the easel monument project in his History of the G.A.R. Writing in the third person, he tells how when visiting a Civil War veteran in Philadelphia he saw a framed print entitled “The Escutcheon” which displayed, in fine calligraphy, the soldier’s service record. The product was no longer available and when it had been it had cost anywhere from $5 to $50 depending on content. He then thought that creating a standardized printed product, which could be personalized, would allow a much lower price. So far so good.

But what image could serve as framing to make this an attractive product?  The “frame” in which the personalization would appear would be the creation of Carnahan himself, an image of an “easel-shaped” monument. So, the document would  serve double-duty by containing the service record and advertising the monument.[8]

AN EXAMPLE of the final product– click here: http://collections.digitalmaryland.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/mcw/id/705/rec/1

FULL ARTICLE click here: http://intowner.com/2019/03/20/pensions-portfolios-and-printing-j-worth-carnahan-in-washington-dc/

FOOTNOTES: https://matthewbgilmore.wordpress.com/what-once-was-pensions-portfolios-and-printing-j-worth-carnahan-in-washington-d-c-footnotes/


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