CRANE, Stephen (1871-1900). Cabinet card photograph, signed and inscribed on verso ("To Odell with kindest regards Stephen Crane"), Syracuse, New York, 12 January 1897. 1p., 6½ x 4 1/8, scalloped and gilt edges, photographer's advertisement on verso (W. H. Stauffer, Asbury Park, N.J.), lower left corner slightly bent, otherwise very good. EXTREMELY RARE.
ONE OF ONLY SIX KNOWN SIGNED CRANE PHOTOGRAPHS; AND ONE OF ONLY TWO IN PRIVATE HANDS
An exceedingly rare portrait of Crane at age 26, fresh from his gun-running exploits in Cuba and his near drowning off the coast of Florida. Crane's ship, the Commodore, shipwrecked off Daytona Beach on 2 January 1897, an event that later inspired his work The Open Boat. The photo, taken 10-days later, is inscribed to Odell Hathaway, a former schoolmate at Claverack College & Hudson River Institute in the Catskills. Crane attended the military prep school from 1888 to 1890, when poor grades washed him out. After bouncing from Lafayette College to Syracuse University, Crane plunged into a career as a Grub Street writer, penning his gripping, "ash-can" style portrait of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) and, two years later his masterpiece, The Red Badge of Courage (1895).
Few could believe that the gripping battle sequences in Red Badge were written by someone who had never heard a shot fired in anger. Crane's close reading of Battles and Leaders of Civil War partly explains his accomplishment, but the tales he heard from a Claverack College teacher, retired general John Bullock Van Petten, were also crucial influences. Crane always prized the military training he received at the school, and here he dons his old uniform for this striking portrait, taken in his hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, where he was likely visiting his mother, to escape the inquiries of Federal officials, curious about his Cuban endeavours.