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JOHNSBURG -- Armed with census records and letters to family, Johnsburg history enthusiasts Milda Burns and Glenn Pearsall ended a four-year search for Mathew Brady's homestead just in time for this year's 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the war.

It's been long known that Brady was born to Irish immigrants in 1822 somewhere in Warren County. But the exact location was previously unknown.

Burns and Pearsall found Brady's name in the 1830 census of Johnsburg and went from there.

"I read in a book that he was born near Lake George," the 85-year-old Burns said. "That ticked me off."

The pair have identified what's believed to be the Brady homestead's foundation near the confluence of Glen Creek and the Hudson River.

A small blue marker now stands outside of the Wevertown Community Building designating the relative proximity of Brady's birthplace.

According to Library of Congress archives, Brady left Johnsburg at the age of 16, eventually moving to New York City, where the notoriously nearsighted artist studied photography.

By the mid-1850s, his studios were booming.

Brady spent more than $100,000 on financing his mobile darkrooms and paying his photographers.

By the war's end, Americans had enough of the gore.

"You start seeing pictures of innocent, rural children," said Christine Bell, a professor of art history at Northwestern University who specializes in the use of art and photography in the Civil War.

The lack of public desire to remember the ugliness of the bloody domestic conflict left Brady with massive debt.

Congress purchased his entire 10,000 photograph collection in 1875 for $25,000.

He died penniless in 1896 and was buried in a spartan grave in Washington.

But it's the paradigm created by Brady and his traveling cameramen that forever changed the media's war coverage.

"It created the notion of the blood sacrifice," Bell said. "Those images created a sort of schema (model) for subsequent war photography."

It's in that fact that Johnsburg is especially proud.

"It's the idea of sending his men in," said Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed. "That's Vietnam. That's dumping them in and letting them capture it firsthand."


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