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Adalbert J. Volck manuscript collection

Identifier: MS 0867


This collection consists of manuscript items, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and published material related to Adalbert J. Volck (1828-1912),a Baltimore dentist, artist, cartoonist, sculptor, and silversmith. Also contains 7 of Volck’s sketchbooks.


  • 1878-1948


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical Note

Adalbert Johann Volck (1828-1912) was born April 14, 1828 in the town of Augsburg in Bavaria, Germany. As a youth he studied art in Nuremburg and Munich, and in 1848 participated in the revolutions then sweeping through Germany and parts of Europe. Volck was captured and sentenced to four years of service in the Bavarian Army. Rather than serve, he deserted and fled to the United States. Volck arrived in Boston and headed west. In 1849, he followed the gold rush to California but soon returned east, finally settling in the Baltimore area, where he would remain for the rest of his life. He entered the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery as one of its first students, graduating in 1852. Volck was a member of the Association of Dental Surgeons and served as president of the organization. He was one of the first dentists to use porcelain fillings. In 1852, he married Letitia Robert Alleyn, one of his patients, and their union produced two sons and three daughters.

During the Civil War, Volck became an ardent supporter of the Confederacy. According to some accounts, he served as a personal courier for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, carried dispatches across the Potomac River, smuggled medicine and other contraband for the Confederacy, assisted volunteers, mechanics and artisans with their defection to the South, and used his Charles Street home as a rendezvous and hiding place for Confederate sympathizers. Other sources dispute these exploits. Volck is most famous for his political drawings and etchings produced during the Civil War, although this is largely due to a later rediscovery of his work, rather than any contemporary impact. There was limited circulation of his drawings in the North and most likely none in the Confederate States until after the war. Under the pseudonym V. Blada, Volck printed three series of thirty Civil War sketches, titled Sketches from the Civil War in North America. Another series, Comedians and Tragedians of the North, caricatured prominent northern figures including President Lincoln, General Benjamin F. Butler, General Winfield Scott, and Thomas Hicks, Governor of Maryland. Benjamin Butler and President Lincoln drew particular scorn from Volck’s pen; Volck produced a series of sketches and two books lampooning Butler, and nine images featuring Lincoln. Although his feelings toward Lincoln apparently softened over time, he maintained his affinity for the Confederacy; discussing his Civil War sketches in a letter to the Library of Congress in 1905, he wrote that his “greatest regret ever was to have aimed ridicule at that great and good Lincoln - outside of that the pictures represent events as truthfully as my close connection with the South enabled me to get at them.”

Following the war, Volck continued both his dental practice and art. He produced portraiture and works in silver, bronze, oil, and sculpture, while largely avoiding the political slant of his earlierwork. Volck was also a fixture in the cultural and artistic life of Baltimore. He was a founding member or member of various organizations devoted to the arts including the Academy of Art, the Allston Association, the Wednesday Club, the Athenaeum Club, and the Charcoal Club.

Volck died on March 26, 1912 and is interred in Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore.


1.33 Linear Feet (1 flat box)

Language of Materials



Materials in this collection are arranged by series: correspondence, published material, and sketchbooks.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John M. Glenn, Julia E. Spircker, the estate of Mrs. Frank H. Falkenburg (Henrietta Forman Volck), and Misses Lucy and Ethel Woods in February 1945, October 1958, June 1950 and August 1943.

Related Materials

PP248, Adalbert Johann Volck Photograph Collection, 1861-1892

MS 2092, George M. Anderson Manuscript Collection, 1852-1972

PP 247, George M. Anderson Photograph Collection, 1861-1969

Separated Materials

Catalog entry indicates a collection of glass plates, coins, and medals missing to date. Other photographic material was transferred to Graphics in 1974 and is now housed in PP 248.


Anderson, George C., The Work of Adalbert Johann Volck (Privately printed by George McCullough Anderson, 1970).

Keidel, George C., “Catonsville Biographies: A Series of Personal Sketches,” The Argus, October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, November 13, 29, 1915.

Neely, Jr. Mark E., Harold Holzer and Gabor S. Boritt, The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987).

Van Dyk Macbride, “The Lincoln Caricatures,” The Lincoln Herald Vol. 56, no. 3 (1954): 23-43.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Content

Series I: Correspondence (Folders 1-2)

This series contains correspondence relating to Volck. Folder 1 consists of correspondence of Mrs. Frank H. (Henrietta) Falkinburg (Adalbert Volck's daughter) with Baltimore museums concerning exhibitions of her father’s work and with Dr. George Anderson, a collector of Volck's work. Folder 2 contains 6 letters from Adalbert Volck. Two of the letters have small sketches.

Series II:Published material related to Adalbert Volck and his work (Folders 2-12)

Folder 3 contains items describing Volck's works including, Adalbert Johann Volck, D.D.S., 1828-1912. Photographs of Dr. Volck's work collected by George M. Anderson, D.D.S., a small pamphlet containing descriptions of 29 of Volck's works that were in the possession of George Anderson. There is also a copy of a Volck medallion "The Massacre at Henrico." Folder 4 contains photocopies of newspaper clippings pertaining to exhibitions of Volck’s work. This series also contains items Volck provided artwork for including The Grasshopper: a Tragic Cantata, a piece of sheet music written for the Wednesday Club, and a program for the Academy of Music. There is also a record of a dinner given in honor of Volck's seventieth birthday by the Association of Dental Surgeons of Baltimore on April 14, 1898.

Series III: Sketchbooks

This series consists of 7 of Volck's sketchbooks. Sketchbook #1 contains preliminary sketches for "Don Quixote and Sancho Panzo," as well as for Civil War sketches. Sketchbook # 5 appears to contain early sketches for the Wednesday Club. The brown, unnumbered Sketchbook contains preliminary sketches for "Lee at Jackson's Grave" and "Butler at Great Bethel" as well as what appears to be preliminary sketches for Volck's Civil War sketches. There is also one album containing newspaper clippings of exhibitions of Volck's work and a few sketches.

Guide to the Adalbert J. Volck manuscript collection
Under Revision
Damon Talbot
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019-09-17: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States