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Edward Warren Clark was Magic Lantern Man
Japanese_Village in 1870s by E. Warren Clark (Courtesy Richard Candee)

 

Back in Portsmouth

It was while researching the Treaty of Portsmouth for the 2005 centennial celebration and museum exhibit that Richard Candee first encountered E. Warren Clark.

“He [Clark] appeared in all the newspaper research we were doing and I tried to find who he was,” Candee says. Warren’s father, the abolitionist minister, had also come up in Candee’s research on Portsmouth’s role in the Civil War. The trail grew hotter as the Internet continued to expand and deepen.

“What I learned working on Clark is how the Internet saves us all the travel we used to have to do; quickly allowing us to look at a broad cross-section of primary 19th and 20th century materials in depth. To do this even 10 years ago would have been almost impossible.”

In the summer of 1905, drawn to Portsmouth and Kittery by President Theodore Roosevelt, envoys from Japan and Russia brought an end to their bloody war. The touch-and-go peace negotiations lasted a month as the foreign delegates and newspaper correspondents from around the globe mingled with seacoast citizens.

E. Warren Clark was a face in the crowd during the summer of 1905. He learned of the historic negotiations from his old Portsmouth Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Helen C. Knight, who was then 91- years old. Clark arrived in his birthplace just ahead of the delegates and lodged with Mrs. Knight during the month-long media circus. He saw Japanese delegate Jutaro Komura, who had been his student decades earlier, standing on the steps of the Portsmouth Court House. Clark observed the delegates from a distance as they attended services at the city’s Trinity Church.

Clark finally meet face-to-face with his old student at the Wentworth Hotel in the final tense hours of the treaty. Komura remembered him well and, after the peace treaty was signed, Clark introduced Komura to a number of beautiful ladies at a reception at the Wentworth. Clark also took some of the delegates and reporters to Green Acres in Eliot, Maine. The summer spiritual retreat promoted world peace by displaying a large peace flag that, legend says, could be seen from across the river in Portsmouth.

Gone, but not quite forgotten

E. Warren Clark died two summers later in 1907 of tuberculosis. He was 58. None of his glass magic lantern slides have ever been found, although some appeared in his books as prints and engravings. Embittered by scandal and divorce, Candee writes, he deserves to be remembered for bridging the cultures of two very different worlds.

Clark needs to be known by the 1905 Treaty crowd, but he also needs to be recognized by historians of photography, Asian studies specialists, and other groups. Only the internet can do that,”  Candee says.

“It’s such a great story,” says Portsmouth attorney Charles Doleac, the man most responsible for putting the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth back in the news, and hopefully in the history books.

“This would make the best screenplay I’ve ever seen for a Johnny Depp movie,” Doleac says. Not the Disney Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Caribbean, Doleac explains, but the quirky, artistic, obscure, characters like gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson that Depp likes to play.

“He [Warren Clark] is such a colorful figure,” Doleac says. “This guy is running around the world with his magic lantern and does incredibly crazy stuff. He goes to Japan, really makes a mark there, starts this wonderful thing for Japan orphans, then gets bilked because some guy steals all the money. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that!”

Copyright © 2012 by J. Dennis Robinson, all rights reserved. Robinson’s history column appears in the Portsmouth Herald every other Monday and exclusively online at his independent Web site SeacoastNH.com. His latest books are America’s Privateer: Lynx and the War of 1812 and Under the Isles of Shoals: Archaeology and Discovery at Smuttynose Island.

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