My New Tumblr: American Civil War Beards

General Ambrose Burnside. Better remembered for his facial hair than being a general.

General Ambrose Burnside. Better remembered for his facial hair than being a general.

I’ve finally got round to getting myself a Tumblr. For the unitiated, it’s a flexible and easy-to-use microblogging platform, pitched somewhere between a shorter form of traditional blogging and a social network. Recently purchased by Yahoo for $1.1bn, it’s going to be fascinating to see how it develops. And there’s no better way to keep an eye on something than by actually using it.

Many Tumblr users have expressed the fear that Yahoo will mismanage the site, as it arguably did with Flickr, once the darling of photo-sharing but long since put in the shade by Instagram. Ahead of the Tumblr deal there were some predictions that Yahoo might roll them both together, but that hasn’t happened, and instead Flickr was relaunched last month. I’ve always found the communities there to be extremely useful for both images and knowledge, and I suspect a revitalised Flickr may prove more useful for journalists than any number of Tumblrs, fun though they are.

I decided to do my Tumblr on the impressive beards sported by generals during the American Civil War, largely because I’m currently reading Shelby Foote’s classic and absorbing three-volume history of the conflict. But another good reason is to avoid infringing anyone’s copyright. I’m using the public domain Civil War photography of the great Mathew Brady, placed online by the US National Archives using, yep, Flickr.

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