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One reason to believe that Louis Agassiz collected this image for his ethnographic studies is that they are only identified by ethnicity as “two Hindoo [Hindu] men.” This identification treats them more as specimens than as people. We would expect a proper identification to give us their actual names, for example, but whoever collected this image thought the only relevant thing about them was their type.

Who were they? Travel from India to the United States would have been a very serious undertaking in the 1840s, requiring months, even years, and involving considerable risk from accident and illness. So why had they come so far? Such travel would have cost considerable money. Both hold themselves with a certain austere dignity; they are very well groomed and dressed in expensive and fashionable Western clothes, and so they were almost certainly wealthy, high-status individuals. Were they visiting dignitaries? Students? Indian nobility making a grand tour? We hope that further research may yield answers.