Sunday, 23 December 2007

The 1st Derbyshire Rifles - early cabinet card by Keene

In an earlier posting about cabinet cards, I mentioned that although the format was first introduced in the mid-1860s, it did not really catch on until the mid-1870s. It is possible that this was due to its relatively higher price, compared with the carte de visite.

This cabinet card was produced by innovative Derby photographer Richard Keene in August 1874 and, as with many early examples of the format, it actually had the words "Cabinet Portrait" written on the front of the card. The early cabinet card can be identified, in the same manner as its smaller predecessor the carte de visite, by the square corners.

The inscription on the reverse of this fine portrait identifies the three men in military uniform as Officers of the 1st Corps, First Battalion of the Derbyshire Volunteers (1st Derbyshire Rifles): Lieutenant William Bemrose (1831-1908), Captain John Farmer Thirlby (c.1839-) & Lieutenant Henry Monkhouse (1837-1905). William Bemrose was a partner in the printing, publishing and stationery firm, Bemrose & Sons. John F. Thirlby was a bank clerk and secretary of the Derby Gymnasium Club. Henry Monkhouse was a chemist's assistant at the time this portrait was taken.

Early Derby Photographers (3) - W.W. Winter

William Walter Winter (1842-1924) was one of Derby's more successful photographers. He was the son of Cornelius Jansen Walter Winter (1819-1891), a Norfolk portrait and animal painter, and started off as an assistant to Frenchman Monsieur E.N. Charles (1827-1864) at 2 Midland Road, Derby. When Charles died in 1863, his widow Sarah ran the studio with Winter, then married him in 1864, after which Winter took over the studio. It continued to operate under his stewardship until his retirement in 1909. He sold the firm the following year, and the business is still operating today, from their premises at the Alexandra Room Studios, built to a design by the Derby architect Henry Isaac Stevens. W.W. Winter died in 1924.

This image © & courtesy of Derby Local Studies Library - Click on photo for image of reverse

This portrait was probably taken by Winter himself shortly before his retirement in 1907, when he was a Justice of the Peace for Derby.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Early Derby Photographers (2) - J.W. Price

Joseph Wheeldon Price (b. 1830) opened his first studio in Ashby-de-la-Zouch (Leics) in the mid-1860s, and by 1870 was operating another branch at Babington Lane in Derby. Although the Ashby premises closed in the early to mid-1870s, Price took over another studio at 36 Victoria Street, Derby from Clement Rogers for a brief period from 1876 to 1880.

This image © & courtesy of Derby Local Studies Library - Click on photo for image of reverse

The vignetted head-and-shoulders portrait shown above is a mounted albumen print marked with his signature - very similar to the signature printed on CDV mounts - on the reverse, as well as "Photo'D from copy" in the same hand. It was probably taken in the early 1870s when he was in his early forties.

For a few years in the early 1880s, he was in partnership with a travelling photographer Benjamin Galvin (1828-1900) and quite a few examples of CDVs and cabinet cards with Price & Gavin's stamp exist. Then, in the late 1880s Price retired to Liscard on the Wirral (Cheshire), where he ran a tobacconist's shop. The Babington Lane studio was subsequently operated by Edmund & C. Hopkins (1891) and Charles Carr, Gilbert & Co. (from 1895), who remained there until at least 1903.

Early Derby Photographers (1) - Richard Keene

In the collection of portraits at the Derby Local Studies Library which I looked through recently, I was excited to find several of the photographers themselves.

Image © & courtesy of Derby Local Studies LibraryImage © & courtesy of Derby Local Studies Library

This one is a portrait of one of Derby's leading photographers, Richard Keene (1825-1894), by James Brennen. It is dated on the reverse, June 1863, about four years after he had established his own portrait studio.

Although primarily a printer, bookseller, stationer and, by 1855, publisher of the Derbyshire Telegraph, he developed an interest in photography, and travelled throughout Derbyshire with friends, taking pictures of architecture, topography and landscapes. He started by selling prints of the high quality photos for which he became reknowned, but also set up and operated a successful portrait studio from at least 1859, produced private commissions for firms, estates and families, and took photos in many other counties. He was an associate of Fox Talbot, and his work reportedly included commissions by the Royal Family. In 1884 he was a founder member of the Derby Photographic Society, he was the recipient of 34 major awards, and he also became President Elect of the Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Stereoviews - the first three-dimensional photographs

The other type of photograph which became wildly popular during Victorian times was the stereoscopic photograph, or stereoview. This used two juxtaposed separate images, taken of the same view but from slightly different positions, and a special viewer, to trick the eyes and brain into "seeing" a three-dimensional picture. Although the concept had been around even before the development of photography, the first stereoscopic views were made using daguerreotypes and ambrotypes in the 1850s and early 1860s. The use of albumen paper prints mounted on card in the later 1860s made them much cheaper, therefore available to the the middle classes, and starting photography's first craze.

It should be noted that while stereoviews were arguably more suited to the use of landscapes, buildings, statuary and staged tableaux, rather than portraits, the latter are not completely unknown. Hans Peter Hansen (1868-1943) of Ashbourne was one Derbyshire photographer who experimented with sterescopic portraits, as in this example showing three of his children.

Image © Matlock Local Studies Library & Courtesy of Picture the Past

Robert Leggatt provides a brief history of sterescopic photography, as do many others, and I will not bother to to repeat this detail here. The popularity of stereoviews continued to grow in spurts through the 1870s and 1880s, fuelled by the development of steamships and cheap travel.

The stereoview could in many ways be considered the forerunner of the postcard, and of course the latter eventually caused a wane in popularity. During the Great War, however, there was a significant resurgence of interest in the stereoview as a means to portray views of the battlefields to family and friends back home.
Image © & Collection of Brett Payne

This image is one from my own collection, captioned "Entente Cordiale; the Allies fraternizing on a canal boat in Flanders," shows a lighter moment away from the front lines. It was No. 73 in one of many series produced by perhaps the largest of the stereoscopic publishers, Realistic Travels Publishers, of London, Cape Town, Bombay, Melbourne and Toronto.

Post Script - June 2008
David Spahr, who has a very interesting web site, offered the following comments on stereoviews and corrections to my article above, for which I'm very grateful:
"Stereoviews on paper actually appeared in the 1850s as both salt and albumen prints. I can't really agree that stereoviews influenced postcards all that much. The creation of the postal service and cameras mass produced in postcard format had more to do with it. Stereoviews actually survived and flourished long after the advent of postcards."

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

A & G Taylor, Photographers to the World (2)

Image © & courtesy of Bjornar Saternes

I received this portrait from Norway, of all places. The sender Bjornar Saternes writes:

Some years ago I scanned some old photographs in an old album owned by my uncle. The pictures comes from my granddad family photo album. One photo is of a woman. In the footer it says "By Special Royal Warrant" and "A. & G. Taylor - Stockton on Tees & West Hartlepool". We have no clue whatsoever on who this woman is. An other major problem is that we do not have any names for any picture in the entire album. And most Norwegian photographers for our area were bombed during the Second World War. Other pictures in the album seems to be from around 1910, though we can't be quite sure. Do you think it is possible to find some more information regarding this photo? Does the archives of A. & G. Taylor still exist?
I don't have details of when the branch studios of A & G Taylor operated in Stockton-on-Tees and West Hartlepool, both located in the county of Durham, and the only information provided by Roger Vaughan on his list is, "c1896, 106 High Street, Stockton." However, I can answer the question about the possible existence of archives of the studio, recording the names of subjects of portraits, with a fair degree of certainty. The chances of them surviving are almost nil. There are a few negative books from Victorian studios which do exist - Roger Vaughan presents one for the Harrow Branch of Hills & Saunders Photographers on his site - but I'm sorry to report that most have vanished.

I estimate, from the style of the cabinet card, including its square corners and embossed frame, as well as the woman's clothing and hair style, that the photo was taken around the turn of the century, perhaps between 1898 and 1902. She looks to be in her early 20s, and was therefore perhaps born in the late 1870s. Without further information, it would be very difficult to deduce anything further about the subject.

A & G Taylor, Photographers to the World (1)

Over the last couple of years I've been sent several portraits by the firm of A & G Taylor and, although I have a profile of the Derby branch, and there a couple of accounts of the studios on other sites (by Roger Vaughan's study and Peter Stubb's Edinphoto study), it might be interesting for readers to see some images of a selection of their CDVs and cabinet cards here.

Image © & courtesy of Diana Mungall

The first portrait was sent to me by Diana Mungall, who provided the following background information about her great-grandparents:

I do know it was taken in their Edinburgh studio. The couple came from Harthill, between Glasgow and Edinburgh. He was born in 1843 and she in 1848 and she died in 1882 and he in 1884, and I understand Taylors operated from 63 Princes Street 1878-1910. Is there any information that can be elicited from this photo - he was a farmer (he died in a shooting accident) but looks very far from my idea of a rugged outdoor worker!
Peter Stubb's profile of the Edinburgh branch indicates that it operated from 1878 to 1910. This appears to be a cabinet card and the card mount is of a style commonly used by many A & G Taylor branches through the United Kingdom in the mid-1890s. It is glossy, thick card, probably with a blank reverse. I have a similar cabinet card of my grandfather and great-grandparents, shown below, which was taken - despite the mount indicating "Leeds" - at Derby c. 1896-1897.

Image © & courtesy of Brett Payne

The portrait of Diana's great-grandparents was certainly not taken in the mid-1890s. The pose, hair styles and clothing (e.g. her narrow sleeves and pleated bodice) are characteristic of the late 1860s and early 1870s. It is worth comparing the pose with that in the ambrotype shown below, which I have tentatively dated as being from the early 1860s.

Image © & courtesy of Brett Payne

The woman's hair style, drawn back well behind the ears, suggests that its was taken in the late 1860s, rather than early to mid-1860s, when only some of none of her ears would be showing. The cabinet card must therefore be a copy made of the original portrait, probably a carte de visite, some 25 years or so later. The couple appear fairly young to me, perhaps in their early 20s, and it may well have been a wedding portrait, as I have assumed for the ambrotype shown above. My guess is that the couple would have been born between 1842 and 1850, and I hope this fits with the dates that Diana has forher great-grandparents.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

John Westmoreland of Derby

Image © & courtesy of Derby Local Studies LibraryImage © & courtesy of Derby Local Studies Library

This carte de visite is the first portrait that I have found by one of Derby's earliest photographers, John Westmoreland (1820-1895). Arriving in Derby in the late 1840s, he worked for John Davis & Son, a firm of opticians, mathematical & mining instrument makers and photographic equipment suppliers in Irongate. He was primarily employed as an mathematical instrument maker and optician, although Craven (1993) reports that photographs by him from the period 1855-1861 are known.

According to the caption on the reverse of the card mount, the elderly man with the coat and top hat is John Froggatt. I estimate that he is in his 60s or 70s, and that the photograph was taken in the very early 1860s, implying a birth date of the 1780s or 1790s. I haven't yet been able to find out anything about this gentleman, and would appreciate any hints from readers as to who he might be.

The Derby Local Studies Library's Portrait Collection

Apologies for the hiatus in Photo-Sleuth postings, which has been partly due to a long awaited family holiday to England. During this trip, I managed to fit in a visit to the Derby Local Studies Library (LSL), just off Irongate.

A few years ago, not long after I started compiling the Index to Derbyshire Photographers & Studios as an online resource for local and family historians, I received an email from noted Derbyshire historian, and ex-chief archivist at the Derby Local Studies Library, Maxwell Craven. He told me of the existence of a large collection of old portrait photographs held by the library, guessing that it would be of great interest to me in my studies of early Derby portrait studios. This collection is currently being digitised by the library, and will be made available online on the Picture The Past web site. However while at the library recently, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to look through several hundred portrait photos.

The visit was kindly set up for me by Jane James, who is the Derby LSL's part-time family history researcher, and with whom I had communicated previously on other matters. She confirmed the existence of the portrait collection, and spoke with the Senior Librarian Trish Kenny about the nature of my web site. I was informed that the Derby LSL wishes to encourage such projects, creating resources for the use of the general public, and to this end would permit me to scan a selection of the photographs for reproduction on the web site. Trish and the other two library staff members, Mark Bowyer and Fiona Nevin, were very helpful, and I managed to come away a few hours later with detailed scans of several dozen cartes de visite, cabinet cards and portraits of other formats stored handily on a USB drive. I'm grateful to all of them, both for the opportunity and for the assistance. I hope I can do them justice.

Over the last few weeks, I've been steadily going through these scans, compiling them into the portfolios of photographers on the web site. Some of them are already online, for example in the profiles of James Brennen, John Burton & Sons, Richard Keene, J.W. Price, Clement Rogers and W.E. Swift. However, I thought I'd also preview some of the more interesting portraits in a series of postings here.

Image © & courtesy of Brett Payne
W.W. Winter's Midland road, Derby studio in the mid-1870s ...

A large proportion of them are from the Derby studio of W.W. Winter, which is still going. My brother and I walked past the premises several times recently, as it is only a short walk from the Derby railway station in Midland road.

Image © & courtesy of Brett Payne
... and the same building now, largely unchanged.

I will admit to being a little disappointed in the relative dearth of examples by other early (1860s) Derby photographers, of whom there were many, but this was more than made up by the fact that almost all of the portraits in the collection have the subjects named, and many are also dated. They portray men - and occasionally their wives - who were prominent members of the Victorian Derby community, including textile manufacturers, brass founders, engineers, mayors, magistrates, aldermen, a vaccination officer, clergymen, policemen, legal practitioners, a newspaper proprietor, innkeepers, bank managers, volunteer militia officers, stationers, printers, railway clerks, landowners, chemists, farmers and maltsters. I have thus been able to make some valuable additions to the portfolios of several studios. In fact, I've had to revamp the W.W. Winter profile, resulting in a complete revision of the classification and dating of the various card types. This part of the project is not yet complete, but I hope to have it finished and uploaded early in the New Year.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Another Burton cdv - a word of caution about inscriptions

This image of an early carte de visite by John Burton & Compy. of Leicester and Birmingham was sent to me by James Morley, and was the subject of some discussion on the UK-Photographers Rootsweb Mailing List. I include it here, not only as a very early example of this well known photographer's work - see my previous posting about this firm - but also because it shows the dangers in taking inscriptions on photographs at face value.

Mother and young child, by Burton & Compy., Photographers of Hay Market, Leicester & New Street, BirminghamMother and young child, by Burton & Compy., Photographers of Hay Market, Leicester & New Street, Birmingham

James originally posted this photo on the WhatsThatPicture site. Reading the entries posted there and on the mailing list will tell the full story. It was originally thought that the young child apparently identified on the reverse of the mount as "Mildred" could have been the Mildred Chataway (born c. 1870), daughter of the Rector of Peckleton, Thomas E. Chataway, and his wife Catherine. However, several features of the photograph and mount suggest that it was taken perhaps a decade earlier than this interpretation would suggest:

  • The full length seated pose is one which was commonly used in the 1850s, with daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, and 1860s, but the angled view - rather than direct frontal - is more characteristic, in my experierence, of the early 1860s. It is worth comparing it with this photo of a mother and child from London in Roger Vaughan's collection, dated 1862.
  • Her hair completely covers her ears - another feature which points to the early 1860s. By the mid-1860s, ear lobes could often be seen, particular those of younger women, and they were fully exposed to the elements by the late 1860s. Also common in the early 1860s was the drawing back of the hair into a bun on the back of her head - almost, but perhaps not quite, a snood.
  • The very wide sleeves and crinoline dress with velvety bands and very full skirts are characteristic of the early to mid 1860s, typified by the dress worn by the woman in another of Roger's photos, also from c. 1862. The wider sleeves tended to disappear by c.1864, exept on older women.
  • The simple text with no adornment or logo on the reverse of the card mount points to a very early date. It was obviously produced after the opening of the branch studio in New Street, Birmingham (given by Sandy Barrie as 1861) and possibly before the Derby & Nottingham studios were opened in 1862 or 1863. Other early examples on my site are unfortunately not accurately dated, although estimates provided by David Simkin give c. 1861-1863. They all have more ornate logos than this one.
The rounded corners are unusual for the early 1860s, as is the shape of the carte de visite. The possibility has been considered that the rounding was produced by wear (in James Morley's words):
As for the rounded corners, I am in two minds. Some do look damaged, but top-left seems almost too perfect a curve. At the same time all four corners are very similar, whereas I would normally expect any damage to be uneven, particularly top-to-bottom.
The card mount measures 64 x 96 mm (photo 52.5 x 86 mm), which is somewhat shorter than the usual 64 x 104-106 mm for a carte de visite of that era. It is possible that it was an experimental format being trialled by Burton. The "Burton & Compy." on the reverse may have some significance. It has been suggested that the firm started using the name "Burton & Sons" with some regularity from about 1864, and it seems likely that the "& Compy." suffix was used before John Burton's sons became formally recognised as part of the business. However, I don't have evidence for this. As Sandy has pointed out, production of new card mounts was erratic, particularly in the early days, and it is dangerous to interpret too much from the "& Compy." Now that we have a date of c. 1860-1864 for the photograph, a further investigation can be made into the inscription. The 1871 Census indexed by Ancestry only shows one Mildred Chat(t)away, aged 10 months, in Peckleton, Leicestershire. I used wildcards in the search parameters (Mild* and Chat*w*y) to cater for alternative spellings, but there is always potential for transcription errors, so other candidates can't be ruled out. However, the FreeBMD index to birth, marriage and death records, which has almost 100% coverage of the period in question, only shows one Mildred Chat(t)away born in England between 1850 and 1880: - Births Sep Qtr 1870 : Chataway Mildred Market Bosworth Regn Dist, Vol 7a Pg 61 This makes it very unlikely that the child in the photo is Mildred Chataway, and it the possibility needs to be considered that the inscription was made at a much later date, and in error. The 1871 Census entry for this family shows a number of other older daughters of Rev. Thomas and his wife Catherine: 1871 Census: The Vicarage, Peckleton LEI Ref. RG10/3240/7/7-8/40: Thomas E. CHATTAWAY / Head / M / M / 44 / Rector of Peckleton / WAR Birmingham Catherine S. CHATTAWAY / Wife / M / F / 37 / - / WOR Redditch Katherine A. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 13 / Scholar / NTH Ecton Agnes G. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 7 / Scholar / NTH Ecton Margaret A. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 6 / - / LEI Peckleton Christiana M. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 4 / - / LEI Peckleton Ella B. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 3 / - / LEI Peckleton Mildred CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 10m / - / LEI Peckleton Catherine CHATTAWAY / Mother / Wid / F / 81 / Annuitant / WAR Coventry Jessie M. GORHAM / Board / U / F / 23 / Governess / KNT Tunbridge Cecile C.V. KERR / Board / U / F / 14 / Scholar / Gibraltar Mary BARWELL / Serv / U / F / 33 / Cook Domestic / LEI Carlton Lucy LUCAS / Serv / U / F / 28 / Nurse Domestic / NTH Church Stone? Hannah JACQUES / Serv / U / F / 21 / Housemaid Domestic / STS Walsall Emma BENT / Serv / U / F / 20 / Housemaid Domestic / LEI Peckleton Martha AMOS / Serv / U / F / 14 / Under Nurse / NTH Badby
FreeBMD demonstrates that the birth of the oldest daughter, Katherine Ada Chataway, was registered in early 1858 in the Wellingborough Registration District, which includes the village of Ecton. I estimate an age of between two and three years for the girl, so Katherine might be a potential candidate if the photograph was taken, as suggested between 1860 and 1864. Birth locations of the children shown in the above census extract indicate that the family moved from Ecton (Northamptonshire) to Peckleton (Leicestershire) some time between the births of Agnes Georgina, in late 1863, and Margaret Anne, in early 1865. If indeed this picture is of members of the Chataway family, and that is by no means certain, then it is unlikely to have been taken prior to late 1863, by which time Katherine would have been almost six years old. In that case, it is more likely to have been a different daughter, perhaps Fanny Mabel, who was born at Ecton in early 1861 and died at Peckleton, aged 5, in the first half of 1866.

Many thanks to James Morley for permission to use the images of this photograph, to James, Sandy Barrie and Marcel Safier for their interesting and informative contributions to the discussion, and to Roger Vaughan and David Simkin for examples used.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Identification of photo subjects - Lessons to be learnt

In January this year, Kevin Rhodes sent me a batch of images, among which were these two cabinet cards, taken by John Mayle & Sons of 124 Parliament Street, Derby.

Lucy Saddington (1884-), taken by John Mayle & Sons in Derby, c.1900-1905.Lucy Saddington (1884-), taken by John Mayle & Sons in Derby, c.1900-1905.

Kevin had the following to say about them:

These presumably are siblings taken at the same time. I am unsure of the ill-fitting uniform and the sex of its wearer. I have wondered about the possibility of this being a male-impersonator outfit from the music-hall. The uniform certainly has no insignia on it and by the address on the card we are well before both the First World War and the Boer War.

As I had no clues as to the identity of the subjects, I posted the images in the Portfolio section of my profile of this photographer, and thought nothing more of them. Then, a fews days ago, I heard from Kevin again:

A comment on the ones I previously sent at Mayles photographers - census records of the family only show four sisters in the family, and the two people in the pictures have hands and fingers that are identical; leading me to think they both are of Lucy Saddington, of whom I have later studio photos with no photographers identity on them (poss trimmed off on purpose). Also, of the three sisters Mary is older, Jane had straight hair, and Edith was much younger.

So, I had a better look at the images, in particular the faces and hands of the subject(s):

They are indeed very similar, if the absence/presence of the grin is taken into account, and the ring is present in both cases. From the similarity of the studio setting and props, the portaits were probably taken on the same occasion. Kevin had more to say on the provenance of the photographs:

Last year, on the death of two elderly relatives, I came by two photo collections. The first belonged to my Mother Betty Rhodes née Rankin (1925-2006) (daughter of Mary, the elder Saddington sister), and includes the pictures from Mayle & Sons and a carte de visite by (Thomas) Frost of Derby (see below). These were clearly of a relative of Mary, but identifying her was difficult.

Lucy Saddington (1884-), taken by Thomas Frost in Derby, c.1898-1900.

The second collection was from Edith "Edie" Falconer née Smith (1912-2006), the daughter of Lucy Saddington. Amongst these photos was a studio cabinet photo of Lucy Saddington with her husband George Smith, and a postcard picture of George in uniform (presumably during the First World War.)
George & Lucy Smith, by an unidentified photographer, probably in Derby, c. 1906-1908.George Smith, Lucy's husband, a postcard portrait taken during the First World War.

Lucy Saddington married George Smith in 1906 and had Edie in 1912, but died of unknown causes whilst Edie was young. I have a photo of Edie as a child (see below) with a lady which could be Lucy but I am unsure. It was of course the photo of George and Lucy together which helped me in the identification process, not only tying up with George in uniform, but also if you look carefully she is wearing the same brooch as in the earlier Frost picture from my mother’s collection, and although no proof in itself, doesn’t the skirt look like the work of a proud young tailoress!
Lucy(?) & Edie Smith, by an unidentified photographer, probably in Derby, c. 1914-1915.

This is an excellent account of careful detective work which resulted in the provisional identification and tying together of a whole series of pictures from separate inherited family collections. It demonstrates the usefulness of examining photographs together with other family photos, and in the light of their provenance.

It also illustrates the importance of being cautious about making assumptions without reasonable cause. For example, the wearing of what appears to be a military uniform doesn't necessarily mean that the subject actually served in the military. Although the photo probably was taken during or shortly after the Boer War, it is obvious that Lucy never served in the army.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Cabinet Cards - superior portraits from "High Art" photographers

The next style of photograph to be introduced for popular consumption after the carte de visite was the cabinet card. They were substantially larger than the cdv, and were clearly aimed at the upper end of the market. Although the format - a 4"x5½" photographic albumen print mounted on 4¼"x6½" card stock - was originally introduced in 1863, it was not until the mid-1870s that it became popular; this trend reached its peak between the early 1880s and the late-1890s.

One advantage of the larger format was that it enabled more detailed portraits to be produced, such as this fine vignetted head-and shoulders presentation of a young man. It was taken at the studio of W.M. Phillips in the port town of Southampton (60 Oxford Street), probably in the late 1880s, and I presume that the subject is wearing the uniform and cap of the merchant navy.

The larger area also made the task of producing less cluttered, more relaxed group portraits a great deal easier. This nicely arranged family group, probably consisting of a father with his three sons, was taken at the studio of the Burton Brothers of Dunedin, on the South Island of New Zealand.

Alfred and Walter Burton were sons of John Burton, who had started a photographic studio in the town of Leicester (England) in the late 1850s. After working with their father in England, and helping to open and run several branch studios in Birmingham, Nottingham and Derby in the early 1860s, they emigrated to New Zealand in the late 1860s. Here they developed a renowned partnership which lasted for a decade, before they split due to personal differences and went their separate ways. Alfred Burton travelled over much of New Zealand, taking magnificent landscape photographs (see below), while Walter Burton concentrated on portrait photography in Dunedin.

Courtesy of David Simkin
The Sutherland Falls Expedition. A survey party and two photographic teams at Milford Sound, New Zealand. October 1888. Taken by Burton Bros. of Dunedin. Courtesy of David Simkin.

The following advert by John Burton & Sons appeared in the Derby Mercury newspaper dated 15 May 1867 (kindly sent to me by Clyde Dissington, courtesy of The Magic Attic).

It draws attention to the cabinet portrait as "the New and Favouritre style" and as
"... the most pleasing style that has been introduced in Photography for some years. The increased size of this Portrait over the Carte de Visite offers facilities for rendering more fully the characteristics of the sitter; and it is well suited for framing, while it is equally adapted for an album."

References/Further Reading
Cabinet Card at Wikipedia
The Burton Brothers, by Tai Awatea/Knowledge Net from Te Papa Online
Burton Bros. A Portfolio of 11 South Island, New Zealand Views from the 1870s and 1880s, from PhotoForum

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Working at the big house

Following a previous posting which dealt, in part, with the uniforms worn by domestic servants in Victorian and Edwardian times, I recently came aross the following two cabinet cards. The first shows a fairly standard group portrait of half a dozen domestic servants, taken outdoors against an ivy coloured wall.

The photographer does not appear to have been particularly skilled, as little care was taken with the group's arrangement, and the bright whites of the maids' pinnies have resulted in a rather washed out appearance in the photo. The second photo of the pair is rather more interesting, as each of the young women, seated in a slightly different order, now carries the various tools of their trade.

They are, from left to right, a pestle and mortar,

... a watering can,

... a cooking pot,

... a salver, possibly with a note on,

... sewing,

... and another watering can.

These serve to illustrate a range of household duties, from growing vegetables in the kitchen garden to preparing and cooking food, running errands for the master and madam around the house, and mending clothes. There appears to be only slight variation in the uniforms worn, and this may have more to do with their age than their individual duties. The girl in the centre holding a pot, who appears to be younger than the others, has a light coloured dress, while the others' dresses are all dark.

The stamp on the reverse of the cabinet card, shown above, identifies the photographer as Samuel Whitbread of West Street in Havant, a small town in Hampshire, not far from Portsmouth. Although originally a baker, Whitbread turned his hand to photography in the late 1880s. The family lived in West Street, but moved to 20 South street prior to April 1891, suggesting a latest date for this sitting of early 1891.

The sleeves of the womens' dresses are also appropriate for between 1889 and 1891, with the first appearance of the fashionable puffed sleeves so characteristic of the 1890s being worn by the younger women,

... while the older woman, seated at front left in the lower photo, has the rounded-shoulder sleeves more fashionable in the 1880s.

If it was taken c. 1890-1891, this was possibly taken during the early part of Whitbread's photographic career, which would explain the amateurish poses and exposure. He remained in business for at least another decade, so presumably he did get better at his job.

The chances of identifying any of the female servants in the photo, or the location at which it was taken, are slim. However, it may be worth noting that the 1891 Census shows one of Whitbread's daughters - Laura Alice, aged 19 - working as a cook, presumably for a wealthy resident in the town of Havant, and it is remotely possible that she is one of those pictured.

The carte-de-visite - fit for the Queen and commoners alike

The early 1860s saw the rapid popularization of the carte de visite as the photographic medium of choice. Although the method had been invented and patented by Andre Disdéri in 1854, it was not until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had their portraits taken that it began to catch on. John Mayall in London and Oliver Sarony in Scarborough were said to have made small fortunes selling portraits of the royal family and other famous people. The main reason for the popularity was its low production cost, a result of being able to produce a number of photos on a single plate, which brought down the price to a level affordable to most, as is shown on the reverse of this 1872 carte de visite.

1 Copy ............1/- | 12 Copies ............5/-
3 do .............2/- | 24 do ...............9/-
6 do .............3/- | 50 do ..............18/-

This photo of an elderly woman in a rather ordinary looking dress is marked in pencil on the reverse, "1872 - 68091." The latter is the negative number, and 1872 appears to be the year in which it was taken - apparently, because it is important to be careful with any inscriptions on old photographs. They may have been written by anyone, and at any time since it was originally produced. The clothes worn by the woman, the card mount shape (square corners), thickness of the card, and card design, all point to a date of the early 1870s.

PhotoLondon's online database of London photographers shows Alexander L. Henderson (1838-1907) as working from a studio at 49 King William Street, London Bridge between 1860 and November 1887, and from a second premises at 2 Devonshire Place, Amersham Road, New Cross, Deptford between 1864 and 2 January 1873. After 2 January 1873, that branch moved to 3 Amersham Road, New Cross. This confirms that the photo probably was taken in or around 1872.

References/Further Reading
A History of Photography: Carte de visite, by Robert Leggatt
A Brief History of the Carte de Visite, by the American Museum of Photography

Monday, 20 August 2007

Ambrotypes - portraits for the middle class

Although photography had been "invented" by Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot in the late 1830s, the daguerreotype remained expensive, and only affordable to the relatively wealthy, including the professional and political classes. With the introduction by Frederick Scott Archer of the glass negative process in 1851, and the ambrotype three years later, the cost was reduced considerably - they were available for between sixpence and a shilling - and photographic portraiture became easily accessible to the middle class. In contrast to daguerreotypes, which remain fairly rare, there are still many ambrotypes in existence in family collections, and you may well have one among your old family heirlooms. Although ambrotypes continued in occasional use until about 1880, they were most popular in the decade from 1855 until 1865, after which they were overtaken and superseded by the carte de visite.

The ambrotype was created by coating a glass plate with collodion and photosensitive silver nitrate. The plate was exposed in a camera, then quickly taken out and treated in a dark room with a developing solution to bring out the image. This produced a photographic negative which was then backed with something dark, such as dark felt or black varnish, which had the effect of inverting the image. It was then mounted and framed or cased, as had been the daguerreotype.

The ambrotype shown above is one from my own small collection. Unusually for Victorian portraits, both subjects are smiling, and she is grasping his hand quite firmly, which is what attracted me to it in the first instance. Unfortunately it has lost the frame or case in which it would have originally been mounted, but the the thin gilded, pressed metal, decorative frame is still present and in good condition. It shows the characteristic greyish appearance of an ambrotype - few of them have any of the lighter shades, and if you see lighter areas, it is wise to look for signs of touching up or that it may in fact be a cased tintype.

The three-quarter length portrait is of an unidentified seated couple, perhaps in their mid- to late 20s. I think they must be a recently married couple, because her wedding ring, earrings and the brooch at her neck, as well as his shirt buttons, have been highlighted with gold paint. It is interesting to note that the ring is on her left hand. As the ambrotype was a negative, the image would be reversed and ring should have been on her right hand. The photographer appears to have anticipated the problem, and perhaps instructed her to change the ring to the opposite hand and finger. As the enlarged and enhanced image below shows, however, she appears to also have a less prominent - and ungilded - ring on her "right" hand! The photographer's artist obviously took some liberties. The buttons on the gentleman's shirt and waistcoat give the game away, as they appear to be done up on the wrong side.

Typically for portraits from the mid- to late 1850s, they are seated side by side. This pose was not commonly used again in portraiture, except in the case of larger groups, and by some less experienced artists, until much later in the century. The woman's clothing (bell-shaped, layered and fringed sleeves, pleated bodice closed at the top with a gold brooch and trimmed with a lace collar, pointing downwards to a tightly corseted waist; a single full, ground-length skirt) and hair style (centrally parted, curved back down over the forehead to almost cover her ears, and drawn back to a bun on the back of her head) are indicative of the mid-1850s. The young man is wearing what appears to be a frock coat, simple dark waistcoat, and shirt with a turned over collar and rather untidily knotted bowtie. He has a slight Quaker-style chin-beard, with only a suggestion of a moustache, and hair parted on his "left"(right)-hand side.

I estimate that this was quite an early ambrotype, and probably dates from between 1854 and 1857. Nobody looks quite the same in the mirror - in other words, nobody has an absolutely symmetrical face. For the first time in a century and a half, we can now view the photo as it might have been printed more accurately, had the technology been available at the time.

Dating Family Photos 1850-1920, by Lenore Frost, self publ. 1991, Essendon, Victoria, Australia.
Family Photographs 1860-1945, by Robert Pols, publ. 2002 by Public Record Office, London, England.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

A Day Out With The Lads Skating in Matlock Bath

Visits to the photographic studio in the latter part of the nineteenth century were usually rather formal affairs. Many comments are made about the sombre expressions on the sitters' faces. However, one does occasionally come across a photo in which a little more frivolity can be detected.

This photo shows a group of five young men who, although they do have the regulation expressions, are arranged in a much more relaxed manner than is usual. One of the men, leaning over a "wall" with what appears to be a clay pipe in his hand, has his hat set at a slightly rakish angle. Another - perhaps the youngest of the gang - is seated on the floor and has his legs half crossed. They even have a dog with them, although they must have had a job keeping it still for long enough to show in the photo.

The clue to the activity in which they are about to engage, or have just engaged in, is not in the photo itself or an inscription - as the carte de visite is sadly lacking in any identification of the subjects - but in the details of the photographer and his studio. The text and design on the reverse of the card mount indicates it was taken by William Godber, an "artist and photographer of views, groups & mansions ... on moderate terms," at The Rink Studio, Matlock Bath.

The Skating Rink in Matlock Bath appears to have operated for only a few years in the late 1880s and early 1890s, although there is a suggestion from an entry in the London Gazette that it had been in existence prior to 1877. Kelly's 1887 trade directory shows F.E. Leggoe as proprietor, while the 1891 edition of the same publication indicates that William B. Hunt had taken it over. I have not been able to discover anything more about the Matlock Skating Rink, but by April 1891, Godber had moved to Litchurch near Derby, so presumably this photograph was taken before then.

I have not yet come across any other photographs by William Godber, but census records indicate that he was working in this field as early as 1881 (in Hammersmith, London) and as late as 1901 (Carlton, Nottinghamshire).

The carte de visite shown below was included in the same batch, and appears to show a close up portrait of the same young man who is standing at left in the group portrait. He appears to be wearing a different jacket and shirt collar, so it was probably taken on a separate occasion.

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