Thursday, 14 February 2008

Using Cabinet Cards for Self-Promotion

Carte de visites and, to a lesser extent, cabinet cards were also ocasionally used as a means of a more personal type of advertisement. My friend Tippie from Hampton, New Hampshire very kindly sent me this wonderful cabinet card which was in a small collection put together some years ago by her late father Louis DuBois, a keen amateur photographer.

Click image for more detailed version © & collection of Brett PayneClick image for more detailed version © & collection of Brett Payne

The photo shows a moustached man, apparently a preacher, with his wife and two sons, in front of a blackboard, on which is written the "good word" that he is preparing to spread. The reverse reveals an even more extraordinary example of self promotion:


I find that, wherever I go, there is a certain class of men disposing of my photograph. Were the prices not so exorbitant and the picture a poor copy, I should not object. But since my friends are so imposed upon, I have had this picture taken, and will dispose of it for FIVE CENTS, or for less, or for nothing; and will continue to issue them as God gives me funds.

Arthur A. Waite
Whose highest ambition is to be


I furnish these pictures to Rev. Mr. Waite for five and one-third cents each, by the thousands.

H.J. REED, Photographer,
406 Main Street, Worcester, Mass.

I couldn't really believe Arthur Waite's claim that other people were distributing photographs of him, let alone selling them, so I wondered whether this was a rather blatant form of solicitation for the purposes of preaching God's word, or perhaps a complete confidence trick. Was he really a "Reverend"? And what on earth was a "children's friend"? I spent some time doing background research on Waite, and discovered that he did leave paper trail.

Arthur A. Waite was born around September 1849 in St Louis, Missouri, son of a portrait painter and Justice of the Peace, Liberty Waite and his second wife Mary Ann née McKeen. He married Hellen A. Flagg in that city in June 1868, and their first son Arthur C. was born in April the following spring. Between then and 1873, when a second son Henry was born, they moved to Tennessee, and then again to New York before December 1897, when a daughter Minnie was born. The 1880 Census shows Arthur living with wife and three children at 20 Independent, Newburyport, Essex County, Massachusetts, and described himself as a preacher. I've been unable to find them in the 1870 Census, and by 1900 Arthur had died, leaving his widow and elder son living at 871 Western Avenue, Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts. Nor have I found any documentary evidence of his proselytizing.

It appears that the two boys in the photograph were probably his sons Arthur and Henry. If so, then the photo was probably taken c. 1877-1878. The photographer H.J. Reed operated from studios at various loations in Worcester, Massachusetts from the 1860s at least until around the turn of the century. Does anyone else have any ideas about this photo and how to find out more about the subjects?


  1. Thanks for this. I found a copy of this photo among my husband's collection. I understand he bgan his career as a mesmerist and medium, converted to Christianity around 1870 and spent the remainder of his career as an itinerant preacher. (From "Group Photographs at the American Antiquarian Society."

  2. I appreciate your comment and the tip about "Group Photographs at the American Antiquarian Society." I notice that the one pictured there is slightly different - Mr Waite has his left hand by his side, rather than in his pocket as in my version. How about your yours?

    Regards, Brett


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