Monday, 24 March 2008

Charles Warwick, Fairground photographer (2)

Image © & courtesy of Derby Museum & Art Gallery
Fair Day in Morledge, 1882, by C.T. Moore

I was in the process of examining the 1882 painting of the Easter Fair at the Morledge in Derby, by C.T. Moore (see my previous posting here), when I spotted the words "CARTE DE VISITES" written on a sign hanging from one of the tents, situated directly in front of the colour works.

Image © & courtesy of Derby Museum & Art Gallery
Detail from Fair Day in Morledge showing photographer's tent

The tent is a fairly large one, big enough to accomodate the basic accoutrements of the travelling photographer - he is unlikely to have owned many studio props, at least in the way of furniture, and would have made the most of backdrops, perhaps painted, and carpets - and has several windows to let in sufficient light for the potraits to be taken. It is possible that there were skylight-type windows in the tent, although they are not visible in the painting. If the day was fine, and the artist suggests that it is, perhaps he would have taken advantage of the extra light, and had some of his subjects sit for their portraits in an open space outside the back of the tent. He may have developed the pictures in a shrouded, dark area of the tent, or in a purpose-built and kitted out section of his caravan. There is a small caravan parked to the left of the tent, which may belong to the photographer.

Interested in what photographers' tents and booths looked like in that and later eras, I did a little searching on the net and found several examples. None, however, were clearly identifiable as fairground artists. The photographers Case & Draper of Skagway, Alaska had an elaborate setup, with a large studio tent, as well as a separate darkroom building.

Photo © & courtesy of Alaska's Digital Archives
Case & Draper photography studio tent, Skagway, Alaska
taken in the late 1890s or early 1900s

Photo © & courtesy of Alaska's Digital Archives

This one in Steele, Missouri, dated August 1938, might be a little more familiar to those of us who have seen, or even visited, such establishments in our youth.

Photo © & courtesy of USDA Historical Photographic Collection
"Photos That Looks [sic] Like You"
Itinerant photographer's tent, Steele, Missouri, Aug 1938

Photo © & courtesy of USDA Historical Photographic Collection

Naturally, this discovery also set me off on a mission to see if I could find out who the photographer was, peddling his wares in the Morledge on that particular 1882 Easter Weekend.

On census night in 1881, which was Sunday 3rd April, two weeks before Easter, Charles Warwick senior had his travelling van parked on a plot of unoccupied land at 50 Normanton Street, Derby. His son Charles, then working as a confectioner, was with a large group of other showmen and women, including the Sketchley family - and more specifically his future wife Harriet Sketchley - at a fair in Market Place and Guildhall Street, Grantham, Lincolnshire. It seems likely that many of the fairground people would have travelled the forty or fifty miles from Grantham to Derby shortly after, in order to be set up and ready in the Morledge for the Easter Fair.

The following article, which appeared in a local newspaper, The Derby Mercury, on Wednesday 14 December 1881, probably referes to Charles Warwick junior (as later newspaper excerpts also report to such unruly behaviour):

ALLEGED OBSCENITY. - Charles Warwick, travelling photographer, was summoned for using obscene language in the Morledge, on the 4th inst., to the annoyance of Elizabeth Doyle, fried fish dealer. - Mr. Briggs appeared for the defence, and as it appeared that nothing was said in the public street the case was dismissed.
In the following year 1882, Easter weekend was from Friday 7 April to Sunday 9 April. I found another report in The Derby Mercury, dated Wednesday 19 April:

SUICIDE IN THE FAIR. - A shocking suicide took place in the Morledge on Saturday afternoon. A travelling photographer named George Frederick Whitaker, and his wife attended the Easter Fair, which was held there last week. Mrs. Whitaker, who was a woman of intemperate habits, had been drinkinh heavily during the past week. Her husband, in order that bhis business should not be interfered with, suggested that she should keep out of sight of the public. An altercation ensued between them, and whilst it was going on the husband stopped outside his aravan to hang up a picture. On his return his wofe told him that she had taken some cyanide of potassium - a most active poison, extensively used by photographers. Mr. Borough, of Full-street, was sent for, and administered the usual atidotes, and then ordered the removal of the woman to the Infirmary, but before that institution was reached death took place. An inquest was held on Monday by Mr. Coroner Close, and a verdict was returned of "Suicide whilst in an unsound state of mind."
From this article, it is obvious that Whitaker - and his unfortunate wife - had attended the fair, but they may not have been the only photographers there, of course. I know, from later reports in The Derby Mercury, that both Charles Warwick senior and junior, remained in Derby. The father died there in late 1889, at the age of 65, and his son was at the Morledge in 1891. I'd be interested to hear of any other sightings of the Warwicks.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Join my blog network
on Facebook