Friday, 29 April 2011

Sepia Saturday 72: A graduation photo in rich sepia hues

This week I'm going to follow Alan's lead, so my post for Sepia Saturday will have nothing whatsoever to do with you know what. Instead I'm going to share with readers a photograph which I think epitomises a second wave of popularity of the sepia photograph in the 20th Century.

The colour sepia was named, according to the Wikipedia definition, after the rich brown contents of the Sepia cuttlefish's ink sac. Sepia, gold and selenium toning have been used both to provide warmer hues to photographic prints and to make the compounds more stable, enhancing the archival properties. In the 1920s and 1930s, particularly in the United States, prints with rich, deep brown tones became very popular and were used by many studios, often mounted on elaborate embossed, coloured and patterned card, or in folders.

Among the photographs collected by Hampton (New Hampshire) resident Louis Dubois, and donated to the Photo-Sleuth archives by his daughters Irene and Judy, are several examples of such lavishly coloured, mounted and decorated portraits, including todays offering. N.B. I've tried to match the colours as closely as I can to the original with Adobe Photoshop, but of course it may look slightly different on your screen from what it does on mine.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This portrait of a young woman has been printed on thin card (118.5 x 170.5 mm) with a matt finish, the corners of the print then being inserted into slots cut in a thicker brown, embossed and faux leather patterned card (146 x 213 mm) with feathered edges.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The mount has, in turn been affixed within a 2½-leaf vertically opening folder (152.5 x 221 mm folded; 152.5 x 276 opened) made of similar brown card.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This folder is constructed so that the upper and lower leaves can be folded back, and the point of the lower leaf inserted into a slot in the upper, creating a stand for display purposes.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The following is handwritten in black ink on the inside of the lower leaf (image enhanced for clarity):
Helen C. Gilpatrick
Helen Christina Gilpatrick was born in New Hampshire on 30 July 1905, daughter of William Merton Gilpatrick (1879-c1963) and Alice née Kershaw (1879-1963). The family moved to North Hampton around 1915, by which time Helen had two younger sisters Gladys Mae (c1907-1938) and Dorothy Gertrude (1909-1985). William Gilpatrick was a brick and cement mason, doing contract jobs wherever he could find the work, but Hampton proved to be a good base, and he was on the entertainment committee of the Men's Club. Alice, although born in England, had immigrated with her family to the United States when very young and settled in Fall River, Massachusetts. However, she moved easily into the Hampton community, soon becoming a stalwart of the Mothers' Circle. In 1920, they were living at 179 High Street in Hampton, and all three girls attended Hampton Academy.

Image © and courtesy of the Lane Memorial Library

Helen, too, became very active in Hampton community affairs, particularly at the Congregational Church Sunday School. When she graduated from Hampton Academy in a ceremony at the Town Hall on the evening of Friday 15 June 1923, she was one of five honors students. The graduation class roll is shown in the program she later donated to the Tuck Museum - now held by the Lane Memorial Library - and the names of honors students, marked here (by me) with an asterisk, were published in the Portsmouth Herald on 18 June:
*Eva May Lantz
Douglass Everett Hunter
*Helen Christina Gilpatrick
Malcolm Dana Roberts
Vernon Libby Booker
Grace Wilomina Blake
Harold Reynold Beede
*Walter Randolph Clark
Gertrude Shirley Blake
*Norman Oswald Marston
Hazel Estella Lamprey
*Evelyn Crosby Shaw
At least four other members of this graduating class are subjects of photographs in the Louis Dubois collection, and I will feature them here on Photo-Sleuth in due course, together with details of any further connecting stories that I can unravel. However, it appears on the face of it, that Helen had this fine portrait taken to mark her graduation, and gave copies to her class mates, including this one.

I found the following extract from the local rag, The Hamptons Union, dated Thursday, February 12, 1925, which seems to confirm her predilection for necklaces:
A very pleasant surprise was given Miss Helen Gilpatrick last Saturday evening, when a number of her friends gathered at her home. The evening was passed very pleasantly by playing games. A beautiful string of crystal beads were presented to her from those present. Delicious refreshments of ice cream and cake were served. The guests departed at a late hour having enjoyed a very pleasant evening.

Although her two younger sisters married, Dorothy in 1936 to Norman Smiley and Gladys a year later to Leroy Shea, she remained single, working as a book-keeper and stenographer, and living in Hampton until at least the early 1960s. She died in Florida in August 1985.

Whitman Studio, Malden, Massachusetts

Image courtesy of Malden Historical Society
Whitman Studio (at right), 100 Pleasant Street, Malden, 18 July 1923

The Whitman Studio, situated on Pleasant Street, Malden (Mass.), which Helen Gilpatrick visited in 1923, shown on the edge of the photograph above, probably within weeks of the sitting, was operated by Edgar L. Byrd from at least as early as 1910 until shortly before his death in September 1956. Early in his career, he was responsible for the photographs of Helen Keller published in her book, "The World I Live In" in 1907.


Lane Memorial Library Archives, Hampton

1881 Census of the UK, from

UK GRO Birth, Marriage & Death Index, from FreeBMD

US Federal Census Collection, WW1 Draft Registration Cards, US City Directories & the Portsmouth Herald newspaper, from

Massachusetts, New Hampshire & Maine Births, Marriages & Deaths, from FamilySearch

US Social Security Death Index (SSDI) from FamilySearch

Malden Historical Society (2000) Malden, Arcadia Publishing, 128p.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A Hoby print revisited

Composite portrait of the Hoby family, New Plymouth, c.1866
Image courtesy of Philip Duke

In part 5 of my biographical sketch of George Hoby, photographer of New Plymouth and Nelson, I included this image of a composite photograph of the Hoby family, taken around 1866. It was sent to me by Hoby descendant Philip Duke, who told me that it was scanned from an original at the Puke Ariki Museum in New Plymouth.

Taranaki Museum photo index card with "Hoby composite portrait"
Image courtesy of Puke Ariki

I subsequently received a series of images from Kate Boocock, Pictorial Technician at Puke Ariki. The first image, taken from "file card drawers in the research centre," appears to be a Taranaki Museum (succeeded by Puke Ariki in 2003) photo index card with a very similar version of the "Hoby composite image" either printed on or affixed to it. Handwritten in the relevant spaces on the card are a File Number P.2.1436, Negative Number LN 672, the names of the subjects in each of the cameo frames, the number E.C.385 and a note "storage album 2, pg 37." The final note may refer to the location of an "original," but of course this location reference may no longer be valid.

Mounted photographic print of "Hoby composite portrait"
Image courtesy of Puke Ariki

Of much greater interest was a scan of "a black and white copy photograph, mounted on card that was on display in the old Taranaki Museum." I have made the following observations:
- the buff-coloured card mount measures approx. 234 x 296 mm
- the b&w photographic print, slightly smaller than the mount, measures approx. 231 x 293 mm, has three small pin holes at top right, top left and bottom centre, and slight flaking damage to the photographic emulsion at edges and corners
- part of a white rectangular passe-partout frame with rounded corners is visible, internal dimensions approx. 199 x 265 mm
- series of 10 elliptical-shaped cut-out vignetted head-and-shoulders portraits (each approx. 57 x 73 mm) arranged in 2-3-2-3 pattern, and overlapping from bottom to top, on a darker background

Edge of "Hoby composite portrait" frame, compared with typical 1850s/1860s ambrotype frame

The passé partout frame appears to be very similar in design to those sometimes used for ambrotype (collodion positive) photographs in the 1850s and 1860s (example here), probably somewhat more expensive than the standard wooden cases lined with velvet, with the glass positive image mounted behind a brass matt and pinchbeck surround (example here).

The largest format glass plate negative in general use during the 1860s was the full plate, measuring a standard 6½" x 8½" (or 165 x 216 mm). Since the internal dimensions of the frame visible in the photographic print are substantially larger than this, the print is most likely to have been an enlargement. This fact, in combination with the appearance of the photographic emulsion, suggests to me that the print was made some time later than the original composite was produced. It is possible that it was produced when the Taranaki Museum either acquired the original, or had it on loan, perhaps from a family member. The appearance of light and dark patches within the darker background may be due to reflections from a glass behind which the original was mounted.

Detail of "Hoby composite portrait" print
Image courtesy of Puke Ariki

The overlapping nature of the vignetted cameo portraits, as well as the appearance of shadows at the edges of the cameos (see detail above) suggests that the individual head-and-shoulders portraits were originally printed separately using the vignetting techniques that Hoby displayed in other portraits (see Hoby Part 4). They were then cut out and arranged on a plain, darker backgroundbefore being mounted behind glass and in the ambrotype-style frame.

Reverse of "Hoby composite portrait" print card mount
Image courtesy of Puke Ariki

The reverse of the card mount shows a series of label remnants, inscriptions and annotations, obviously created at different times and by a variety of hands, as follows (and not necessarily in the order they were created).
(1) The remnants of a rectangular label are visible close to the top of the mount, its approximate original extent visible from the
(2) What may be the earliest extant inscription is handwritten in pencil:
Mr + Mrs Geo Hoby + family
Mr + Mrs H + the elder members
of family arrived in N.P. from
London, of which they were citizens,
by the "Fatima" in 1851.
The names of family starting from
second row from top + from left to right
Oliver, Amy (Mrs Keeling), George
Clara (Mrs Merridge) Lilla,
Arthur, Percy, Hubert
(3) Handwritten in pencil at the top, probably in several different hands, different again from that of (2) above, is the text "EARLY SETTLERS: groups and reference numbers, "P2/1436" and "LN 672."
(4) Handwritten in black ink, possibly felt tip, at top right, is the number "25."
(5) The list of subjects has been re-written, by a different hand, in black ink.
(6) The reference number E.C. 385, handwritten in black ink, has been added.
(7) A purple stamp, "TARANAKI MUSEUM," is at the bottom of the mount.
(8) A number, possibly "26," is handwritten in black ink close to the bottom edge of the mount, appearing to have been crossed out in slightly different black or brown ink.
(9) A thin, irregularly trimmed rectangle of white paper, measuring roughly 289 x 129 mm and with typewritten text (image above), has been glued by its left hand edge to the back of the card mount. The text - relating to George Hoby junior rather than his father, who died in 1882 - reads as follows:
MR G. HOBY AND FAMILY Page 49 Obituaries
He died on the 4th October, 1927.
The death of Mr. G. Hoby, one of the oldest settlers in the Bell Block, occured in the N.P. Hospital yesterday. Mr. Hoby was in his 85th year. He was one of the earliest settlers in Bell Block and there he had his schooling. As youn g man he found himself in the thick of the Maori War. he immediately joined Captain Deveaux's Mounted Corps and served with it from 1861-1866. Mr. Hoby went right through the Maori War, taking an active part in the famous battle of Waireka.
Trooper Hoby gained the reputation of being one of the most daring fighters in the district. He flirted with danger.
After the way, he continued his military duties, being Captain of the Volunteer Corps at Bell Block for some years after Captain Cornwall had retired. Later in life he carried on a contracting firm and then a land commission business. he was a good type of settler, a fine, hard-working man in his prime, and straight in his dealings. he married Miss H. Chapman whose parent emigrated from England, and who predeceased him by about two years. Mr Hoby leaves eight children, Mrs G.E. Grover (Fitzroy), Mts Motteram (Opotiki) Mrs Wood (Whareroa), Mrs Somerville (Okoia), Mrs Addenbrooke (Ngaere), and Messrs G. Hoby (Nelson), P. Hoby (Tataraimaka), and R. Hoby (Bell Block). Another son Stanley, was killed in the Great War.
Not being familiar with the Taranaki Museum and Puke Ariki cataloguing and refencing systems and practices, I can't comment on the several numbers present, except to say that several different number sequences may have been employed over the years. The handwritten number "26" (8) appears to have been partly truncated, which may indicate that the mount has been trimmed at some stage. The pin holes are probably a relict of its being used for display purposes in the old Taranaki Museum.


An anlaysis of a scan of the mounted photographic print of the "Hoby composite portrait" provided by Puke Ariki has revealed that it is a later copy of a pre-existing composite portrait. The mounted copy print appears to have been produced (possibly by Puke Ariki's predecessor, the Taranaki Museum) by photographing either the framed print or a print of that. The "original" may have been constructed by George Hoby senior himself, by photographing and printing portraits of the family members, cutting out the cameos, and mounting them on a darker background, probably under glass, and then within an ambrotype-style frame. What has happened to that "original" is another matter altogether, perhaps best left to Hoby descendants to pursue if they wish. It may well not have survived, which makes the documentation of this print, possibly the best surviving copy, all the more important.

Treatment of the Photograph as an Artefact

Researching this article has been a timely reminder - to myself as much as I hope it will be to the readers of Photo-Sleuth - that thorough examination and analysis of a photograph as a physical object, or artefact, is often just as important as are discussions about the photographer/originator or the subjects. Such a description will provide a firm base on which all future work can be done, and an analysis will often provide very useful clues regarding provenance, photographers, dates and subjects featured in the photograph. To conduct these examinations, it's obviously best to have the artefact in your hand, suitably gloved, or many details and subtleties may be lost. However, when this is not possible much can be deduced from digital scans, provided they are done properly.

I don't intend to provide an exhaustive list of scanning Dos and Don'ts (perhaps in a later article), but these are the most important things to keep in mind. To produce useful, I strongly recommend that the user familiarise his/herself with the scanner control software, and that the scanning operations be carried out from within the software, rather than using the buttons on the scanner. It just isn't possible to manipulate the scanner parameters when using the scanner buttons.

  • Scan in full 24-bit (or 48-bit) colour, even if the photograph itself is black and white.
  • Always include the full extent of the print, mount and any enclosing folders.
  • Scan the reverse as well, even if there are no obvious marks or inscriptions.
  • Scan at the highest resolution (optical, not interpolated) the scanner can manage; a minimum resolution 300dpi is just acceptable, 600dpi better, but 1200dpi is best. Note that the smaller the original, the larger resolution you need to use to capture detail.
  • Save all files in TIF format, and optionally in JPG format at the same time, although you can easily convert them subsequently.
  • Number and file the scans meaningfully.
Many thanks to Kate Boocock of Puke Ariki and Philip Duke for their assistance in this project.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

E.W. Merrill - From Cyanotypes to Sitka's Father of Pictures

This is the only example in my collection of a cyanotype. Although the process was discovered early in the history of photography, the cyanotype was often regarded as aesthetically inappropriate because of its brilliant blue colour. Nevertheless it has since enjoyed several resurgences of popularity including most recently, and ironically, some considerable attention in the field of contemporary artistic photography. It was used for many decades prior to the advent of cheap plan photocopying as a means of cheap architectural and engineering drawing reproduction, known as the "blueprint."

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The cyanotype print measures 56 x 85 mm and is mounted centrally on a 101 x 127 mm (roughly 4" x 5") plain card mount with no marks identifying the photographer. It shows a youngish man and woman standing and seated, respectively, in front of a house with substantial wooden railing perhaps bordering a porch or verandah. The sleeves of the dress worn by the woman suggest to me a date of around 1891 to 1894.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

On the reverse of the card mount is written in black ink, "Mr. Merrill -" and "Mrs. M -." This photograph was one of several given to me a few years ago by my kind friend Irene Savory of New Hampshire. They formed a collection of "orphan" photographs which had been accumulated by her father Louis Dubois, a keen amateur photographer and documenter of local history and events in the town of Hampton.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Also in this small collection was a standard cabinet card portrait, showing a woman - apparently the same woman as seen in the cyanotype - and a young child, possibly a girl, two to three years old. The pair are standing and seated on the front step of a house, the front door being clearly visible, as is the name plate which states, "O.N. Fernald."

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The reverse of this card mount does have a photographer's stamp: "Photographed by E.W. Merrill, Danvers, Mass.." From my online research it became apparent fairly quickly that the photographer was Elbridge Warren Merrill (1870-1929), who was born and grew up in Massachusetts, and worked as an engraver and news photographer in Danvers and Boston before moving to Alaska in the late 1890s - more of that later. It was also evident that E.W. Merrill did not marry, so who were the Mr and Mrs Merrill and child in the photographs? The Draft Registration Card for the First World War that Elbridge Merrill filled out in October 1915 lists a "Mrs A.H. Merrill, Boston, Mass" as his nearest relative, which provided the first clue.

Image courtesy of
Residence of A.H. Merrill, Berry Street, Danvers, c.1899

Initially, I thought this must be his sister-in-law, but the next break came from Danvers, Massachusetts, a book about the town and its inhabitants published by the local newspaper, The Danvers Mirror, in 1899.
Albert Henry Merrill ... was born in Peabody, Mass., October 13, 1864 ... He was married December 17, 1885, to Addie Frances Merrill, and has a pleasant home on Berry street. Mr. Merrill devotes his time during the racing season to the duties of a professional starting judge and has a reputation in that capacity second to no man in the country.

Image courtesy of
Mr. Albert H. Merrill

Most important was the inclusion of a photograph of Albert H. Merrill, making it obvious that he and his wife Addie were the subjects of the cyanotype.

Image courtesy of

According to The Pillsbury Family, published in 1898, Addie Frances and Elbridge Samuel (later changed to Warren) Merrill were the children of Samuel F. Merrill and Mary Evelyn née Pillsbury, originally of Newburyport. Elbridge Merrill therefore took the cabinet portrait of his sister and niece Laura E. Merrill (born Dec 1889) around 1892, and it is possible that he was also responsible for the cyanotype of his sister and brother-in-law.

Image courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery & Wikipedia
Onward and upward over the Chilkoot Pass, 1898
From a stereoview by B.W. Kilburn

The life and work of E.W. Merrill appears to have been researched in some considerable detail by Sharon Bohn Gmelch. Her studies were published in both a journal article (Gmelch, 1995) and a book (Gmelch, 2008), neither of which I've been able to access in anything more than fragmentary form, courtesy of Google Books' snippet view. From census and trade directory and other records, I've established that Merrill produced photographs of a variety of subjects, mainly in Danvers, between 1890 and 1898, although it is unclear whether the photography was a sideline or his primary occupation.

Image courtesy of the Sitka Tribal Library
Portrait of E.W. Merrill near his cabin, Mt. Verstovia, Sitka (STA-RHC-08-015)
Image courtesy of the Sitka Tribal Library

In 1897 or 1898, however, Merrill succumbed to the lure of the Klondike gold rush, heading for Seattle where he and two others purchased a vessel and sailed north. The most popular route to the gold fields at the time was via Sitka or Juneau to Skagway, then up over either the Chilkoot or White Pass, and down the headwaters of the Yukon River to Klondike City (Adney, 1900).

Image © and collection of Sealaska Heritage Institute
Portrait of unidentified Tlingit family, by E.W. Merrill, Sitka
PO018: Bessie Visaya Photograph Collection
Courtesy of the Sealaska Heritage Institute

As with the vast majority of the fortune seekers, Merrill failed in his quest for a bonanza at the Klondike, and returned to Sitka, the 1900 census recording his arrival there in October the previous year. He worked at odd jobs for what must have been a very short period before opening a curio store and photographic studio, the latter catering both for the local community as well as the burgeoning tourist trade. The large format (5" x 6½") print depicting an unidentified Tlingit family (above) is probably an early example of his work in Sitka, showing significant similarities in style and composition with the portraits that he had produced in Danvers.

Image courtesy of the Sitka Tribal Library
Portrait of two men in regalia on the deck of the Annahootz house
by E.W. Merrill, 1899 (STA-RHC-01-035)
Image courtesy of the Sitka Tribal Library

Over the next three decades Merrill "approached his subject matter with an artist’s eye that paid attention to lighting and composition," the miscellany of subjects ranging from landscapes to community events, and resulting in the accumulation of a large and varied portfolio. He appears to have eschewed the conventional studio portraits of the day, with their arranged props and carefully chosen painted scenic backdrops. Although some individual indoors portraits exist with plain backgrounds, he tended to capture his human subjects outdoors, often using as backdrops the characteristic white painted wooden weatherboard walls of Sitka buildings. The colourful, intricate and exotic designs of his subjects' clothing and traditional artifacts provided a dramatic contrast, which produced stunning images.

Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Sitka
Portrait of unidentified Tlingit man by E.W. Merrill (SITK 3935)
Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Sitka

His portrayal of the indigenous people of Sitka was markedly different from popular trends, showing considerable respect for the Tlingit, their customs and their history (Salicki, 2009).
Merrill’s photographic style varies sharply from the majority of indigenous images of the time. He adopted a realist stance to his photographs that omitted a romanticized vision of the Tlingit. The images did not conform to common stereotypes of noble savage or assimilated peoples. Merrill depicted the Tlingit in a contemporary context that was saturated with European influence and exposure.

Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Sitka
Portrait of Russian Orthodox clergymen by E.W. Merrill (SITK 3802)
Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Sitka

Merrill did not restrict his clientele to native subjects. He also photographed the European settlers, both American and Russian, as exemplified by this unusual portrait of a group of Russian Orthodox clergymen, arrayed on the steps of what was presumably their church.

Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Sitka
Totem Walk, Sitka National Monument, by E.W. Merrill (SITK 3822)
Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Sitka

Many of his images reflected his keen "interest in natural history, anthropology and ethnology." He was involved with the erection and preservation of historic totem poles along trails in what is now the Sitka National Historical Park, and the postcards that he published included photographs that he took there.

Image © and courtesy of Nate Kauffman
Merrill Rock memorial plaque, dated 1932, Sitka
Image © and courtesy of Nate Kauffman via Flickr

Merill died of pneumonia on 27 October 1929, aged 59, a eulogy in the Alaska Weekly describing him as Sitka's "Father of Pictures." His legacy to the photohistory of the region was substantial (Salicki, 2009):
While his photographs did function as tourist goods and entered into a wider pattern of circulation, they were also revered and used in Sitka. During his lifetime, Merrill’s images were a constant feature in local newspapers and books. After his death, his collection of glass plate negatives also stayed relatively close to the community that produced them.
About 1100 of Merrils's original glass plate negatives survive, and are currently held by the National Park Service at Sitka.


Gmelch, Sharon Bohn (2008) The Tlingit Encounter with Photography, University of Pennsylvania Press, 210p.

Gmelch, Sharon Bohn (1995) Elbridge Warren Merrill: The Tlingit of Alaska, History of Photography, Summer95, Vol. 19 Issue 21899-1929.

Salicki, Joanna (2009) Origins of an Image - E.W. Merrill, the Tlingit and the Potlatch, Anthropology and Photography at the American Museum of Natural History blog, 15 April 2009, [Accessed 26 April 2011].

Anon (nd) Guide to Elbridge W. Merrill Photograph Collection, ca. 1897-1929, Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Adney, Tappan (1994) The Klondike Stampede, (Facsimile Edition ) UBC Press, 471p. (Originally publ. 1900 by Harper & Bros)

Antonson, Joan M. & Hanable, William S. (1987) An Administrative History of Sitka National Historical Park, from the National Park Service

E.W. Merrill Photograph Gallery, from the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

PO018: Bessie Visaya Photograph Collection, from the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Sitka Tribal Library

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Photo buttons

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

In my personal family collection is a small button, 12.4 mm or half an inch in diameter, with a photograph on it of my great-uncle Willem Hendrik Schipper (1882-1932), dressed in his Dutch merchant navy uniform. I've not seen many of these around, so I thought I'd do some research on when they were popular and how they were produced. It would also be nice to know how many others have examples in their collections.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Judging from a comparison of this photograph with others of Willem in an old album which belonged to my great-aunt Tante Gien, it was taken in his mid- to late twenties, say between 1906 and 1912. He was eventually Chief Engineer on several ships belonging to Royal Dutch Lloyd, but I imagine that at this time he was of a more junior rank.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This photo button was designed with a pin on the reverse, presumably so that it could be worn on clothing.

The first cameras specifically designed to produce photo buttons appear to have been the rather unwieldy Takuquick (1902) and Taquta (1905), both using dry ferrotype plates loaded into a separate compartment which, after exposure, were dropped into a developing and fixing unit [1].

Wonder Automatic Cannon camera, c.1910

Two brothers Manuel and Louis Mandel, operating as the Chicago Ferrotype Company, started selling a variety of "one-minute picture-taking machines in 1907 [2].

Image courtesy of Google Patents
Louis Mandel's Magazine Developing Camera, Patented Dec. 22, 1908

They introduced their first commercial camera, the Mandel-ette, capable of taking direct positive photographs using a 2½" x 3½" card format, in 1909, and followed that with the Wonder Automatic camera, originally patented in the United States 1908 as a "Magazine Developing Camera," shortly after [3]. This condensed the photographic apparatus into a much smaller and handier package.

Image courtesy of Mike Butkus

In 1910 an improvement marketed as the Wonder Automatic Cannon camera was being sold, capable of producing eight button photographs per minute, a complete outfit being priced at $23.30. This enabled a very low production cost, and a reasonable profit from selling the photo buttons at 5 cents each [4]. One inch diameter sensitised blanks were loaded into the cannon, the shutter was operated by squeezing the rubber bulb, and a bolt-operated device dropped the exposed button into a developer tank in the base. After 30 seconds the button was removed from the tank, rinsed and inserted into a pinback frame [5]. It was patented in England in 1911, and presumably sold there after that date.

Errtee button tintype camera by Romain Talbot, Berlin, 1912

Telephot by British Ferrotype Co., Blackpool, c.1913
Image courtesy of Early Photography

Several other similar photo button cameras were produced, including the Errtee and Wundergranate by Romain Charles Talbot of Berlin, Germany (1910), and the more telescope-like Telephot from the British Ferrotype Co. of Blackpool, England (1913) [1,6].

Räderkanone by Romain Talbot, Berlin, c.1912
Image courtesy of John's Rollei Collection

The Räderkanone (Romain Talbot, c.1912), operating with the same prionciples but fashioned in the shape of an artillery cannon, was commonly used by itinerant photographers at fairs, carnivals and other tourist attractions [7].

I found images of several different types of photo button on the net, sometimes with ornate or decorated frames, and often with the name of the type (Rapid Pinback), manufacturer (Granley Photo Button Mfg. Co., 4109 Wabash Avenue, Chicago; Indianapolis Photo Button Co., No 8½ E. Wash. St.) or photographer (W.T. Ross, Appleton, Wis.) printed inside the back, and in one case even a possible date (May 31, 98.).

I'd be keen to see other varieties, and perhaps even some dated examples. It suggested by some authors [1] that these button cameras continued to be used into the late 1930s, but it would be nice to see some dated examples or advertisements. Please feel free to send me some scans or, even better, blog about them yourself and post a link in the comments.


[1] Cameras: From Daguerreotypes to Instant Pictures, by Brian Coe, Crown Publishers, 1978, p.181-183.

[2] Chicago Ferrotype Company History, by Historic Camera History Librarium.

[3] Magazine Developing Camera, Louis Mandel, Patent Application filed 7 July 1908, Granted 22 Dec 1908, Courtesy of Google Patents.

[4] Photographic Advertising from A to Z Ads from 1888 to 1940's, by Mike Butkus.

[5] Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital, by Todd Gustavson, New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 2009, p. 303-304.

[6] Telephot, by Early Photography.

[7] Historically Important Cameras, by John's Rollei Collection.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sepia Saturday 71: The difference a well chosen hat makes

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

A hat is a shameless flatterer, calling attention to an escaping curl, a tawny braid, a sprinkling of freckles over a pert nose, directing the eye to what is most unique about a face. Its curves emphasize a shining pair of eyes, a lofty forehead; its deep brim accentuates the pale tint of a cheek, creates an aura of prettiness, suggests a mystery that awakens curiosity in the onlooker.
by Jeanine Larmoth, author , one time copy editor of Harpers Bazaar and a contributing editor at Town & Country, courtesy of The Hat Ladies of Charleston, whose annual Easter Promenade looks like a lot of fun. If you happen to be in Charleston, South Carolina this Saturday between 11:00 and 11:30, be sure to go well armed with both hat and camera.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Unfortunately there are slim pickings relating to millinery in my small library, so for dating I must rely to a large extent on an analysis of the card mount. This study of card mounts from the studio of Derby photographer W.W. Winter suggests that these two designs (Type XX - nine medals, gold; Type XXI - sixteen medals) were used with some degree of overlap from 1886 (latest medal depicted on Type XX), through 1888 (latest medal on XXI) to 1890. The negative number 69304 is written clearly in pencil on the reverse of the bonnet portrait, and this appears to correlate with other portraits in my Winter portfolio taken around 1889-1890. The identities of these two patient sisters who obediently struck a pose for the photographer, either several times on the same occasion, or on subsequent visits, was sadly not recorded. It would be nice to think that at least one of the visits was part of a sunny Easter outing.

My contribution to this week's edition of the Sepia Saturday series, "a potential Easter parade of rabbits, bonnets, and eggs."

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Sepia Saturday 70: A boy and his toy

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This boy's parents may have scrimped a little on Christmas presents by putting off buying him a new suit, but they spared nothing in acceding to his demands for the latest in locomotory accessories. I exaggerate a little, of course, since most of the several hundred Google images of "antique horse tricycles" are full-bodied models, close cousins to the fancy rocking horse featured in a previous Photo-Sleuth article, and far more elaborate than this pared down version. Judging by the number of horse tricycles that seem to have survived, they were not that uncommon. Sadly, the identity of the proud young lad, caught in the moment before he escapes down the driveway to show it off to his friends, is unknown.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The photographer's name, on the other hand, is clearly displayed on both the front and reverse of the card mount. By the time he took this photograph, perhaps in the mid- to late 1880s, Frederick William Broadhead (c1846-1925) was a well established Leicester photographer, although the bulk of his commissions were conventional studio-based portraits, rather than outdoors shots. This example was clearly taken outdoors, but whether outside the studio premises or in the boy's own garden is unknown. It is perhaps a useful reminder that we should always examine the background to such outdoors photographs in our family collections for clues as to their location.

Image © and courtesy of Christies
"View of Castle Cornet St Peters Port Guernsey Taken from the Hights" by F.D. Broadhead, oil on panel, c.1870
Image © and courtesy of Christies

Broadhead's father Frederick Dodson Broadhead (c1812-1878) was a portrait and landscape artist, and the son also occasionally advertised as an artist. Although he was born in Kennington in London, Frederick William's family moved frequently, so that by the time he started work aged 14 as a lithographer in Litchurch, Derby, they had already lived in London, Bath and Nottingham, where his father presumably found commissions.

The Broadhead family moved again in the late 1860s to Leicester. Frederick junior was working as a photographer by November 1869, when he announced his removal to "more convenient premises [at] 14 Welford road." Cartes de visite were advertised from 6s per dozen, and portraits in oil from one guinea upwards. It is not clear whether the portraits were photographs finished in oils or miniature oil paintings, although I suspect the latter, as an article in the Leicester Chronicle in 1876 reported his having painted "a pair of life-size bust portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Thornton."

According to a newspaper article in 1879, F.W. Broadhead was one of the early practitioners in the use of artificial light in studio photography.

Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 11 January 1879.
Night Photography.
Mr. Broadhead, of 65 Welford road, has secured a patent luxograph, by means of which portraits can be taken at night, and by which daylight and the sun's rays are not rendered indispensable accessories to the production of a good picture. The process is apparently very simple; the principle upon which it is worked being the concentration of the rays emitted from a series of carefully arranged reflectors directly upon the sitter. The light is produced by the ignition of chemical powders, and is of pale blue colour. Although for an instant its brilliancy is rather dazzling, it softens down into a soft mellow hue, void of all garishness, and rather pleasant to the eyes than otherwise. By this artificial means a portrait can be taken in from seven to twqelve seconds, and even this period is decreased to about five seconds when it has to be taken on a ferrotype plate. At present there are only two or three machines in use throughout the kingdom, but when its properties are well known they cannot fail to be highly appreciated.

Image © University of Leicester and courtesy of Historical Directories
Barker & Co.'s Directory for Leicestershire & Rutland, 1875

Trade directories, census, Royal Photographic Society registrations, newspaper entries and advertisements provide a detailed record of his studio addresses during the thirty years he was in business:

1869: 84 Humberstone Rd
Nov 1870-1875: 74 Welford Rd
1876-1877: 72 & 74 Welford Rd
1877-1885: 65 Welford Rd
1884-1892: 55 Welford Rd
1888: 24 Gallowtree Gate
1892: 44 London Rd
1895-1896: Stanley Chambers, 30 Gallowtree Gate
1898: Stockdale Terrace, 19 London Road
1900: 55 Chestnut St & 102 Welford Rd

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Directory entries and designs on the reverse of his card mounts demonstrate that he also operated periodically in the nearby towns of Loughborough and Market Harborough, although the evidence for his presence in these places is more patchy. It appears that he may merely have visited periodically, as an 1883 trade directory entry indicates weekly attendance:

Broadhead Fdk. Wm., artist and photographer, High street (attend Tu.), Market Harborough

Image © University of Leicester and courtesy of Historical Directories
Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 10 June 1882

In addition to opportunistic shots of Royal processions and general views of the town and local tourist spots, Broadhead was not averse to seeking other photographic commissions away from his studio premises:

Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 16 August 1879.
The Leicestershire Volunteers in Camp ... at Willesley Park ... Mr. F.W. Broadhead, Welford-road, Leicester, camped out with the volunteers all the week, and took a great variety of views of the camp, and of the men when on parade, by an instantaneous process, and he appeared to do a "roaring" trade under his "special appointment as a photographer to the camp.

Image © University of Leicester and courtesy of Historical Directories
Wright's Directory of Leicestershire, 1887-88

Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 8 July 1882.
The Australian Cricketers. Mr. F.W. Broadhead, photographer, of Welford-road, has produced a pair of excellent group portraits of the Australian and Leicestershire teams who took part in the match lately played on the Aylestone-road Ground. The work has been carefully executed in variou-sized photographs, and give a life-like representation of the players ... No doubt a large number of these photographs well be secured in commemmoration of Leicestershire having played so well against the antipodeans.

He also gave evidence regarding photographic matters to the Leicester courts on several occasions.

Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 12 April 1884.
Charge against a photographer ... according to the evidence of Mr. Broadhead, photographer, it was impossible for Daniels to have taken the photo from the condition of the camera and under the circumstances detailed by Mrs. Glover and the groom who attended prisoner. Mr Broadhead, however, admitted that the camera would take a negative, but it would not be passable .... Frederick William Broadhead, photographer, said that he had tested the lenses in question, and found that the lens produced perfectly fitted Professor Colton's apparatus.

Records of the Copyright Office, Stationers' Company:
Photograph of the Mayor & Council of Leicester, consisting of 50 persons including the Mayor". Copyright owner and author of work: Frederick William Broadhead, 35 Welford Road, Leicester. Form completed 12 November 1892. Registration stamp: 14 November 1892.

Image © University of Leicester and courtesy of Historical Directories
Wright's Directory of Leicestershire, 1889-90

In 1889 he celebrated his twentieth year in business. He appears to have retired not long after moving to Coalville a decade later. Frederick W. Broadhead died in 1925 at Farnham, Surrey, aged 78. He was married twice, and had two sons and two daughters with his first wife Sarah Ann Fisher, who died in 1898. His second wife Leah Reeves died in 1935.

This is my contribution to this week's Sepia Saturday. For more in a similar vein, head off there for a browse - I won't say quick, because you're likely to be there for a while!


Heathcote, B.V. & P.F. (1982) Leicester Photographic Studios in Victorian & Edwardian Times, Royal Photographic Society, The Photohistorian supplement.
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