While in my opinion Tyler & Company are not in the top echelon of photographers operating in America during the first twenty years. Their advertisements would lead you to believe that they were. In researching the Memphis Daily Appeal newspaper. In which I have access to the latter part of the project from January 1857 through December 1859 and beyond. Fortunately, or unfortunately Tyler and Company fit into this time slot during their stay in Memphis. Like in Richmond their modus operandi is the same, they brag that they are better than everyone else, that their accomplishments are better, and that their gallery is the finest in the State that they have won many awards and have 16 years of experience. Again like Richmond they undercut the other photographers’ prices and start fights in their advertisements with their competitors. In reviewing the files they have advertised more in 15 months, (October 1858 through December 1859) then all the other photographs put together in 36 months.
On October 17, 1858 their first advertisement appeared in the Memphis Daily Appeal.
Tyler & Co. Give notice to the public of Memphis that they have opened an extensive Sky Light Depot of Art at 219 Main Street, opposite Odd Fellows’ Hall, for the purpose of introducing a new and original plan of Picture Making. It consist in taking at the rate of 300 pictures daily, and being enabled to make fine Ambrotypes for 75 cents, the same as others charge $2 for. Ladies and gentlemen who visit Tyler & Co.’s Gallery, can be assured of receiving the best of treatment and the highest satisfaction in point of good work. Tyler & Co., have had 16 years’ experience in their profession, and enjoy a celebrity worldwide throughout the Union. They make all the various styles of pictures at prices ranging from 75 cents to $1, and also introduce the Vitreotype, a picture heretofore unknown in Memphis. Call and see the new Gallery.
As stated above there are many similarities between their advertisements in Richmond and Memphis. “They still keep it before the public” their words. Meaning that they advertise most every day often there are multiple entries of between one paragraph, or more often than not three to nine lines consisting of a sentence or two in the same Business Notices or the Local Matters columns. The overall tone of the advertisements seems to have become more reserved then in Richmond, they are still making claims that they have the finest and largest gallery in the state. In Richmond they continued to say that they made 400 to 800 portraits daily and sometimes as high as 1,000 a day. In Memphis they are consistent throughout their stay at 300 portraits taken daily. From October 17, 1858 to January 4, 1859 their prices stay the same at 75 cents to $100. On January 5, 1859 they lower their prices to 50 cents to $50.
Tyler and Company use several name to describe their gallery. Sky-Light Depot of Art; Tyler & Co.’s Gallery; Young America Picture Depot; Big Depot of Art; Locomotive Picture Depot; Great Depot; Great Depot of Art; Tyler & Co.’s Gallery of Art; and Great sky-light Daguerreotype Depot and Emporium of Art, Beauty and Fashion to name but a few.
There seems to be a double standard in the way that Tyler & Co. attacks their competitors…their work is inferior, their images cost too much, they will fade or rust…when the other photographers voice their opinion of them, Tyler and Company often attack back “Don’t be deceived by the bombast of their rivals. The fogyism they exhibit in the newspapers, shows their envy of Tyler & Co.” They never really answer the other photographers’ accusations.
In trying to tie up the record for Tyler and Company in Memphis I searched the latter part of 1860 knowing that Tyler and Company only stays in one location for two or three years at the most, see below for activity dates. They also probably were not in the South during the Civil War, since the first hard dates for them was 1853 in Boston, which would mean that they probably had northern sympathies. In addition Edward M. Tyler is recorded as being in Providence, R. I. in 1860 and in Newport, R. I. in 1865. The last advertisement found was on October 11, 1860 and reads Tyler & Co. attend personally to their visitors, assisted by a corps of talented artists.
To confuse the time line more, two days later on October 13 the report of the Shelby County Agricultural Fair is published. It list for Best Daguerreotypes, $5, O. H. Tyler; Brandon & Crater received a certificate. Than on October 19 the following appears
Premium Daguerreotypes.—We will willingly correct an error which in the hurry of reporting the premiums awarded at the late fair, we, with other reporters, fell into, copying the list of premiums from the Secretary’s books. We reported Tyler & Co. as having received the premium for best daguerreotypes, and Brandon & Crater the certificate. We understand from a member of the latter firm that the premium was awarded to them instead of O. H. Taylor & Co. Since no first name was ever used for Tyler & Company in the Richmond or Memphis newspapers it is unclear if O. H. Taylor is another typo or do we have a clue as to who Tyler is. At least in Richmond it was suggested that there was at least two Tyler’s running the gallery. Possibly Edward M., or O. H.?
Unlike John Plumbe, Jr., Jesse Harrison Whitehurst, and Thomas Jefferson Dobyns who had multiple galleries operating at the same time Tyler & Co. appears to open one studio and then moves on after a couple of years. This may not have been the case while they were in Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia where they seem to be operating both galleries at the same time.
A side note Charles R. Rees who worked for Tyler & Company, in the Richmond and Petersburg Galleries and possibly in several other locations, took over their Richmond Studio and made reference to sending ambrotypes to a new gallery in Memphis. On October 23, 1858 the following appeared in the Richmond Daily Dispatch. “We understand the reason that Rees & Co. have no Pictures on exhibition at the Mechanics’ Institute, is partly owing to their not having had time to arrange them in time for competition, and having just sent about 200 specimens of their new style of Ambrotypes to Memphis, Tenn., for the opening of a new Gallery. We are certain that their new style of Pictures would be much admired at the Institute.”
This opens a whole new line of questions. On May 5, 1859 in the Richmond Daily Dispatch the following appears….Old Rees has had 17 years experience in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, New Orleans and Cincinnati…. Did Rees work for Tyler & Co. in those locations? We know that Tyler and Company was in Boston and Charleston, and they claim they were in New Orleans and in Cincinnati, there was a James Tyler & Co. in 1857. No hard evidence has been found at this time that Tyler & Company were in New Orleans, New York or Philadelphia. John Craig does list Rees in Craig’s Daguerreian Registry as being in Richmond and in New York. What is the connection with Tyler & Company in Memphis? Is he a partner? No advertisement, articles or notices were recorded in the newspaper for C. R. Rees that I have found to date.
To throw another twist to the relationship with Tyler & Company there is a Rees, Blodget & Company in Worcester, Massachusetts at the same time that that Tyler & Co were there. There are no first names attached to the company so it is unclear if this could possibly be C. R. Rees or not… The advertisements are a standard attack by their competitors. Two advertisements follow.
October 18, 1855 in the Worcester Daily Spy. Take Notice!—Opposition to Steam Daguerreotypes, taken by a new American discovery, for only 25 cents, warranted to be of the best quality, and satisfaction given. Something less than 500 taken daily. No connection with the steam whistle, next door. Rees, Blodget, & Co, artists. Piper Block, Main st.
October 19, 1855. Rees, Blodget, & Co. do not take Daguerreotypes by steam, as their noisy competitors boast to do, but at the same time give all who visit them good portraits, and at a quick rate, for 25 cents. Rees, Blodget & Co. have opened their rooms at Piper’s Block, bent upon blowing up all steam boilers in the vicinity, if they burst themselves in doing so.
While reading through the Memphis Daily Appeal newspaper the following item appears. It’s not directed by name specifically to Tyler and Company, nor is it signed, but by the tone and history of Tyler & Co.’s advertisements it is conceivable that a rival had it published. This is pure speculation on my part and I really try not to do that. There is a quote that I’ll end with that I try to live by, but in this case it sounds so much like them that after days of consideration I decided to include it here. It was published on November 17, 1858 exactly one month after Tyler & Co.’s first advertisement appears in Memphis papers.
What sort of an Animal a “Snob” is.—Thackeray thus daguerreotypes this animal. He is speaking of English society:
“A snob is that man or woman who are always pretending before the world to be something better—especially richer or more fashionable—than they are. It is one who thinks his own position in life contemptible, and is always, yearning and striving to force himself into one above, without the education or characteristics which belong to it; one who looks down upon, despises, and overrides his inferiors, or even equals of his own standing, and is ever ready to worship, fawn upon, and flatter a rich and titled man, not because he is a good man, a wise man, or a Christian man; but because he has the luck to be rich or consequential.”
The quote that I mentioned is by John Drydan and holds as true today as the day it was written. “We find but few historians of all ages, who have been diligent enough in their search for truth; it is their common method to take on trust what they distribute to the public, by which means, a falsehood once received from a famed writer becomes traditional to posterity.” This is the one reason why in my research I document everything and give a source of where the information comes from.
Tyler & Co. Activity dates and addresses.
N.D. Address Unknown, New Orleans, Louisiana.
1853-1855 2 Winter Street, Boston, Massachusetts.
1855 Main & Front Streets, Worcester, Massachusetts.
1854-1856 Address Unknown, Charleston, South Carolina.
1857-1858 139 Main Street, Richmond, Virginia.
1857-1858 39 Sycamore Street, Petersburg, Virginia.
1858 Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana.
1858-1860 219 Main Street, opposite Odd Fellows’ Hall, Memphis, Tennessee.
1860 81 Westminster Street, Providence, Rhode Island.
 Their name for Daguerreotypes.
 Richmond Daily Dispatch
 Directory of Massachusetts Photographers, 1839-1900 and Boston Morning Journal
 Worcester Daily Spy
 Partners with the Sun South Carolina Photographers 1840-1940.
 Richmond Daily Dispatch.
 Memphis Daily Appeal.
 Craig’s Daguerreian Registry.
1 thought on “Tyler & Company revisited”
This is a fascinating and insightful write-up. Thank you for this insight. Thomas Jefferson Dobyns was my great-great-grandfather. I have a small daguerreotype of him that has been passed down to me.