Marcus A. & Samuel Root

For the past couple of months I’ve been working on The New York Daily Tribune (April 22, 1842 through December 31, 1859.)  The Tribune is a daily newspaper published six day a week, on April 10th 1850 the paper starts publishing eight pages with six columns, previously it was four pages with six columns.  It’s huge and very time consuming to go through.  But rich with advertisements and articles, some new name and activity dates have been found that have not been previously recorded. Normally I would wait until the newspaper has been completely gone through and checked before writing anything up.  But I wanted to write something to keep up the blog, but there are so many names to choose from Anson; Anthony; Brady; Butler; Clark; Gavit; Gurney; Holmes; Humphrey; Insley; Knapp; Langenheim; Lawrence; Meade Brothers; Morand; Page; Plumbe; Rees; Root; Van Loan; White, or Whitehurst. And these are only some of the names with larger files, there are many more names with smaller files, and I have just finished going through 1853 with six years to go.

The largest file is that of the Root’s, Marcus A. and Samuel. They advertise almost every day, and in many cases more than once, an advertisement rarely run on consecutive days, and only occasionally are they repeated, but for the most part every day is a different one.  There are a number of observations that I thought needed mentioning.  In the Directory of Pennsylvania Photographers1839-1900 by Linda A. Ries and Jay W. Ruby, and in Philadelphia Photographers 1840-1900 By William and Marie Brey there is no listing for Samuel Root. In the Brey directory Samuel is listed in his brothers bio under selected Biographies, but nothing is said about his work in Philadelphia. In Craig’s Daguerreian Registry he states that little is known of Samuel’s early career.  To date I have not read any of the newspapers from Philadelphia so I have nothing to add, except that in an advertisement from the New York Daily Tribune dated July 12, 1848.

Henry Clay In His 71St Year.—Published this day, (June 6, 1848.) by E. Anthony, 205 Broadway, a beautiful steel mezzotint engraving of Henry Clay, drawn and engraved from several Daguerreotypes by H. H. Ritchie (this is probably Alexander Hay Ritchie.)

This likeness was mainly taken from a fine Daguerreotype now in the possession of the subscriber, executed by Messrs. Paige & Beach, Washington. The artists is also indebted to Daguerreotypes taken by Messrs. Root, Simons, and W. & F. Langenheim of Philadelphia, and M. B. Brady, M. M. Lawrence and the Plumbe Gallery of New York, to all of whom the subscriber takes this occasion to express his thanks for the liberality with which they placed their valuable pictures at his disposal….

One can only speculate that “Messrs. Root” means Marcus A. & Samuel. That would mean that Samuel was active in Philadelphia in 1848, and possibly earlier.

The following two advertisements place Marcus in New York City in September 1850. The first announces the opening of his gallery at 363 Broadway.

New York Daily Tribune.  September 26, 1850…M. A. Root’s Daguerreotype Saloons, South west corner of Broadway and Franklin-st.—M. A. Root celebrated for years as a Daguerreotypist in Philadelphia has opened a magnificently furnished suits of rooms in the most fashionable part of the city, (363 Broadway, corner Franklin-st.) where having an admirable sky-light, he flatters himself that he will be able to furnish Daguerreotype Likenesses, equal in finish, accurate and effect, to anything of the kind in the world.  He has [six] medals from the various institutes and fairs of our country for his superior productions.  He invites the public to visit his rooms and examine his Gallery of Likenesses of [the] most distinguished people.

On the same page another advertisement appears and possibly proves the authorship of the Jenny Lind Daguerreotype that has been speculated was taken by Samuel.

Jenny Lind.—Have you seen this famous lady? If not, have you seen the great likeness of her taken yesterday by Root, the renowned Daguerreotypist from Philadelphia, who just opened the most magnificent Daguerreotype Saloons in the country.  Go and see it.  The place is gorgeously fitted up, and Jenny’s likeness is wonderful.

Not until October 23, 1850 in the New York Daily Tribune do we find Samuel’s name mentioned in an advertisement. Between October 23, 1850 to December 8, 1851 most of the time the partnership is identified as M. A. & S. Root, on December 9, 1851 for the only time the firm is identified in the New York Daily Tribune as Root and Co.

It is difficult to determine when the partnership ends in New York. We learn from the Journals of the day that Marcus sold his interest of the New York Gallery by the end of 1851.  John Craig reports that Marcus and Samuel were still listed in the New York City Directories until 1853 this might explain the occasional reference to M.A. & S. Root, and the fact that no first names are use in the advertisements, the firm is referred to as Root’s.  Not until 1854 does Samuel’s name appear in the advertisements as Samuel Root or S. Root.

On October 23, 1850 in the New York Daily Tribune the following advertisement appears.

The Question Settled.—A day or two will settle it. We affirm that M. A. & S. Root make Daguerreotype pictures that cannot be equaled in this country.  Will they get the gold medal at the Fair?  That remains to be seen.  It is a test that will settle the whole difficulty.  Their elegant Saloons are at the southwest corner of Broadway and Franklin-st.

There is no question that Marcus and Samuel Root are both in the top echelon of image makers in the 1850’s. If for no other reason their advertisements tell us so.  Shortly after John A. Whipple of Boston announces the patent of the Crayon Daguerreotype in the Tribune, the Roots purchase the rights for everywhere except New England.  They (Marcus & Samuel) advertise that they are making the Crayon Daguerreotype, they hold the patent and it’s the only place to get it.  Two examples in the New York Daily Tribune when the firm was Marcus and Samuel Root.

On February 19, 1851…New Style Of Art.—Letters Patent have been granted for a new and beautiful style of Miniatures, called “Crayon Daguerreotypes.” The effect is truly wonderful, and recommends itself to all good judges.  Artists and others are invited to call at 363 Broadway, corner of Franklin-st, Root’s Gallery, and examine specimens.Advertisement ran on February 19 & 20, 1851.

And then on February 26, 1851…Crayon Daguerreotypes—Process patented.—this new and exquisite style of art is pronounced by artists and all good judges, “the last great improvement in Daguerreotyping.” Ladies and gentlemen are invited to call and judge for themselves.  This new style can be had only at Root’s Gallery, 363 Broadway, cor. of Franklin-st.                                                                                                                         Advertisement ran on February 26 & 27, 1851.

This type of advertisement continues into 1854. On April 27, 1852….Crayon Pictures.—The Exquisitely delicate Crayon Daguerreotype is taken in full perfection in cloudy weather, by Root, No. 363 Broadway.  By-the-way, we would caution Daguerreian Artists and others against taking these pictures in any other establishment, since Root owns the patent for this region, and will be sure to prosecute all infringements.

June 25, 1852….The best artists pronounce the beautiful Crayon Pictures the most perfect thing ever achieved by the Daguerreotype. It is taken only by Root, No. 363 Broadway, to whom eleven first premiums have been awarded.

May 20, 1853….The magnificent Crayon Daguerreotype, Made only at Root’s Gallery, No. 363 Broadway, is still the delight and admiration of all true lovers of art. Examine it, by all means.  Root’s Rooms, easy of access.

Not once is there a mention of Whipple the inventor of the process, nor do they acknowledge that they purchased the rights from him. Published in the July 1851 issue of the Photographic and Fine Arts Journal….the following appears.  Mr. Root, of New York, has now brought the Crayon Daguerreotype process to such perfection that we cannot express too highly an appreciation of the beautiful specimens he sends from his gallery.  We have always expressed our admiration for this style of picture, and Mr. J. A. Whipple, of Boston, has not, we think, received that credit for the invention which he most richly deserves.  We never saw a more beautiful picture than the one he exhibited to us two years ago, taken in this style, and we never have yet seen it surpassed…

Root through his advertising style has alienated many of the photographic community in New York claiming that they are the best, and when multiple awards were given at the World’s Fair in New York he claims almost every day that he won the highest award at the fair. In fact he was only one of five daguerreotypist who won the Bronze Medal, in addition Charles C. Harrison also won the Bronze Medal for a Camera.  Whipple won the highest award a Silver Medal for his Crystalotypes.  Below is the complete list of awards given as published in the Tribune on January 20, 1854.  The following day the list of Honorable Mention were listed.

The [1853] Exhibition At The Crystal Palace. Official Awards of Juries.

Jury F.  Class 10.  Philosophical Instruments And Their Products….

Silver Medal.

Whipple, John A.  Boston, Mass, U. S., for Crystalotypes a new art.

Bronze Medal.

Butler, Alexander.  [  ?  ]  U. S., for several excellent Daguerreotypes.                            Brady, Mathew B. New-York City, U. S., for uniformly excellent Daguerreotypes.            Harrison, C. C.  New-York City, U. S., for Camera.                                                                  Hesler, Alexander, [Galena, Ill.], U. S., for several beautiful Daguerreotypes,            Lawrence, Martin M. [New-York City], U. S., for excellent Daguerreotypes, particularly     “past, present, future.”                                                                                                                 Root, Samuel.  New-York City, U. S., for fine Daguerreotypes.

Honorable Mention.

Gurney, Jeremiah.  New-York City, U. S., for fine Daguerreotypes.                              Harrison & Hill.  Brooklyn, U. S., for Daguerreotypes.                                                           Long, E.  St. Louis, Mo., U. S., for an exquisite Daguerreotype of a lady.                            Meade Bros.  New-York City, U. S., for Daguerreotypes of “Seven Ages of Man.”            Moissinet, Dobyne & Richardson, New-Orleans, U. S., for Daguerreotypes.                      North, W[illiam]. C. Cleveland, U. S., for Daguerreotypes.                                                  Peters Otis F. sic [Otis T.], New-York City, U. S., for Stereoscopes.                                       Root, M. A., Philadelphia, U. S., for fine Daguerreotypes.                                            Whitehurst, J. H., Baltimore, U. S., for fine Daguerreotypes.

The day the Tribune published the list of award winners January 20th Root placed the following advertisement.  Crystal palace Medal.—The Bronze Medal of the World’s Fair at the New-York Crystal Palace, being the highest honor for Daguerreotypes, was yesterday awarded to Root, of No. 363 Broadway.  Palmam qyi meruit ferat.  This type of advertising continues almost every day.  In fact one advertisement by Root was copied entirely, with Mathew Brady’s name attached.  The next day Root complains.  This is not the first time that Root’s style has caused a rift between the photographic community.  Words have passed between Gurney and also with Lawrence.  I am sure that if Plumbe or Whitehurst were still active in New York they also would have had a disagreement with Root’s claims.

To be continued…..

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