For the past twenty five years I have been researching the pioneer American photographers obtaining information from newspapers published between 1839 and 1860. While concentrating mostly on Massachusetts newspapers, over the last couple of years I have started reading newspapers from other states. This research has uncovered the names of hundreds of photographers who have not previously been recorded in other directories of photographers. While I have searched hundreds of newspapers, not all were complete runs, sometimes many years of issues were missing, and on occasion only a single issue of a newspaper was found. Consequently this is not a complete picture of any given community based on the scarcity of information available to me at the time. Then there are the daily newspapers with complete runs that overwhelm you with the sheer volume of information. Even after all these years of research I am just scratching the surface of the known newspapers published during this time period.
For example, I was working on a newspaper published in Richmond Virginia, the Daily Dispatch. The first issue that was available to me was dated January 14, 1852, volume 2, issue no. 73. This is the only Richmond newspaper that I have searched. A quick internet survey of newspapers published in Richmond during the designated scope of the project (1839 to 1860) has found 95 papers that fall into the parameters and an additional 18 papers that need to be consulted because the full date ranges of the papers were not available.
My hope is to launch a website soon with an excel spread sheet listing basic information name of the photographers; dates of activity, derived from newspaper articles and advertisements only; address; city; state, when known; processes used; and type of studio facility, such as if they were in a building, tent, car/wagon, or a boat. The second part of the research is more problematical. How should I publish all the data I have found? Some of the photographers have only have a few entries. Whereas M. P. Simons has to date 41 pages of entries, mostly from the Richmond paper, with Philadelphia and Charlestown papers still to be searched; The Boston Photographers John Adams Whipple and Southworth & Hawes both have over 100 pages of entries. In my opinion this is important research and needs to be available in some form. While the project is in process I will use this blog as a means of communicating interesting finds that I want to share with the photographic community. Please tell your friends and colleagues about the research and blog. My goal is to post something every week or so. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. The work continues…
Chris Steele, September 2016