While this is an interesting group of photographers and needs further exploration, the following is what I know at this point. They advertised mostly as Tyler & Co. (with no first names.) John Craig refers to them as “mass merchandisers” they come in to a town, stay a short period of time, undercut their competition, and flood the market with ninth plate images. I have advertisements from several newspapers from both Boston and Worcester Massachusetts, but the bulk comes from the Richmond Daily Dispatch. A new advertisement appears almost every day, starting on March 19, 1857 until late December when they advertise that they have opened another gallery at 39 Sycamore Street, Petersburg, Virginia. Afterwards their advertising slows down a little, they miss a day or two here and there. On January 30, 1858 they drop their price in half from .50 – $50 to .25 – $25. During this time period a typical day’s advertisement is in a solid block with a paragraph or two and or between one and 13 separate lines of often repeating text. On March 20, 1858 they claim that they have spent $4,000 over the past year on advertising.
They repeatedly make unsubstantiated claims. First that they were in New Orleans, Louisiana for eight years prior to being in Charleston, South Caroline for three. In reviewing a number of photographic directories, I cannot at this time verify the New Orleans claim. Looking at Photography in New Orleans, The Early Years, 1840-1866 by Margaret Denton Smith & Mary Louise Tucker they do not mention them. Craig’s Daguerreian Registry also does not list them in New Orleans, except to say that they won a wager that they could make 1,000 likenesses in four hours. This was probably from an advertisement in one of the Charleston papers. Looking at Partners with the Sun South Carolina Photographers 1840-1940, by Harvey S Teal. He has Tyler & Co. in Charleston from December 1855 to June 1856 and again between, November 1856 to February 1857 that’s a total of 11 months, not the three years they claim.
Another claim is the amount of portraits they take daily which can fluctuate between 300 to 1,000 on any given day. They do advertise that they are taking daguerreotypes or what they call Vitrotype, later they advertise ambrotypes, photographs, lettertypes, ect. They make the same claims “400 taken daily” when they were in Boston, Worcester and Charleston. In Boston and Worcester they use a double lens camera. In Richmond they advertise that they are taking “three at a pop.” They also start out advertising that they employ fifteen artist which quickly becomes twenty and by the end of their time in Richmond they are up to twenty-five artists.
By the tone of their advertisement they are the only ones that ever uses steam in the production of likenesses, and that anyone who say they uses steam are just imitators. John Adams Whipple in Boston advertises on May 12, 1848 in the Salem Gazette that he is using a small steam engine to buff his plates. They also claim to have daguerreotype and ambrotype patents, and that they are inventors from everything I have looked at, no records of patents were ever issued to them. They are also in the habit of claiming that they have at different time been issued 5 Gold medals, but they never say when or where they received these awards. Every other photographer list when and where they received an award. They did win a silver medal for Daguerreotypes at the 1857 Fair of the Virginia Mechanics Institute. Also Albert Litch won a silver medal for color photographs, Sanxay & Chalmers won a silver medal for Ambrotypes, and E. Powers a first class diploma for Ambrotypes and Photographs.
Their philosophy which they state several time is to “keep it before the people.” Translation beat them over the head with their advertisements, and they do. Their claim that other photographers are charging $2.50 for the same image they charge 50 cents for, is unjustified. If fact other image makers were charging 50 cents for their images long before Tyler & Co. came to Richmond.
On May 18, 1858 we learn in an advertisement that C. R. Rees has returned to Richmond from a five month stay in Petersburg (Tyler & Co. new gallery.) On August 10, 1858 we learn that C. R. Rees is now the Proprietor. Rees continues the same practice in his advertising as Tyler & Co. but with less regularity. His excuses as to why he did not exhibit at the late fair was that he was getting ready to send specimens to his new gallery in Memphis, Tennessee. It is interesting Tyler and Company have also opened a studio in Memphis around this time, what is the conection?
Craig speculates that the various listings he has for Tyler & Co. based on the language of the advertisements are the same company. On June 6, 1857 the following advertisement appears in the Daily Dispatch which seems to verify John’s speculation.
Strangers and all others, are cautioned against being humbugged and deceived by steam pictures advertisements. This steam picture taker has been Driven out of Boston, Cincinnati, Worcester, Mass, and Charleston, S. C. This Imposter commenced to advertise 50 cent Daguerreotypes but he found they did not take. He then altered his show bills and advertisements to Vitrotypes for 50 cts., pretending it was a new kind of picture. This fellow says he has taken 400 Pictures a day for 16 years. Now he did not have money enough to buy a few yards of carpet when he arrived here, but had to run his face. This same humbug man took pictures in Boston for 20 cts. apiece. The public can judge whether his work is good or bad. It is my intention to show him up just as long as he continues to humbug, lie and deceive the people of Richmond. Respectfully, A. W. Osborne, Opposite Exchange Bank.
Below is the timeline and address of their studios to date.
N.D. Address Unknown, New Orleans, Louisiana. [i]
1853-1855 2 Winter Street, Boston, Massachusetts. (Edward M. Tyler.) [ii]
1855 Main & Front Streets, Worcester, Massachusetts.[iii]
1855-1856 233 King Street, Charleston, South Carolina. [iv]
1856-1857 233 King Street, Charleston, South Carolina. iv
1857 30 & 32 Fourth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio (James Tyler.) [v]
1857-1858 139 Main Street, Richmond, Virginia. i
1857-1858 39 Sycamore Street, Petersburg, Virginia. i
1858 Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana. i
1859-1860 219 Main Street, Memphis, Tennessee (Edward M. Tyler.) v
1860 81 Westminster Street, Providence, Rhode Island. (E. M. Tyler.) v
[i] The Richmond Daily Dispatch
[ii] Directory of Massachusetts Photographers, 1839-1900 and the Boston Morning Journal.
[iii] Worcester Daily Spy
[iv] Partners with the Sun South Carolina Photographers 1840-1940.
[v] Craig’s Daguerreian Registry