Tag Archives: Jesse Harrison Whitehurst

John G. McKean

1851                252 Broadway, New York, New York.                                                                              1851                349 Broadway, New York, New York.

John G. McKean was recorded in an announcement on October 13, 1851 in The New York Herald (New York, New York).  Notice.—John G. McKean respectfully informs his business and personal friends, that having dissolved all connections with his late place of business, (Washburn’s, 252 Broadway,) he is now permanently located at Whitehurst’s Gallery, 349 Broadway.

John G. McKean is listed in Craig’s Daguerreian Registry as being active at the 252 Broadway address from 1851 and 1852-1854 324 Broadway.

William G. Edgar

N. D.               Address Unknown, Petersburg, Virginia.                                                                                1855               Address Unknown. Lynchburg, Virginia.

William G. Edgar was recorded on September 1, 1855 in The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia.)  Sudden Death—Wm. G. Edgar, a daguerrean artist of Lynchburg, formerly of Petersburg, died suddenly Wednesday morning.  He was to have been married in two weeks from that day.

Edgar is recorded in Craig’s Daguerreian Registry with no first name as an operator for Jesse H. Whitehurst in Petersburg, Virginia.

Nahum S. Bennett

There are a series of announcements and advertisements in the Washington, D. C. Newspapers that place Nahum S. Bennett in D. C. from 1850 to late 1852.  He was first recorded in The Daily Union (Washington, D. C.) in an announcement on August 21, 1850.

We are indebted to Mr. N. S. Bennett, of this city, for a daguerreotype likeness of Mr. Millard Fillmore, the present President of the United States, and lithographed by Mr. A. Newman.  It is an admirable likeness, and beautifully executed.  The President’s face is calculated to grace the art of the daguerreotypist or the painter; but those features are too apt to undergo a premature revolution from the wrinkles of care, which power, if faithfully administered, stamps with its seal upon the brow.…

In an announcement that was published in the Daily American Telegraph (Washington, D. C.) on July 13, 1852.  A Beautiful Daguerreotype.  The most perfect and admirable daguerreotype likeness we have ever seen has just been made of General Winfield Scott, by Mr. Bennett, of this city.  It is of very large size, and as clear and distinct as the reflection from a polished mirror.

We learn that the old General sat for this likeness with cheerfulness and patience, though under protest, declaring that so frequently has he of late been called upon to sit to artists of various kinds that he must henceforth refuse.  If others have succeeded as well as Mr. Bennett, we do not, indeed, think further efforts are needed.

Also on the 13th the following advertisement appears Rocky Mountain Indians!  Daguerreotype likenesses of the principal Chiefs of the Different Rocky Mountain tribes of Indians on exhibition at Bennett’s National Gallery, Penna. av., between 6th and 7th sts.

The last Daguerreotype, from life, of the departed patriot, Henry Clay, may be seen at Bennett’s National Gallery, Pa. av., between 6th and 7th sts.

In an article entitled The Pueblo Indians in the Daily American Telegraph (Washington, D. C.) on August 13, 1852 in part….Bennett, the skilful and popular daguerreotypist, took their portraits yesterday.  They were highly gratified, and, when told that each of them should have a copy of his own likeness, their pleasure knew no bounds.  The old man of the party (aged sixty-four) looked at his image for a while, and then said:  “When I am dead, and gone to heaven, I shall still live in this.”…

In an advertisement in the Daily American Telegraph.  (Washington, D. C.) on September 20, 1852 we learn that a portrait of General Scott is being painted by Stanley[1] which is possibly the best portrait of the General ever painted.  It is from a most beautiful daguerreotype by Bennett, of this city.

The last advertisement in the Daily American Telegraph (Washington, D. C.) appeared on October 26 and ran until November 18, 1852.  Crayon Daguerreotypes.  This style of Photographic Pictures was patented by John A. Whipple, of Boston, about six years since[2], and introduced into this city by Bennett in 1850, as many who have had them know.  Mr. B. continues to take them, in a superior manner, at his Gallery, Pennsylvania avenue, between 6 and 7th streets.

Published in an article about early Daguerreotypist in Washington, D. C. a letter from Samuel Rush Seibert dated October 19, 1896 is included.  It is in reply to Samuel C. Busey’s inquiry about early Daguerreotypist in Washington.  He states in part “Mr. N. S. Bennett had a Daguerreotype gallery a few doors west, on the same avenue, in a building which was on the east side and adjoining L. D. Gilman’s drug store. During the winter of 1851 and 1852 I negotiated with him for the purchase of the gallery for Marcus A. Root and John H. Clark, who immediately obtained possession and refitted the skylight and rooms, and there produced many fine specimens of the Daguerrean art.[3]

Based on the last advertisement of Bennett’s (October 26, 1852) and the first ad for Root in the Washington papers (December 19, 1852) the sale of the gallery had to be in October-November 1852.  Interesting John H. Clark[e] does not appear in any advertisements found in the D. C. newspapers.  According to Laurie Baty’s unpublished Directory of Washington, D. C. Photographers Clark was a pupil of Root’s and was the operator of his D. C. gallery.

Bennett was on board the steamer Empire which left Troy, NY around 7 P. M. on Friday July 15, 1853 heading to New York City, when it was in a collision with the sloop General Livingston about 2 A. M on the 16th on the west shore of the Hudson River, opposite Clinton Point, about two and a half miles above New-Hamburg, and six below Poughkeepsie.   A number of people were killed or injured in the accident.  The extent of Bennett injuries are unknown it is reported in the Daguerreian Journal that he did lose a valuable collection of daguerreotypes including a whole plate of the last portrait taken of Henry Clay, sixteen specimens of members of the U. S. Senate, Likenesses of the Rocky Mountain Indian Tribes, and a portrait of Billy Bow Legs and John Howard Payne[4], who was an American actor, poet, playwright, and author.

No other advertisements, notices or articles have been found in any of the Washington newspapers that I have access to, until the three advertisements in the Evening Star discussed previously about Smith Bennett who was award a silver medal at the 1855 Metropolitan Mechanic’s Institute while he was in Alexandria, Virginia.

Reported in the Evening Star (Washington, D. C.) on February 10, 1857.  That N. S. Bennett has sent an application to the Mechanics’ Fair to exhibit ambrotypes and daguerreotypes.  Then on March 31 (in the same paper) a list was published of the premiums awarded at The Fair…Class 30….

Brady, N. Y.—photographs—Silver Medal.                                                                                 Whitehurst, Washington—ambrotypes—Silver Medal.                                                               Whitehurst, Washington—daguerreotypes—First award of merit.                                         Langenheim, Philadelphia—stereoscopes—Silver Medal.                                                      Vannerson, Washington—photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes—Bronze Medal.   Whitehurst, Washington—photographs—Diploma.                                                                       Cutting & Turner, Boston—ambrotypes—Diploma                                                                                  N. S. Bennett, Alexandria—daguerreotypes—Diploma.

Bennett is reported to have been active in 1860 in Alexandria at 69 King Street.  At this time I have been unable to find directories for Alexandria to verify activity dates and address for Bennett from 1855-1860+.

[1] Probably John Mix Stanley.

[2] Crayon Daguerreotypes were patented by Whipple on January 23, 1849, Patent No. 6,056.

[3] In an article published in the Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D. C.  Vol. 3, P. 81-95.  Entitled Early History of Daguerreotypy in the City of Washington, by Samuel C. Busey.

[4] Article in the New York Times, July 18, 1853, P. 1.

Tyler & Company revisited

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[1], 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.[2]

1853-1855       2 Winter Street, Boston, Massachusetts.[3]

1855                 Main & Front Streets, Worcester, Massachusetts.[4]

1854-1856       Address Unknown, Charleston, South Carolina.[5]

1857-1858       139 Main Street, Richmond, Virginia.[6]

1857-1858       39 Sycamore Street, Petersburg, Virginia.[7]

1858                   Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana.[8]

1858-1860       219 Main Street, opposite Odd Fellows’ Hall, Memphis, Tennessee.[9]

1860                81 Westminster Street, Providence, Rhode Island.[10]

[1] Their name for Daguerreotypes.

[2] Richmond Daily Dispatch

[3] Directory of Massachusetts Photographers, 1839-1900 and Boston Morning Journal

[4] Worcester Daily Spy

[5] Partners with the Sun South Carolina Photographers 1840-1940.

[6] Richmond Daily Dispatch.

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] Memphis Daily Appeal.

[10] Craig’s Daguerreian Registry.

Julian Vannerson

By deciphering Vannerson’s activities through the newspapers in Washington, piecing together several newspapers a clearer picture appears. The first advertisements which I have access to that mentions Vannerson is from the Daily American Organ on July 22, 1854, and reads in part “New Daguerrean Gallery.  The establishment formerly owned by Mr. [Edwin C.] Thompson, has been purchased by Mr. Vannerson, of this city…” From this advertisement through July 30, 1856 only Vannerson’s last name is used, giving the impression that Vannerson is operating his own gallery.  Not until the following advertisement appears on January 5, 1855, in the Daily American Organ do we have a clue as to which of the three brothers is operating in Washington (Adrian, Julian or Lucian.) In referencing Craig’ Daguerreian Registry Julian is the brother who is operating the Whitehurst’s Gallery in Washington, which is confirmed in later advertisements.

Portrait of Rev. Mr. Sunderland.—A lithographic portrait of Rev. Byron Sunderland, pastor of the four-and-and-a-half street Presbyterian Church, in this city, is to be published by Mr. C. H. Brainard, of Boston, who has already published portraits of many of our distinguished men in a style of artistic excellence rarely equaled.

This portrait of Mr. Sunderland will be drawn by Grozelier, from a daguerreotype by Vannerson, the accomplished superintendent of Whitehurst’s gallery, and we feel bold to say in advance, be in every respect creditable to all concerned in its production.

On July 30, 1856 the following advertisement appears in the Evening Star. From this we learn that he has left Whitehurst Gallery which he had been employed for the past five years.

Vannerson’s Gallery Of Premium Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes & Photographs, No. 424 and 426 Pa. avenue, (Lane & Tucker’s building.) between 4½ and 6th sts., Three Doors from his former place of business, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Vannerson Returns His thanks for the very liberal patronage bestowed on him, while conducting the Whitehurst Gallery, for the last five years, and solicits its continuance from his friends and the public at his New Gallery, where he has greater facilities for the production of fine Portraits than formerly, with all the latest improvements for the production of Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, Photographs, and Portraits, in Oil colors, on Canvas, in Water colors, and Pastille.

Mr. Vannerson devotes his personal attention to all sittings.

Over the next couple of week several card appear in the Washington newspapers Whitehurst implies that Vannerson has misappropriated funds for his own use. Vannerson on the other hand claims that over the last couple of years under an agreement he was entitled to one half of the profits and that he is innocent of Whitehurst’s claims, which Whitehurst does acknowledge the agreement, but continues to claim misappropriation of funds.  At this time no outcome of the accusations have been found in any of the Washington newspapers that I have viewed.

Vannerson continues to operate his gallery into 1857.  On March 31, 1857 it is reported in the Evening Star that he has been awarded a bronze medal for photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes at the Mechanics’ Fair.  This is the last advertisement or article found in the Washington newspapers at this time.  It is reported in Craig’ Daguerreian Registry and by Merry A. Foresta the former director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative that Vannerson was associated with James E. McClees around mid-1857[1], Craig also reports that Vannerson moves back to Richmond, Virginia in 1861.

On August 4th, 1859 the following appears in the Evening Star. Phelan (Michael) and Bird continue to made much of by the billiard amateurs of this city.  They dropped in at Ellicott’s saloon, corner of Thirteenth street and the avenue, yesterday afternoon, and played three games, (four ball American game,) Phelan winning two of the three.  In the evening they had some further playing at Marr’s Billiard Hall, Bird beating Phelan by 70 points in 200.  The weather was voted too warm entirely for the French carom games.  To-day Phelan and Bird are sitting for their photographs at Vannerson’s.

The question is, is Vannerson on his own again, or is he still working for McClees?

A quick search of the Richmond Daily Dispatch has determine approximately when Vannerson arrived back in Richmond, by using caricature recognition searching under Vannerson’s name the first hit was an advertisement on December 12, 1860 that announced the co-partnership between Smith & Vannerson has been dissolved.  I next searched the various processes in use.  On April 20, 1860 the following advertisement appears,

For rent—Photographic Gallery, in Corinthian Hall, now occupied by J. Thomas Smith. Possession given immediately.  On May 23ed Smith’s first advertisement appears at his new gallery at 77 Main Street, Whitehurst’s Old Stand.  On June 13 at the end of a Smith Advertisement he advertises that an “Operator is wanted.”  On September 22 the announcement of the Smith & Vannerson partnership appears.

A New Art Gallery In Richmond. The proprietors of the new Art Gallery would respectfully call the attention of the citizens of Richmond, and strangers in the city, to the fact that they have leased the rooms formerly known as “Whitehurst Gallery,” No. 97 Main Street, and have opened an establishment for the production of Every Style Of Photographs, From the Smallest Locket to the Full Size Of Life.  And as A First Class Establishment, They have every facility, and will produce a better style of Photograph that has heretofore been made in this city.  To finish the Photographs In Oil, the very best talent will be employed.

Photographs In Water Colors.  A superior picture, and at a price much less than hitherto charged by artists in this city, prices ranging from Three to Five, Ten and Fifteen Dollars.  Crayon Photographs, of Cabinet Or Life Size. A new style, to which particular attention is requested.

Photographs in India Ink will be finished by the same artist, Whose skill in this branch of art has given so great a popularity to this style of Picture, as made in Washington and Philadelphia.

Photographs, Ambrotypes and Daguerreotypes Copied.—An important fact to be noted is that the Photographs finished in oil at this establishment, are all made upon canvas, and not on paper fastened to canvas. Another fact to be remembered is, that anyone possessing a Daguerreotype or Ambrotype of a friend, may have it copied by photography of any desired size, and finished in Oil, Water Color, Crayon or India Ink.  Parties at a distance may thus send a Daguerreotype and have the Photographed returned by express.  An examination of specimens is solicited.     Smith & Vannerson, Practical Photographers, No. 77 Main st., between 14th and 15th sts., Richmond, Va.

Pictures made at all prices, from Fifty Cents to Fifty Dollars.

On November 1 a List of Premiums awarded at the seventh annual exhibition of the Virginia Mechanics’ Institute, which closed on the night of October 31….

Class No. 27.—Photographs, Daguerreotypes, Engravings, &c.

To G. W. Minnis, for finest display of Photographs, Certificate of Silver Medal.

To Smith & Vannerson, for second best Specimens, First-Class Diploma.

To Rees & Co., for third best Specimens, Second-Class Diploma.

Vannerson was still operating a gallery in Richmond on September 4, 1866. On December 13, 1866 the following advertisement appears,

At Home Again In The Midst Of The Pictures!

In returning to the business, in the conduct of which some years since I flatter myself I established a fair reputation, I will respectfully inform my friends and the public that I have taken the well-known Old Whitehurst Gallery, On Main Street, Below Fourteenth Street (Late Vannerson & Co.’s) and with all the modern improvements introduced, I am prepared to furnish Photographic Pictures in every style of the art, at Reduced Prices, and warranted equal to any produced in this city. All persons in want will please give me a call.    P. E. Gibbs.  de. 12.

It interesting to note that Whitehurst left Richmond in 1857 yet everyone who has been in the studio since then (1866), has referred to the “Old Whitehurst Studio” in their advertisements.

In tracking Whitehurst addresses it is difficult to nail down specific locations through 41 pages of Whitehurst advertisements and articles from Washington, D. C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Tarborough, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia he uses for his Washington studio Pennsylvania Avenue, (or variant Pa./Penn Ave.) or Pennsylvania Avenue between 4½ and 6th Street, also Lane and Tucker Building and over Duvall & Brothers Store.


Vannerson’s activity dates and address.

1851-1854       Pennsylvania Avenue, between 4½ and 6th Street, Washington, District of Columbia.

1854-1855       426 and 428 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, District of Columbia.

1856-1857       424 and 426 Pennsylvania Avenue, Lane & Tucker’s Building, Washington, District of Columbia.

1857-1859       308 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, District of Columbia.

1861-1866       77 Main Street, Richmond, Virginia.

[1] The Photographic and Fine Art Journal, December 1857, Vol. X, No. 12, P. 380.  “Mr. Vannerson is the agent of  Mr. McCleese’s gallery…”

Montgomery Pike Simons

 The following is a brief history of the activities of Montgomery Pike Simons (ca. 1817-1877) during his sojourn in Richmond, Virginia as reported in articles and advertisements published in The Richmond Daily Dispatch.   During his stay from 1852 to1856 he was a prolific advertiser, the duration of most advertisements ran for a week or two, but sometimes only a day or two and only occasionally for a month or longer.  Throughout his stay in Richmond, Simons’ studio address stayed the same 151 Main Street, in Eagle Square.

In reviewing his advertisements family groups, and children were a specialty, and a re-occurring theme. Also whenever a convention was in town, be it a Medical Convention, Temperance Convention or Clubs. Simons would be among the first to invite the attendees to pay a visit to his Gallery and examine his specimens.  Like other daguerreotypist of the day the commonality in advertising are very formulaic and the majority sound alike.  As an example the following is an invitation to the Virginia State Legislators that appeared in the Dispatch on February 6, 1852.

Virginia Legislature.—Members of the Virginia Legislature now in session, are     particularly invited to call at M. P. Simons’ Gallery, and examine his exquisite likenesses of the President and his Cabinet, also Senators and Members of the House, together with a large sample of other distinguished and well known persons of this and other countries, too numerous to mention. All are desired to call, whether in want of pictures or not; and those wanting pictures would do well to judge for themselves of their superiority.  All pictures warranted to give full satisfaction.

Some of the prominent and distinguished individual daguerreotype portraits identified by name that Simons advertises in the Dispatch that were on exhibit in his gallery include Jenny Lind (1820-1887), opera singer; Lola Montes (1821-1861), actress and dancer; George Payne Rainsford James (1799-1860), English novelist, historical writer, and British Counsel; Henry Clay (1777-1852), lawyer, politician and Senator from Kentucky; Hon. K. Rayner, possibly Kenneth Rayner (1808-1884), congressman & legislator from North Carolina; General Lopez (full name unknown)[i]. Dr. Gibson; Rev. Mr. Read and William F. Titchis are possibly local individuals.  A view of St. John’s [Episcopal] Church in Richmond which was built in 1741 and is today the oldest standing church in Richmond. Tantalizingly a Tarantula spider that was found under his back gallery.  In addition there were for sale engraved likenesses Rev. Mr. T. V. Moore, pastor of the first Presbyterian Church in Richmond, by A. S. Walker of Philadelphia, after a daguerreotype by Simons.  In an advertisement dated March 30, 1855, Simons is appealing for a sufficient number of subscribers to off-set the expenses for engraved likenesses of the pastors of the different churches in the city.  Moore’s engraving may have been part of this project.

On at least three occasions Simons is extremely aggressive, antagonistic and sarcastic with fellow daguerreotypist. The first is with Frank E. Moulson who is charging $1 for his daguerreotypes.  The fight in the newspapers starts with the following notice which ran on August 13, 1852 in the Daily Dispatch:

A Chapter on the Daguerrean Art, and its Professors.—The Dollar Notoriety.—It has been suggested that these disciples of Daguerre attach the names of sitters to their productions, that they may be the more easily recognized by their friends. But as this is a matter we are not interested in, we leave it for those that are—their patrons. But would, ourselves, suggest the propriety and fairness of the operator’s name being attached, for two reasons—first, that the public may know where caricatures may be had; and, second, that they may avoid them when they wish a Daguerreotype.

Another thought occurs to us: it is well known that the State finds it necessary for the better protection of its citizens, to have officers, whose duty it is to inspect grain, flour, etc., and brand their qualities. Now, for the same reasons, would it not be well to have an inspector of Daguerreotypes?—We think it would, and hope that the Legislature, next fall, will take this matter up, and give it that calm and serious consideration which it deserves.  But as they probably will not understand this subject as well as they do that of unequal and arbitrary taxation, we will assist them, by furnishing for the purpose, a plan of a stamp or stencil plate, viz:—Taken for_________by­­­­­­­­­­­__________, an experimenter in the art, cost one dollar or fifty cents, as the case may be, which would be determined by the quality of the article; and then, on the event of our plan’s being accepted, we fancy we see Daguerreotypes finding their way into the price current of the day, reported thus:

Daguerreotypes, common brand, various prices, ranging from 37½ cts. to a dollar—little or no demand. Genuine article, medium size, ready sale, and firm at three dollars.  Remarks—public taste improving.

We are aware that our endeavors to hold these cadets in the art up to public gaze, that they may be seen in their true light, may, by some, be misconstrued into envy on our part, and by exciting public sympathies, increase the evil which we are trying to abate. But, however deplorable such a result would be, the task had to be performed.—For we should hold the man guilty indeed, who would sit in silence, and see the community in which he resides deluded by impostors.  But our object must not be mistaken.  Our intention is not to abuse, but rather to convince these mercenary operators that they have either mistaken their profession, or have most shamefully neglected to give it that attention and careful study which it requires,  and by improving the public taste, force this conviction upon them.

Moulson’s reply on the following day August 14, 1852;

Let the galled jade wince.”—When a slave is under the lash, his master trying to subdue a spirit of insubordination, the pain sinking deep into his soul, in a spirit of defiance he will often cry, “Oh, you don’t hurt.” Apply the lash, and he piteously cries for mercy.  So is it with some of our Daguerreotypist, for when we, to accommodate a large and respectable class of our citizens, brought down the prices of our pictures, the cry was heard, “it will ruin them,” “nobody will take such things,” &c., they have seen to their great mortification the gallery at 110 Main street crowded from early morn till twilight with the elite of the city; and viewing their own beggarly account of empty benches, cry out for protection by legislative enactment.  Could they produce superior pictures there would be no use for this.  We are delighted with the high encomiums of praise passed upon our productions of the art, and while we continue to receive the applause of the “fair, better part of creation” we shall be content to think, as we are sure thousands of others think, that some of our craft are small per-Simons.  Moulson’s, 110 Main st.

Simons continues his attack on July 29, 1853;

To The Daguerrean Fraternity

When will it be that we like others

Shall form ourselves a band of brothers?

The healing art to keep out quacks

With unity thus wisely acts;

And why not we our interest watch,

Hold up the artist and put down the botch?

Tis easy if we once begin

And show the mass they’re taken in;

Have we no ______ this evil to allay,

To drive them one by one with sticks away;

Or must they ever thus pursue us?

We swarm with skulks as base as Lewis

Trades are forsaken and the arts disgraced

By gawks whose fame is on the dollar based;

They who barns should paint and lumber haul,

Shriek “taken for one dollar” on the wall.

Then some to humbug little more

Stick “patent process” top their door.

All this is done the ignorant to beguile,

When in their sleeve the would be artists smile.

Yes, those who’d acorn the Doctor’s skill

That ignorantly prescribes a pill,

Do quite as bad, nay, even worse,

Encourage him who robs their purse;

Distorts their features, then, with a grace,

Asks you if that is not your face.

The feud continues until May 27, 1854, Moulson’s last advertisement appears in the Daily Dispatch which ran until June 6th.  On June 21, 1854, a constable sale is advertised the following items will be sold on June 23d, 1 mahogany sofa,; 1 pair of card tables; 1 mahogany show case; 1 rocking chair; 5 cane seat chairs; a lot of medallions and daguerrean cases.  Another sale was scheduled for July 11 to sell off all the fixtures at the Daguerrean Gallery.

The second dispute occurs with Jesse H. Whitehurst. Simons advertises On December 2, 1854 that he won the highest award, at the Virginia Mechanics Institute Fair.  Both Whitehurst and Simons did in fact win Silver Medals, but Whitehurst name appears first in the report.  The bantering goes back and forth Whitehurst citing the committees report and Simons going off on a tangent about Whitehurst claim to have won the highest award at the World’s Fair in London a bronze medal and Simons continues to refer to Whitehurst as the “Bronze Medal Man.”

Simons does bring up an interesting point in one of his advertisements, Whitehurst won many awards in New York, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, D. C. wherever he had a studios. Did Whitehurst actually take the image for which the award was given, or did his studio representatives take the image and then he took the credit because he owned the studio and his operators were his employees.

The third argument occurred again in the newspaper but went much further this time. On October 13, 1855, Simons advertises that he is taking Ambrotypes.  On October 15th Peter E. Gibbs responds

To Mr. M. P. Simons—Sir: Unless you discontinue the use of the word Ambrotype to your card. [which is my property as applied to Glass Pictures.] I shall proceed at once to require you to show cause why you infringe on my rights. ….

Simons continues to advertise Ambrotypes and on November 30th the notice appears in the paper.

Infringing a Patent.—In the U. S. Circuit Court, for the eastern district of Virginia. Judge Halyburton presiding, an application has been made by Mr. P. E. Gibbs for an injunction to restrain Mr. M. P. Simons from infringing a patent for making ambrotype pictures, of which Gibbs is assignee.—In consequence of the delay in receiving papers from the Patent Office in Washington, the case was adjourned until Thursday next, when it will be taken up and argued at length, by A. Judson Crane, Esq., for the complainant, and Messrs. August and Randolph for the respondent.

Court delays and Simons continuing to advertise the term Ambrotypes in numerous advertisements, the bantering and baiting from both Gibbs and Simons finely comes to blows as reported in the Dispatch on January 31, 1856.

Spoiling Pictures.—We understand that Messrs. Simons and Gibbs, picture makers, came in collision on Eagle Square yesterday morning, and made an effort to disfigure each others profiles, but were prevented from doing so by the interposition of bystanders, who separated them. These gentlemen have been pitching into each other, through the newspapers, for several weeks.  Which of the two has had the best of that fight, the public can decide.

Possibly a contributing factor for the continued resentment of each other may have been their egos, they both went so far that neither one could back down. In addition to advertising in the local newspapers Simons wrote articles to the Photographic and Fine Arts Journals, “claiming that he had the right to make Ambrotypes and that he was not infringing on Cuttings patent because he used varnish not balsam to seal the two pieces of glass together.[ii]”  In reading through the advertisements one could surmise that he believed as an artist he had the right to make Ambrotypes and that Cuttings patent had no more right to the exclusive use of two glasses than he had to the word Ambrotype.  A side note Whitehurst on January 26, 1856 reports in an advertisement that he had purchased an equal interest with P. E. Gibbs in his Ambrotype patent for the city of Richmond.  Most of the other Galleries in Richmond also advertise that they too are taking Ambrotypes.

On April 25, 1856 Simons last advertisement appears in The Daily Dispatch it ran until May 22, 1856.  On June 26 an advertisement appeared

For Rent.—The family part of the house at present occupied by M. P. Simons, No. 151 Main street. Possession given 27th August next.  On August 15, 1856 an advertisement appears auctioning off oil Paintings and furniture by virtue of a deed of trust to sell at M. P. Simons Daguerrean Rooms, 151 Main Street on August 23 at 10 o’clock a lot of furniture, consisting in part of tables, chairs, carpets, stoves, frames, &c. Also a lot of oil paintings, amongst which are some very valuable.

In conclusion many questions need to be answered. Was Simons’ business failing or was there a reason that he needed to return to Philadelphia?  By all indications his business in Richmond was thriving, reports in the papers indicated that he was very good and had many patrons.  What may have happen was a loss of business due to his disagreement with Gibbs.  An advertisement that appeared on February 2, 1856, stated that Gibb is a born and bred Virginian, which Simons was not.  Another explanation could be a decline in revenue due to competition from the makers of inexpensive images, such as Johnson (no first name) he advertises that he has twelve years’ experience, and has two wagons on the corner of 7th & Broad Streets. Johnson’s advertisements appear in the Dispatch starting on March 28, 1856 and the last advertisement appears on January 28, 1857, he is charging 50 cents for daguerreotypes; Other daguerreotypist working in Richmond in 1856 were E. M. Powers who is charging $1; Daniel Bendann advertises that his pictures are cheaper than anywhere else, but does not specify a specific price; Powers & Duke are making 50 cent daguerreotypes; William A. Pratt was not doing a lot of advertising and on May 17, 1856 announces that he now has the assistance of Sanxay & Chalmers and proceeds to go to Europe.  In an advertisement dated November 28, 1856 Sanxay & Chalmers announce that they had purchased the business from Pratt on May 5.  A. W. Osborne and Peter E. Gibbs do not list prices in their advertisements.  Where Pratt, Simons, and Whitehurst; do not list prices in their advertisements they are thought to be the elite photographers in Richmond.  By October of 1856 Albert Litch is running the Whitehurst Gallery in Richmond and by April of 1857 Whitehurst is no longer operating there, later in year Litch has also left.

In-fighting and disagreements between photographers is not uncommon Southworth and Whipple in Boston, Mass.; Allen and Van Alstin in Worcester, Mass.; Allen & Partridge in Wheeling, Va. and Tyler & Company where ever they had a presence, to name only a few.

[i] At this time it is not possible to confirm his identity. There are two General Lopez that are found when doing an internet search, but without the image or more information it is only speculation that either man is the correct General.  They are Antonio Lopes de Santa Anna, (1794-1876) Mexican President and General; and General Narciso Lopez (1797-1851) who was most notably known for his invasion of Cuba in 1850, he was defeated and retreated to Key West, he returned again in 1851 with the same results, he and his men were once again defeated, this time they were captured and most were executed.

[ii] The Ambrotype : a misunderstood history of a nineteenth century photographic process. By Sarah Janille Templeton.