Tag Archives: Smith & Vannerson

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…”