Wednesday 27 February 2013

Pitbull in the Snow

 A sweet brindle coloured Pitbull, sits patiently at the feet of his owner. The whole scene in the photograph has been carefully decorated to resemble a wintery outdoor view - with a snow scene on the painted studio backdrop, a thick wool material on the ground (or perhaps pale sand?) laid to resemble snow, and the gentleman posed wearing a thick winter coat.

The dog wears an elaborate leather collar, with round studs alternated with pairs of small pointy studs and a big ring at the front. If you look carefully to the left hand side you can see a little padlock which fastens the collar closed.

This photograph was taken in Sanford, Maine, USA by C. R. Smith. It has been difficult to find anything out about this studio. Searching through the 1900 & 1910 US Federal Census records, the only likely candidates for the identity of C. R. Smith in Sandford, is Celia R Smith, wife of William E Smith, house painter. If anyone does have any more information on the Studio of C. R. Smith I would love to hear it (click on the census image below for a larger view).

Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Sanford, York, Maine; Roll: T624_548; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0262; FHL microfilm: 1374561.


Monday 25 February 2013

Spaniel from The Isle of Wight

A father and son? (with a faithful spaniel). There is certainly a family resemblence between these two gentlemen - in hairline, build and facial hair. This photograph was taken at the Studio of John Brown and John George Wheeler at Wilton House, High Street, West Cowes, Isle of Wight. As well as their photographic work the pair painted miniatures and local views, an example of which can be seen here.

Brown and Wheeler were working together at Wilton House from 1867 to approximately 1875, so we can date this photograph to this time frame. The simple photograph mount and thin cardstock would put this photograph in the earlier part of these dates.

A Short Family History for John George Wheeler

Born in Camberwell John worked as a Teacher at a private school before becoming a photographer, as you can see below in the 1861 Census. John had 5 children, 3 of which were born in Winchester between c1853-1858. It appears that the family moved to the island in c1859.

Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1861.

John was still working as a photographer at the age of 53 according to the 1881 Census. He died aged 77 in 1905, he was buried on February the 28th (on the same date that his wife Sophia had been buried in 1894.)


Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1881.  


Tuesday 19 February 2013

Civil War Dalmatian

 This photograph is a first for this website - a tintype. What's a tintype? I hear you asking. A tintype (which can also be know as a melainotype or ferrotype) is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal. A very underexposed negative image is produced on a thin iron plate, lacquered or otherwise darkened, and coated with a collodion photographic emulsion. Since in a negative image the darker portions of the subject appear lighter, or in this case more transparent, the dark background gives the resulting image the appearance of a positive. So despite the name there is no tin in a tintype! The process is quite hard to visualize but this great video shows you how a tintype is made.

We can date this photograph pretty accurately because of the stamp on the reverse. At the start of the American Civil War the Revenue Act of 1862 was passed by the Union goverment. This was a tax on "luxury goods" such as playing cards and telegrams. By 1864 with money for the war running out Congress passed an act which also taxed photographs. Photographers were required to collect the tax, apply the stamp showing that the tax had been paid, and then cancel the stamp by initialing and dating it.

 The 2 cent stamp on this tintype tells us that the sitters originally paid 25 cents for this photograph. By 1865 the tax was repealed on photographs, so this tintype was made between 1864 and 1865.

I believe this could be one of the earliest photographic depictions of a Dalmatian that exists. The dog bears a striking similarity of Dalmatian's of the period.

A cropped eared Dalmatian depicted in The Dog in Health and Disease by John Henry Walsh, 1859

Another cropped eared Dalmatian painted by T. Goetz in 1853


Saturday 9 February 2013

The New Zealand Newfoundland

 In this photograph a young women poses with her large Newfoundland dog at her feet. Newfoundland's take their name from the island of Newfoundland (now part of Canada) where they were originally bred to work for fishermen.

A Newfoundland in John Bigland's 1884 book A Natural History of Animals

The black and white variety of Newfoundland's are know as "Landseer" dogs after the British painter Sir Edwin Landseer. Landseer's 1831 painting A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society (which is shown below) is the most famous representation of the breed in black and white.

Author Robert Leighton describes the Landseer Newfoundland in 1910 as "a dog of great beauty, dignity, and benevolence of character, showing in its eyes an almost human pathos."

My photograph was taken by the Clarke Brothers at their "Royal Fine Art Photographic Gallery" in Auckland, New Zealand. The Brothers went into business together in 1873 after a long seven years of training under photographer Mr Crombie as you can see in the advert that they took out in the Auckland Star Newspaper (shown below - click on the image to enlarge)

It was not long before the brothers needed extra assistance as their business grew. As you can see in this "wanted" advert (shown below - click on the image to enlarge)

                          An advertisement for the Clarke Brothers in the New Zealand Herald, 12th September 1879

 The reverse of the photograph, depicting a Wet-plate camera and the motto Light & Truth

You can see some more photographs by the Clarke Brothers here in the Auckland Council Library, and here on a blog about Early New Zealand photographers.

  • The Clarke Brothers in the Australasian Federal Directory of Commerce, Trades and Professions, 1887
  • The Clarke Brothers in Auckland Star, Volume 1089, Issue 1089, 19 July 1873, Page 1
  • The Clarke Brothers in Auckland Star, Volume X, Issue 2774, 17 March 1879, Page 3
  • The Clarke Brothers in Otago Daily Times , Issue 6991, 12 July 1884, Page 4 
  • The Clarke Brothers in Otago Daily Times , Issue 7047, 16 September 1884, Page 4  
  • Example of a wet-plate camera on Camera-wiki
  • A Natural History of Animals by John Bigland, 1844
  • Dogs and All About Them, by Robert Leighton, 1910

Friday 1 February 2013

The Pug and The Cook

Here we have an example of an "occupational" photograph. It was not often that people were photographed in their work clothing, what we have here is a Cook who was proud enough of his profession to have his portrait taken in his white uniform. He is accompanied by his Pug who lies on the table beside him.

We can but speculate on the identity of the fine restaurant or high class home that this gentlemen worked at. However, we do know a little about the photographer - E. W. Procktor.

Edwin William Procktor was born in Stepney in 1839. He had a wife Elizabeth and they has two sons and two daughters together. The Cook and his Pug were photographed at Edwin's studio at 90 Edgware Road London. This studio was run by Edwin from 1873 until his death in 1881, after which the Studio was taken over by Elizabeth who was resident photographer until the studio closed in 1889.

The reverse of the photograph