Tag Archives: Victorian Photographs

Howard & Louise Bantes

This is a nineteenth century photograph (but only just) from the studio of Borman and Johnson of Main Street, Danbury in Connecticut. Before Norman and Johnson took over, the studio belonged to a certain Mr Blackman. On the reverse, the names of the two children are listed as A Howard Bantes, age 12; and Louise Rosina Bantes, age 5. The date “Xmas 1899” is also inscribed.

Oh Susanna – It’s Time To Go Back Home

On the reverse of this Victorian Cabinet Card is written the following:  “My Grandmother (Susanna), Dad in black velvet suit, Uncle Dewi next, Uncle Arthur on his Mother’s left, Uncle Tom leaning against her”. As so often with these Victorian studio cards, I have no idea who all these people are, and there is something rather sad about the fact that the photograph is in my collection rather than gracing the mantelpiece of one of Susanna’s relatives. The photograph comes from the studio of A. W. Sargent of Cardiff. If there is anyone out there who wants to claim these people as their own, just get in touch and I will be happy to re-unite them with their family.

E.M. At 17

I can find no record of any Victorian photographer called “A. Lowe” who was based in Melton – indeed I am not even sure where Melton is, unless it is a shortened form of Melton Mowbray. On the reverse of this little Carte De Visite is written, “E.M. 17 Yrs 1900”. As with all such old photographs of unknown subjects, one is left with the question – what happened to her, what life lay ahead?

Transcending Silver Salts In Hebden Bridge

A good vintage photograph is one in which the personality of the subject being photographed somehow transcends the chemical process of silver salts and hypo fixer, and flows straight off the pasteboard card. This photograph of an unknown woman from the Hebden Bridge studio of Crossley Westerman is one such photograph. Westerman established his “Electric and Daylight Studio” in Hebden Bridge in 1892, and quickly acquired a reputation for high quality portrait work. His daughter Ada eventually ran the studio and shop and in 1921 she employed a young apprentice photographer, a local girl, Alice Longstaff. Alice became a very accomplished photographer, and during a long career (she took over the studio in 1936 and ran it until her death in 1992) she produced a extensive collection of work. The story of Alice Longstaff is told in a book, “Alice’s Album” by Issy Shannon and Frank Woolrych, and there are many examples of the work of both Crossley Westerman and Alice Longstaff on-line. This particular photograph is probably too early to be the work of Alice Longstaff, but whoever took it, it is a piece of work to be proud of.

20 Images : 3. Booth Denton – The Grocer Of Mirfield

Booth Denton of Knowle, Mirfield

If you spend your life digging in the genealogical allotments of ephemera, you learn to welcome an unusual name. You can keep your “John Smiths” and your “Tom Browns” : give me a “Roderick Trencheon-Philpotts” any day. Or, more specifically, give me a Booth Denton – which is the name pencilled-in on the reverse of this Victorian Cabinet Card. I bought it because it comes from a local Huddersfield studio (Sellman & Co), and because it features a beard you ignore at your peril. A little spade work reveals that Booth Denton was a grocer from Mirfield (a few miles to the east of where I live) who was born in 1831 and died in 1894. He not only weighed out the tea, and parcelled up the cheddar cheese, he was also a bit of a pillar of the local community, who sought election to the local Board of Guardians on at least one occasion. He looks a formidable character – you wouldn’t be too keen on going back to the shop to complain that your butter had gone rancid, or your flour had mouse droppings in it.

Cabinet Card (c.1880) : Sellman & Co, Huddersfield

A Genius Too Great For Slaithwaite

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Unknown Man In A Check Suit : J J E Mayall

I have a large box of Victorian studio photographs at home, and I am slowly working my way through them: looking at them, scanning them, and seeing where they take me. Today they took me on a fascinating trans-continental journey in the company of John Jabez Edwin Mayall, pioneer photographer, trans-Atlantic entrepreneur, and friend of the rich and famous. If that wasn’t enough he was brought up in Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield and for a short time he was landlord of the local Star Inn!
He was born in 1813 in Oldham, just over the border in Lancashire, but the family moved to the Linthwaite and Slaithwaite area of Huddersfield when John was still a young child. His father was a manufacturing chemist who specialised in producing dyes for the textile industry, and young John moved into the business and built up a degree of expertise in chemistry. It is said that by his mid 20s he had made a fortune, and by his early thirties he had lost it. He fell in love with the daughter of the local innkeeper and married her, and eventually took over the running of the inn, but this turned out to be an unsuccessful enterprise as he seems to have directed his energies primarily to teaching his customers mathematics and latin rather than selling pints of ale.
It appears that neither the role of a manufacturing chemist nor that of a publican in the Colne Valley was for him, and writing in his memoirs some years later, the local vicar, Cannon Charles Hulbert, commented: “Slaithwaite was scarcely a sufficient sphere for his genius and he emigrated to the United States, where he took up the then infant Art of Photography; which he much improved by his experiments and discoveries“.
Mayall first went to America in 1842 and for the next few years he seems to have split his time between Britain and America, establishing photographic studios in both Manchester and Philadelphia, and being in the forefront of technological development in the infant science of photography. He lectured, he wrote articles, and he saw himself as both an artist and a photographer, exploring the boundaries between traditional art and the new daguerreotype process. By the end of 1846 he was back in Britain establishing a daguerreotype studio and institute on the Strand in London.
Mayall became a friend of the famous painter, J M W Turner, and they shared an interest in the artistic potential of photography and, in particular, its ability to portray light variations. During the 1850s,  he embarked on a series of daguerreotype portraits of the rich and famous (including Charles Dickens) and also began to experiment with the new Carte de Visite format. In 1860 he was invited to photograph the Royal Family, and he was able to publish the first ever series of Carte de Visites featuring Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children.
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In 1864, Mayall moved from London to Brighton – leaving the London Studios under the direction of his son – and established a new photographic studio in King’s Road. It is from this period that the small Carte de Visite of an unknown man in a check suit dates. Mayall spent the rest of his life on the South Coast before dying early in 1901 – within a few weeks of the Queen he had famously photographed forty years earlier.

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My thanks to the unknown man in the check suit for taking me on such a fascinating journey.

Thomas Boxell Of Brighton …

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This small photograph of a seated woman is the work of a Victorian photographer called Thomas Boxell, who – at the time this photograph was taken in the late 1870s – was operating out of a studio in Pickering, Yorkshire. The story of Thomas Boxell is typical of so many of the semi-itinerant studio photographers of the Victorian portrait era: pioneers of a new art and industry who moved from town to town to increasingly spread the wonders of photography to more and more people. Their professional equipment – camera, backdrops, lighting – was reasonably portable and therefore such photographers would often move their business to take advantage of new markets.

Thomas Boxell was born in Brighton in 1847, the son of a tailor. Within three years of his birth, the family were resident in the Brighton Workhouse, but two of his uncles had become photographers in Brighton, and eventually Thomas was able to get a job with them and learn his trade. During the 1860s and 1870s he moved around the country making a living as a studio photographer – including periods in both Halifax and Pickering – before settling in the Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough. His photographic business was eventually taken over by two of his sons, and, on retirement, Thomas moved to live with his daughter in Whitby, where he died in 1939.

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