Posted August 2015 in Hand Cameras
Presenting a Summer idyll on the River Thames.
Posted July 2015 in Childhood Photography, New Additions
Posted May 2015 in Alternate Processes, History of Photography, Scientific Photography
Spring, that time of rebirth for the temperate regions of the world, is thankfully showing itself off again. With new growth on trees, flowers showing off and the lingering sweet smells of airborne pollen, these are but a few signs of the season.
As children, our very first “photographs” joyously executed in winter climes would have taken the form of angelic impressions left in the newly fallen snow, or tropical: designs left on sandy seashores.
Our very own Pencils of Nature.
An impression of ourselves for sure, but also quickly obliterated-or not, like nature herself. Photography in this form has in a way been part of Earth’s plant and animal fossil record stretching back millions of years, with Mankind’s permanent efforts barely stretching back to the early 19th Century.
Enjoy this gallery of images celebrating the beauty of flora. From original Nature Prints ca. 1775-1825: dried leaves impressed into damp paper after being hand-coated with carbon from a candle or oil lamp; to mosaic red flowers adorning the head of a Roman goddess imagined by an artist around 250 A.D. transcribed and copied by the radical Talbotype process and published in 1850; to delicate British seaweeds copied into lead and printed 1859-60 to modern examples still nearly a century old: six silhouetted jewels ca. 1925 from the time photographic hobbyists gazed in wonderment at their first efforts emerging from developer trays in home darkrooms.
Posted April 2015 in History of Photography, New Additions, Typography
In the public consciousness at least, Hawaii has probably not changed too much in the past 100 years. By this I mean an island chain of magnificent tropical beauty, mystery, and earthly delights with a strong emphasis on the natural world being the preferred vision for this place for many of us; with the realities of crime, squalor and all the other maladies undoubtedly present on some scale cast aside for the sake of bliss. You see, in this chaotic world, people need and want to believe utopia by the name Hawaii must exist.
Photographer Alfred Richard Gurrey Jr. believed in that place. A Hawaiian transplant from San Francisco at the turn of the 20th Century, his beautiful photographs of the islands included in the self-published book Idyls of Hawaii ca. 1910-1920 now on this website is aptly titled, even if idyll is now spelled with two ls in the 21st. A truly renaissance man of the arts, his vision of beauty for a place we may never visit but hope to someday cannot help but give us all the hope we need in this hectic and often indifferent world- one where the idea of Hawaii can always be within reach. -David Spencer
Want to see more of this special place from long ago? click here
Posted March 2015 in New Additions, Significant Photographs
P.T. Barnum gave me permission. A recent news item that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus would send their remaining ponderous performing pachyderms to a Florida retirement home by 2018 got me to thinking recently. Did I not possess in my archive one very old mysterious photograph of a stuffed elephant? Sure enough, I did.
Looks kinda important.
Bunch of people standing outside a building… with a really big stuffed elephant.
Now to some Google “research”.
As in: “Jumbo was the greatest circus attraction in American history.” (1.)
So now I’m more interested in that old photo. But then it dawns on me: several years ago, I had purchased a trove of material taken by an amateur photographer named Charles Rollins Tucker. Never heard of him? Tufts College. Class of 1891. Bachelor of Philosophy with specialties in chemistry and physics, then a Master of Arts from the same institution in 1894. From Stoughton, Massachusetts, Tucker first resided in East Hall (room 26) on the Tufts campus after first matriculating in the Fall of 1887. Trust me. I know a great deal more, and eventually, time willing, you will too. Several photographs of his daughter Dorothy, (also a Tufts graduate) including “Girl with Kodak“ and an earlier study of her photographing her doll have been hiding in plain site on this website for several years now, and I eventually hope to show the progression of her growing up in a wonderful series of images taken by her father.
But now back to the main attraction, that old photograph. Like I said, Barnum would approve.
Jumbo, a word synonymous with someone or something very large or huge-especially so in the American lexicon, was an African elephant of immense proportions. According to Wikipedia, he was also the first “international animal superstar” after showman Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891) purchased him from the London Zoo in 1882 for $10,000. However, in September of 1885, after entertaining North American circus audiences for a bit more than 3 years, he came to an inglorious end after being accidentally struck by a freight train after a Canadian performance.
Barnum being Barnum, a little thing like death was certainly not going to get in the way of Jumbo thrilling audiences while continuing to replenish his masters coffers- albeit in a more restrained and static way. An early trustee and munificent benefactor of the school, he gave it $55,000 in 1882 for the establishment of the Barnum Museum of Natural History on the campus, which was completed by 1884. Housing a museum of natural history showcasing a multitude of stuffed circus and zoological animal specimens as well as laboratories and classrooms, arrangements for Jumbo’s remains had been planned even while he was still alive. Overseeing the museum was John Marshall, the first professor of natural history at the school, who had presciently written to Henry A. Ward, Barnum’s taxidermist extraordinaire and owner of the “Natural Science Establishment” in Rochester, N.Y. two weeks before Jumbo’s death:
College Hill. Sep 1. 1885.
Dear Prof. Ward.
We fully expect to have the skin of Jumbo when he dies. Jumbo was excepted when the arrangement was made with the Smithsonian. I should not consider the Barnum Museum complete without this noble animal. It would be the greatest ornament that we could place in the Vestibule, near Mr. Barnum’s bust. Our front door to the Museum is [blank] feet high. You can judge whether the stuffed Jumbo would go in. It is wide enough, I think. Probably it would be necessary to stuff the skin in the vestibule. I have not decided upon the skeleton yet but will endeavor to let you know soon. - I think your offer to Mr. Barnum was $75 in exchange or $50 in money. Would you object to letting the $50 go towards the skulls? -
Yours very truly.
John P. Marshall (2.)
After Jumbo’s demise, Ward was dispatched to Canada in order to secure the animal’s remains, not an easy task. Arriving two days after the accident on Sept. 17, souvenir seekers had to be kept at bay by police:
In addition to the problem of size, Jumbo’s fame caused added complications. Relic seekers had done some damage before Ward arrived, and a policeman had been put on guard to prevent further mutilation. It took Ward, his assistants, and half a dozen butchers from St. Thomas, two days to dissect the elephant and prepare the hide and skeleton for shipment. The hide weighed 1,538 pounds, the bones 2,400 pounds. Coins of many kinds were found in Jumbo’s stomach, and Ward was quoted as having said that “Jumbo was a bank all by himself.” His stomach also contained rivets, a bunch of keys on a ring, a policeman’s whistle, and various ornaments. (3.)
By March of the following year, after his skin had been tanned and “scraped to a uniform thickness and nailed to a huge wooden framework with 74,480 nails”, (4.) Ward’s Natural Science Establishment delivered two finished mounts of Jumbo to Barnum at a reported cost of $1200.00: (5.) one of his skeleton and another for his hide. This stuffed version of Jumbo, after two additional years of touring with The Greatest Show on Earth, eventually made its’ way to Medford and the college via train after Barnum made the decision to (mostly) “retire” him from traveling circus life.
A Rare Survivor
With this mounted cabinet card seemingly the only photographic evidence of his arrival on campus, it must have been quite a sight to see all the steps taken to safely transport Jumbo by train, ferryboat and horse-drawn carriage on his final journey to Tufts. Beginning on Friday, March 29 from his winter home in Bridgeport, CT , Jumbo finally arrived in front of the Barnum museum at the college on Wednesday, April 3, 1889, with the final leg of the journey described as:
…” he was hauled to Tufts by a double team of horses. When that team proved unable to pull him up College Hill, more than 50 Tufts professors and students, aided by some local boys, completed the task.” (6.)
An alternate dispatch from 1888 Tufts graduate Julien C. Edgerly, (1865-1913) a reporter and news editor for the Boston Daily Globe newspaper who witnessed the famed elephants arrival on campus, wrote an article published in the edition for Thursday, April 4, 1889, illustrated by a small woodcut of the mounted cabinet card seen here. Conclusive proof it was taken by Tufts student Charles Rollins Tucker-albeit without being named directly-was included in Edgerly’s article. Some excerpts:
The mounted skin of Jumbo this morning stands in front of the museum on the top of College hill, as shown in the accompanying cuts, one of which shows the animal with a man at his side to give by contrast an idea of his size, and the other shows both Jumbo and the building which, barring the cadence of fortune, is destined to be his last long home. …
After Jumbo made his final journey, pulled by 6 horses up College Hill to the front doors of the Barnum Museum, the carriage he was riding on was “taken apart and drawn away.” … and:
The canvas coverings were removed to allow a student photographer to transfer his image to the plate of the camera. Several views were taken, some with ambitious young men upon the great beast’s back. Then the coverings were replaced and he will stand as lone sentinel till today when he will be placed inside the museum. He will occupy the centre of the large front room, facing the entrance. (7.)
Professor Marshall, writing in the Annual Report of the President of Tufts College for 1889, also gave an interesting account of Jumbo’s arrival that day, commenting Jumbo had increased visitors to the museum among other observations:
Jumbo was brought to the Barnum Museum on Fast Day of the present year, and moved into the vestibule the following day. All the wood-work was removed from the great arch of the portico, leaving barely room for the entrance of the largest mounted elephant of modern times. It will be taken away, September 20, to be exhibited in London during the coming winter. About the first of April of next year, it will become a permanent attraction of the Museum. During the five months of its exhibition here the number of visitors to the Museum was largely increased. Your attention is again respectfully invited to the need of additional cases for the proper exhibition of specimens which have been accumulating during the past two years.
JOHN P. MARSHALL,
Director. Tufts College,
September 19, 1889. (8.)
Picking up the Ashes
Jumbo has given back to Tufts, no pun intended, in a Huge way. Period accounts state he was immediately adopted as the school’s new mascot shortly after his arrival in 1889 and continues in that role today at Tufts University. The school website, semantics aside, brags Jumbo is the “only college mascot found in Webster’s Dictionary.” But alas, Jumbo endured a second death, this time by fire in 1975, when faulty wiring lead to a conflagration that gutted the 1884 Barnum museum. But all was not lost. Fortunately, the school’s archives held a section of Jumbo’s tail removed earlier because of students continual penchant for tugging on it, and a university staff member, while the rubble was still smoldering, had the smarts to scoop up some of his ashes that now reside in a Skippy peanut butter jar at the school. (nice trivia question- it’s secured with a Peter Pan Crunchy brand lid) Members of the sports teams on campus are said to rub this jar for good luck before an important game, and students indelible memories of college life at Tufts have been published every year since 1917 in the “Jumbo” yearbook.
With reporter Julien Edgerly’s account of a Tufts student photographer recording Jumbo for posterity in front of the museum on April 3, 1889, my argument and “Conclusive proof” Charles Rollins Tucker was that author working with Edgerly seems credible. For comparison, the Tufts archives holds a photograph dated 1889 showing Jumbo later on exhibit inside the museum credited to noted marine photographer N. L. Stebbins. (Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins-1847-1922) But given Jumbo’s immense fame, why is there no back-mark or other attribution for Stebbins for this exterior view of Jumbo? Surely, like one of his famous yachting studies, Stebbins would have insisted on it!
On his way to becoming a fine pictorialist photographer in the early 20th Century, Charles Tucker took a series of architectural photographs that survive in this archive which further gives credibility to his being responsible for the 1889 exterior Jumbo photograph. These include several examples seen above showing (ca. 1890-95) one of architect Henry Hobson Richardson’s masterpieces, the Thomas Crane Public Library (built 1882) located in Quincy, south of Boston. This is a gelatin silver mounted cabinet card using the same card-stock as the Jumbo photograph as well as a variant mounted cyanotype on a different paper stock. Finally, when he finished with his masters degree in late 1894 at Tufts, Tucker became sub-master until 1896 at Quincy High School- the same town as Richardson’s library. Two of his photographic views of this additionally survive, with a card-mounted, signed cyanotype by him dated 1896 seen here.
1. excerpt: Step Right Up! : Bob Brooke presents the history of the circus in America : from: History Magazine: October/November 2001 issue: online version accessed March, 2015.
2. excerpt: Jumbo: by John R. Russell: in: University of Rochester Library Bulletin: vol. III, no. 1: Fall, 1947: River Campus Libraries online resource accessed March, 2015
4. excerpt: Jumbo: Here and There at Tufts: Medford: Tufts College: Lewis Doane, Editor-in-chief: 1907: p. 44
5. excerpt: Jumbo: by John R. Russell: in: University of Rochester Library Bulletin: vol. III, no. 1: Fall, 1947: River Campus Libraries online resource accessed March, 2015
6. excerpt: Jumbo Matriculates: from: An Elephant’s Tale: Susan Wilson, J69, G75: Tufts online Magazine: Spring, 2002
7. The Boston Daily Globe: Thursday, April 4, 1889: p. 4
8. excerpt: Annual Report of the President of Tufts College: Boston: 1889: p. 36
Posted March 2015 in Advertising, Childhood Photography, Engraving, Publishing, Significant Photographers, Typography
Surreal would be a good word for it. On the evening of Friday, November 4, 1904, the touring company of the Broadway flop Eben Holden made its way to a performance at a building called the Auditorium on S. 2nd Street in downtown Newark, Ohio.
Most likely in attendance that night? Clarence Hudson White, (1871-1925) the world-renowned pictorialist photographer who was a recent founding member of the American Photo-Secession and current Newark resident. Only two years earlier, he had taken a series of photographs using his Newark neighbors as models for a special edition of Eben Holden that had been made into this very play.
Written by American journalist and author Irving Bacheller, (1859-1950) the story is a classic rags to riches tale that captivated the masses in the new American century when first published in July of 1900, eventually selling over 1 million copies. The setting at the beginning of the novel is the “North Country” of Northern Vermont , the Adirondack’s and St. Lawrence River Valley of the 1840’s and 1850’s. It tells the coming of age story of William Brower, orphaned at the age of six after his parents and older brother accidentally drowned as well as his relationship with Eben Holden, a farm hand who rescued “Willy” from the cruel fate of an orphanage
But this post is part collecting story, a kind of hunt for treasure, or “spondoolix” as “Uncle Eb” would say in one chapter-his country ways and lack of education brought into sharper focus for the reader by Bacheller’s liberal usage of Holden’s spoken dialect.
The Hunt is on
I consider myself a newbie collector, but one of the first things I put on my list 15 years ago when I first started out was one particular impression of Eben Holden rumored to have been illustrated by hand-pulled photogravures by White, the aforementioned famous photographer.
My curiosity had been piqued after seeing the volume listed in several bibliographies, typically stating the 1900 date. One such entry in author Christian A. Peterson’s Annotated Bibliography on Pictorial Photography did give me hope the work existed, even though finding one in the internet age would prove to be quite the challenge:
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, holds what is probably a unique copy of this book, comprised of the Lothrop text pages bound in leather, with an inscription by White and ten photogravure illustrations by him, including the portrait of Holden. (1.)
Because the novel had been such a success a century earlier, the reality of upwards of 500 vintage copies for sale on the web at any one time was daunting. My course of action however was simple, and eventually effective: send out a mass number of emails to every bookseller in the U.S. listing a copy from a suspect 1901 edition I had honed in on inquiring if it contained any photographic illustrations.
And so eventually luck prevailed. In 2007, a bookseller in Idaho finally said yes, and a bucket item was now on my library shelf. But that was not the end of it, as Alice would say, things got Curiouser and Curiouser! Because collectors never stop looking, I soon stumbled upon a CT bookseller who knew exactly the significance of the White-illustrated impression, with an astronomical asking price. An excerpt from his description of the work stated:
Elusive and highly desirable work, absent from almost all museum and library collections devoted to photography, and one of only a very few photographically illustrated books produced by a leading member of the Stieglitz circle at the height of the Photo-Secession. (2.)
And so I sucked it in and didn’t purchase the second copy, which he told me he had originally purchased in Marlborough, NH. Eventually he sold it to a European collection, but I’ve since visited him several times and made a few purchases over the years, something I highly recommend rather than doing everything through e-commerce.
But then lighting struck again five years ago, when I purchased a second copy which had been personally inscribed by the author in 1911 to John A. Dix, then governor of New York state.
Curiouser? The first copy, fourth edition imprint stated Two Hundred and Sixty-fifth Thousand, March 12, 1901 and the second copy was for Two Hundred and Seventieth Thousand, September 18, 1903.
Knowing the book now existed in multiple impressions with the Clarence White photogravures was perplexing to me at first, but I’m certain the inclusion of the White photographs was intended by the publisher Lothrop for a more discriminating audience, so its assumed they had the monetary incentive to publish more than the one impression-even with the fickleness and extra work necessary to bind an edition with hand-pulled gravures.
To this end, my research in preparing this post discovered 1901 to be the year Clarence White was first commissioned by the Boston publisher to illustrate a new edition of Eben Holden. The intended publication date of very late 1902 was designed to coincide with the lucrative holiday sales season. Even with the move to e-books in our modern age, publishers earn good money issuing ornate and extra-illustrated editions during this time of year catering to the once a year book buyer and bibliophile alike.
Known as the Edition de luxe, this edition of Eben Holden with the White photogravures priced at $2.00 somehow managed to miss the late 1902 holiday sales season. The curious fact of the inclusion of the imprint for March 12, 1901 on the limitation page and White’s signature including the year 02 on many of the 12 plates in the published work was basic economics for publisher Lothrop-they simply used existing leaves, including the old limitation pages from current stock when it was eventually released for sale to bookstores in 1903.
This was by no means unprecedented by Lothrop, or other large publishing houses of the era, as they would have set aside a certain number of unbound sheets from a best-selling work for limited impressions featuring artwork. The first illustrated edition of Eben Holden featured halftone photographs taken by Joseph Byron from the Broadway production of the same name hadn’t even debuted until Oct. 28 of 1901. This also used the March 12, 1901 imprint date. Known as the Dramatic Edition, it was described in the trade monthly The Bookseller:
”An illustrated edition of Eben Holden has been recently published called the Dramatic edition. It contains seven pictures of the play as it appeared in New York and a fine portrait of the author.” (3.)
Published in 1903
Finally, with the eventual tenth imprint of the fourth edition stating Two Hundred and Seventieth Thousand, September 18, 1903, (6.) the makeup of the Edition de luxe was that of a small 8vo Octavo instead of the common edition, a 12mo Duodecimo. The inclusion of 12 fine, hand-pulled photogravure plates by White seen here is another matter altogether. For one, other than White’s autograph-appearing often (and faintly) in the lower left hand corner of each plate image as CH White 02, the Edition de luxe neglects to give him any printed credit for the photographs nor the atelier who printed them. This is very surprising for a special edition. Typically, there would at the very least be a separate illustrations page noting titles and page numbers at the front of a similar volume, but for whatever reason they were not included.
Stieglitz plays Go Between
With Eben Holden’s great success, the dramatization of the novel on the Broadway stage was logical for its day-especially since the Cinema was not an option because of the infancy of the medium. Lothrop’s piggy-backing of the work through this Dramatic edition, even by the “flop” standard of 49 performances, was but one way of keeping the work “fresh”- even a full year after initial publication. At some point late in 1901, a result perhaps of someone seeing the play on Broadway or believing White’s work would lend itself nicely to a series of photographic illustrations, the Boston publisher-perhaps through an association with Fred Holland Day (who lived in nearby Norwood where the Norwood Press printed books for Lothrop) or Alfred Stieglitz in New York-gave White the commission for its second illustrated edition of the novel.
Ultimately, Stieglitz’s publishing background, connections and established relationship with White through his editorship of Camera Notes, his new involvement with Camera Work, as well as his having his own work exhibited in an early salon of pictorial photography in Newark Ohio in late 1900 and other exhibitions made Stieglitz a believer in White’s potential as an illustrator:
“What is especially fascinating, however, is what occurs when White is commissioned, as he was in 1901, to take up literary illustration himself. Through the assistance of Stieglitz, White received the commission to illustrate a new edition of the novel Eben Holden by Irving Bacheller. ( 4. )
And much later, the photographer’s grandson Maynard Pressley White commented about a bit of reluctance on his grandfather’s part in dealing with Lothrop as part of his Ph.D. dissertation in 1975:
“The correspondence with Stieglitz concerning the illustrations for Eben Holden is revealing of his character as well as Stieglitz informed him that he suffered from no such timidity and would—and indeed did—handle the matter with the publishers, as it turned out, to the advantage of White.” (5.)
John Andrew & Son: founded in Boston: 1852
In giving credit to White and the firm that printed his photographs as gravures, a bit of elucidation seems in order to set things straight. Upon close inspection of these plates along with many others by Boston’s John Andrew & Son from the same time frame, I feel confident giving the Andrew firm credit for printing them. This is based on a near exact match in the script font used for the plate titles in the de luxe edition of Eben Holden as well as those plates credited to the firm appearing in the Photographic Times Bulletin from 1902-04.
I’ve included examples of the font as a comparison with this post. Another exact match is the same plate paper was used for both publications: this is very revealing especially on the plate verso where a very fine stipple pattern can be seen on the paper surface of the cream-colored plate paper. Perhaps the strongest association with the John Andrew atelier and the Norwood Press (which printed the de luxe edition) emerged in my research on business associations with some of the individual companies that came together in 1894 when that press was formed. These included J.S. Cushing & Co., (for composition and typesetting) Berwick & Smith Co., (for presswork) and E. Fleming & Co. (for binding). Beginning around 1890, all of these firms along with John Andrew were under one roof as part of the brand new Dana Estes & Company publishing house buildings on Summer Street in Boston.
With the move to Norwood in 1894, the Andrew atelier stayed behind in Boston at 196 Summer St. but continued to provide fine photo engraving work to the major publishing houses in Boston and New York. Known today for printing many of the photogravure plates beginning in 1907 for the monumental Edward Sheriff Curtis work The North American Indian, the firm sometime in the first decade of the 20th Century became a department of the Suffolk Engraving & Electrotyping Co. of Boston with offices at 394 Atlantic Ave.
Named after John Andrew, (1815-1870) a wood engraver born in England who immigrated to Boston where he worked with fellow engraver Andrew Filmer, the firm eventually made the transition to photo engraving, including the half tone and photogravure processes. Andrew’s son George T. Andrew succeeded his father at the business, located at 196 Summer St. An 1892 overview of the firm from the volume Picturesque Hampden gives some background:
JOHN ANDREW & SON COMPANY.
ENGRAVERS AND MAKERS OF FINE BOOKS, BOSTON MASS.
If we go back a few years, we find that in illustrating books and magazines wood and steel engraving were about the only methods available. Nor could steel engraving have any wide use on account of the great expense of printing. Ever since its start, in 1852, the firm, now styled the John Andrew & Son Company, has held a prominent place among illustrators, especially in work of the finest grades. Their reputation was made in the first place as engravers on wood, but the discovery of delicate chemical and mechanical processes has in later years led them to also take the photo-engraving and half-tone work which has at present such wide use and popularity. In this field they do work for some of the best magazines and books published in this country. In what they undertake they strive not so much to do the cheapest work in price as the best work in quality. Quite recently the firm has taken up the photo-gravure process in addition to those spoken of above. The industry we describe is not located in Hampden county, but the mention here is not inappropriate as the engraving of our pen and ink pictures was done almost wholly by this firm. Their address is 196 Summer street, Boston.
Photographic Illustration: a New Outlet
A newspaper clipping, believed to be from the Newark Daily Advocate in the Clarence Hudson White clipping file at the Newark, OH public library, includes the following undated (but 1903) story discussing Eben Holden in passing while concentrating on a new commission that inevitably came from it: costume-piece photographs by White similar to those he did for Lothrop for author Clara Morris’s story published in McClure’s magazine in February, 1904 entitled “Beneath the Wrinkle”:
PICTURES From Real Life by Clarence White
Forwarded On Order to a New York Magazine-Local Artist’s Latest Work.
Mr. Clarence White received a command last fall from the art department of McClure’s Magazine to illustrate Clara Morris’ new story, entitled, “Beneath the Wrinkle,” that will appear in that magazine presumably in the near future. Mr. White was to have been given all the time he wanted, but in view of the change of art editors, Mr. White was notified about three weeks ago that the illustrations would be required immediately. Mr. White at once notified the publishers that he would use all his efforts to complete them immediately, and would forward them when completed. Today the set comprising six, were forwarded and as equaly as clever and well executed as the ones made for the illustrating of the holiday edition of Eben Holden that was to have made its appearance last Christmas, but was not completed in time for that season. The ones now in progress are all local personages, done in quaint, old-fashioned garb and surroundings, recalling vividly to mind the characteristics in dress and decorations then in vogue. They show the fine and beautiful artistic temperament of Mr. White in his striking correct interpretation of dress and customs of the period in which the characters live. Mr. White deserves the honor the illustrations will surely bring to him, as he is always conscientious and painstaking in whatever he undertakes in his profession.
White Family Connections: Songs of all Seasons
During the time he received the commission for illustrating Beneath the Wrinkle in 1903, a more intimate family connection developed which allowed White the opportunity to take another series of photographic illustrations, 42 in all, published in 1904 within a slim volume of poetry titled Songs of All Seasons.
The author was nationally known poet Ira Billman, Clarence White’s uncle, the brother of his mother Phoebe Billman White. In the volume Symbolism of Light: The Photographs of Clarence H. White published in 1977 which accompanied an exhibition of White’s work at the Delaware Art Museum and International Center of Photography, White’s grandson Maynard P. White, Jr. describes Ira Billman as a major influence on Clarence and Songs:
Among the gathering of aunts and uncles that gave meaning and context to the artist’s early life was Ira Billman, his mother’s brother. “Poetic” is the word most often used to describe White’s photography, and his Uncle Ira, a poet by avocation, was one of the earliest artistic influences in his life. …Billman’s work celebrates rural America; his poems are songs to people and to nature, and they are imbued with the deep religious sentiments of his Lutheran heritage, without being mawkish or even faintly cloying. What is important for the purpose of my discussion is that Clarence White made the photographic illustrations for Songs of All Seasons, and Billman dedicated the volume to him. (7.)
Ninety-one poems and sonnets are included in the volume. Here, The Test, a representative poem from the work:
Not what I felt will be the test
When song and fragrance filled the hour,
And all the sunshine of the blest
Unfolded me to perfect flower.
Not what I aid will be the test
When by sweet waters wound my way,
And white-haired, thoughtful hills all guessed
The word I was about to say.
Not what I did will be the test
When stunned by cry of human needs
I dreamed I was myself oppressed,
And woke to passion of great deeds.
Not what I chose will be the test
When first I saw one world in hand
Is worth two in the bush-the best
Of which it is to understand.
O! none of these will be the test,
But what God knows I would have done,
Had I been nurtured in the nest
Of one, I now condemn and shun. (8.)
Pictorial Illustration for Photography a Growing Field
By 1904, esteemed critic Sadakichi Hartman, writing in Leslie’s Weekly, weighed in on the growing use of photography for book illustration:
”…and Clarence H. White, of Newark, O., has found a new opening for photography in the illustration of books. His illustrations for “Eben Holden” have attracted wide and deserved attention.” (9.)
And later that year, citing White’s involvement with Eben Holden while writing in the Photographic Times Bulletin, Hartman brought up the potential financial rewards possible for pictorial photographer in this new field:
“The only way to approximate a market value of pictorial prints is to investigate how much they might bring on the average, if offered for sale as illustrations. There is lately a decided demand for photographic illustrations, and consequently a certain standard price in vogue. The pictorialist, of course, and perhaps with some right, aspires to illustrator’s prices (i.e., $50-$100 for the full page of a magazine), but he has never reached it, with the one exception of Clarence H. White, who is said to have received several hundred dollars for his series of “Eben Holden” illustrations.” (10.)
This additional source of significant money to Clarence White and his young family through these illustration commissions invariably gave him additional confidence in his abilities as a photographer and financial peace of mind to eventually make his way to New York City, leaving Newark in 1906. It is also not a stretch to infer White’s own life mimicked the storyline of hard work that can earn the “American Dream” found between the pages of Eben Holden. Although the critic for the New York Times reviewing the play at New York’s Savoy theater didn’t care too much for the acting:
”As an exhibition of dramatic craft “Eben Holden” is hardly worth serious consideration“…
he did, a few paragraphs later, write the production had a few redeeming qualities:
But, despite its defects, the play is wholesome; it is redolent of the woods and the fields, and it provides the opportunity for an evening of entertainment that need not be looked back upon with regret. (11.)
No doubt Clarence White, had he been in attendance watching the play inside Newark’s Auditorium that 1904 November evening, would have agreed with these last sentiments of the big city critic, marveling and grinning to himself in the darkened hall while taking in the surreal juxtaposition that art imitating life can bring about.
1. (White, Clarence H.) excerpt: An Annotated Bibliography on Pictorial Photography: Selected Books from the Library of Christian A. Peterson: Laurence McKinley Gould Library: Carleton College: Northfield, Minnesota: 2004
2. ABE listing: 120407. Besides multiple copies held by PhotoSeed, other known copies are in the Library of Congress, MOMA and Photogravure.com.
3. The Bookseller-Devoted to the Book and News Trade: Chicago: January, 1902: p. 28
4. Peter C. Bunnell: Inside the Photograph: writings on Twentieth-Century Photography: Aperture Foundation: 2006: p. 47
5. Clarence H. White : a personal portrait: Maynard Pressley White: Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware, 1975: pp. 79-80
6. see Beaumont Newhall’s Photography: A Short Critical History, from 1938, lists Eben Holden with the White illustrations as being published in 1903 on p. 215
7. excerpt: see Symbolism of Light: 1977: p. 7
8. Songs of All Seasons: Ira Billman: Indianapolis: The Hollenbeck Press: 1904: p. 65
9. excerpt: Advances in Artistic Photography: Sidney Allan: in: Leslie’s Weekly: April 28, 1904: New York: p. 388
10. excerpt: from: What is the Commercial Value of Pictorial Prints?: Sidney Allen: in: The Photographic Times Bulletin: December, 1904: p. 539
11. excerpt: review: “Eben Holden” at the Savoy: The New York Times, October 29, 1901
Posted January 2015 in PhotoSeed, Significant Photographers, Significant Photographs, Typography
Posted December 2014 in Exhibitions, New Additions, Significant Photographs
Posted November 2014 in Engraving, New Additions, Painters|Photographers, Significant Photographers, Typography
Although long forgotten, amateur photographer John E. Dumont (1856-1944) figures prominently in the early years of American pictorial photography. However, a professional and better known acquaintance of his may change our understanding after my discovery of a small label on the back of a Dumont print made its’ way into the archive.
Established in business beginning in 1881 in Rochester, New York as a wholesale merchandise and grocery broker specializing in items like sugars, teas, and coffees, Dumont took up photography in 1884 and was soon entering and winning awards in photographic salons around the world.
Specializing in genre scenes, his photographs were published frequently, reaching a high point when his well known study of a monk playing a losing hand of cards titled Hard Luck was published as the cover illustration (converted to a wood engraving) for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in early 1891, the same year he won a grand diploma at the groundbreaking Vienna Salon of Photographic Art, the highest accolade awarded for the very few American entrants whose work was even accepted, including the now venerable Alfred Stieglitz, who had only come back to America from Europe the year before.
It was therefore a delightful discovery which took place for me recently after a signed Dumont carbon print of The Dice Players exhibited in the Royal Photographic Societies’ annual salon the same year as the Vienna exhibition was acquired for the archive. But what makes it special for the confluence of art photography and evidence a new incarnation of the English Arts & Crafts movement had taken hold after arriving on American shores was a later 1897 copyright label affixed to the rear of the mounted print. A design featuring an Art-Nouveau style woodcut engraving of a woman in a darkroom holding up a glass plate, I soon discovered it was the work of noted American artist, architect and designer Harvey Ellis. (1852-1904)
Never heard of him? Today, Ellis seems only to be remembered for the brief work he did in the last months of his life in 1903 for among other things, designing mission-style furniture and interior renderings of Craftsman homes in the Syracuse, New York-based architecture department for his American employer, Gustav Stickley, (1858-1942) the leader of the nascent American Arts and Crafts movement. But this is far from a full portrait of Ellis. A contemporary- architect, author, and theater designer Claude Bragdon- (1866-1946) gave a fuller account of Harvey Ellis in a posthumous outline for the December, 1908 issue of The Architectural Review. A few excerpts:
HARVEY ELLIS was a genius. This is a statement which may excite only incredulity in the minds of the many who never heard his name or knew him only by his published drawings, but it will have the instant concurrence of the few who knew well the man himself. There is the genius which achieves, and the genius which inspires others to achievement. Had it not been for the evil fairy (alcohol-editor) which presided at his birth and ruled his destiny, Harvey Ellis might have been numbered among the former; that is, he might have been a prominent, instead of an obscure, figure in that aesthetic awakening of America, now going on, of which he was among the pioneers; but even so he exercised an influence more potent than some whose names are better remembered. (p. 173)
… “There’s one type of mind,” Harvey remarked, “which would discover a symbol of the Trinity in three angles of a rail fence; and another which would criticize the detail of the Great White Throne itself.” Symmetry (the love of which is a sure index of the Classic mind) was his particular abhorrence. “Not symmetry, but balance,” he used to say. (p. 175)
Transient, and an unconventional architect and designer for his day, Ellis moved about the country working for firms in Minneapolis and St. Louis before returning to his native Rochester in 1893. It was sometime after this period that he most likely encountered and made the friendship of Dumont. In 1897, both became founding members of the Rochester Arts and Crafts Society, with Ellis serving as first president. That year, Dumont commissioned Ellis to design an ex libris book plate for him which was reworked slightly and reduced in size for use as a photographic copyright label-an example of which I found affixed to the verso of The Dice Players.
In 1899, the original bookplate was described in the pages of the London Journal of the Ex Libris Society:
By the kindness of a member we are enabled to give an illustration of the book-plate of Mr. John E. Dumont, of Rochester, N.Y., designed by Mr. Harvey Ellis, of the same city. Mr. Dumont is a leading photographer in America, and his works are well known in England. The plate represents the genius of photography surrounded by the accessories of the “dark room.” Mr. Ellis, the designer, is a prominent architect and a water-colour artist of repute. The plate, here given, is graceful in design and execution. (p. 128)
The friendship between Dumont and Ellis extended to 1903. Now serving as president of the Rochester Camera Club, (founded 1889) Dumont was joined by Ellis and future American Photo-Secession member and club member Albert Boursalt while acting as judges for the club’s inaugural photographic exhibition in the newly erected Eastman Building on the campus of the Mechanics Institute. (which became RIT) From March 30 to April 11, over 200 framed photographs were displayed in a building made possible by Rochester philanthropist and Kodak head George Eastman. An account of the exhibition was published, along with the role of Ellis as judge, in the May, 1903 issue of the American Amateur Photographer. An excerpt:
It is stated by Mr. Dumont, who is most familiar with all of the photographic exhibits ever held here, that this of the Rochester Camera Club is by far the best, largest and most meritorious of any ever held in Rochester. Harvey Ellis, whose ability as an art critic is recognized by all, says that there are just as good pictures shown by the local exhibitions as any from out of the city, and that more than one half of the pictures hung are as good as those shown in any of the salons in the country, not excepting New York and Philadelphia, which rank among the highest in merit. (pp. 223-24)
But what immediately followed in the new Eastman Building from April 15-25, 1903: an “Exhibition of Art Craftsmanship”, featuring work from Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops, (1.) would turn out to be more significant in the overall advancement of the American Arts and Crafts movement compared to the photographic exhibition. A motivating factor perhaps? As it turned out, Harvey Ellis organized the Craftsman show, joining the Stickley firm a month later where he finished a remarkable career.
1. Historical Background: R.I.T. online resource accessed Nov., 2014: “In 1902 the Department of Decorative Arts and Crafts was established at Mechanics Institute under the leadership of Theodore Hanford Pond. An “Exhibition of Art Craftsmanship”, featuring the work of Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops, was presented in the Mechanics Institute’s Eastman Building, 15-25 April 1903.”
Posted October 2014 in New Additions, Significant Photographs
This spooky season. For more on this photograph with a short overview on the pictorial work of Maine resident Bertrand H. Wentworth, proceed here.