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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Picture That! Photographers of the Upper Valley

James A. Cutting, born in Hanover in 1814 and grew up in Haverhill. After moving

to Boston, he patiented the ambrotype, an advance in photography. The name of the style was taken from Cutting's middle name.

This hand-colored portrait is known as a carte-de-visite or CDV.

It was popular during the last half of the 19th century and was the

first photograph that could be reproduced in any number the

customer desired. (Bradford Historical Society)

E.H. Allen's Photographic Studio. This studio was located on the east side of Bradford's Main Street and was described by The United Opinon in 1895 as ranking among the best int he state. It housed Allen's photograph studio and "an extensive and beautiful line" of artist supplies. (Bradford Historical Society)
This cabinet photo was by Charles F. Bracy. He had studios at one time or another in Warren, Wells River, Woodsville and Fairlee with a career that lasted from at least 1877 to 1910. His elaborate advertisement appeared on the back of his formal portraits. (Bradford Historical Society)

Bradford's Railroad Photographer. This photograph of the Bradford station was taken around 1942 by Phillip Hastings. Over a 50-year period, Hastings became one of the nation's foremost railroad photographer, capturing the transiton of the industry from steam to diesel. (Bradford Historical Socielty)

Journal-Opinion December 28, 2011

Someone in your family probably has them. They are stored in a box or a timeworn album. They are photographs from which your ancestors look out in tones of black and white, sepia or even blue from times past. They depict infants, soldiers, new graduates, married couples or grim elders. They chronicle vacations, celebrations or family reunions. Some were taken by amateurs, others by professionals.

When they were taken, the family knew who and what was pictured. Now you know who they are only if someone bothered to write names and dates on the photographs. For the others, the people, times and places are lost to memory.

This column deals with the first century of professional photography in our area. It describes the advancements in photography from before the Civil War to the 1950’s.Included are the names and contributions of those professionals who worked in the area and those who had local connections, but made their reputations elsewhere.

The daguerreotype was introduced in 1839 and was the first widely used means of photography. It used a polished, silver-plated sheet of metal to produce a one-of-a-kind image directly from the camera. While it was replaced by less expensive methods, it fixed the idea of photography in the collective consciousness of Americans.

West Fairlee was the birthplace Albert Sands Southworth, one of the pioneers of American photography. That town’s historical society states that Southworth was born in 1811, grew up on Blood Brook Road and graduated from Bradford Academy. Although he left West Fairlee at the age of 18, he often returned to visit the family farm.

Southworth was fascinated by daguerreotypes and opened a studio in Massachusetts in 1840. He and his partner, Josiah Hawes, became recognized for their “aesthetic accomplishments and technical finesse.” Among the dignitaries who sat for them was John Quincy Adams, the first American President to be photographed. In 1862, the partnership was dissolved and Southworth became an independent photographer and lecturer. After he died, his remains were buried in the Blood Brook Cemetery.

One method that replaced the daguerreotype was the ambrotype. It was patented in July 1854 by daguerreian James A. Cutting of Boston. Cutting was born in Hanover in 1814. His family moved to Haverhill,where he lived into adulthood. Using the money from his invention of a new type of beehive, he moved to Boston and entered the photography business. The term ambrotype is based on Cutting’s middle name. It was an advance that gave multiple positives in a clear image and was presented as a matted and cased photograph. This method protected the image by sealing it between two pieces of glass. It had an advantage over earlier methods as could be viewed without holding it at a correct angle. It was also the first time that wet-late photography was used.

He sold his patient for the ambrotype for a reported $40,000, an enormous amount at the time. He then used his fortune to create one of Boston’s first aquariums and other places of entertainment. He also had a yacht which he called the Ambrotype. The report of his death in Connecticut’s Hartford Times in August 1867 mentioned that he died in an insane asylum. .

The popularity of the ambrotype was short lived, and it was replaced by tintypes, carte-de-visite’s or CDVs and cabinet cards. All three of these methods were introduced about the time of the Civil War and remained popular until the end of the 19th century.

The tintype was a single image produced on a thin iron plate, without the need for a negative. CDVs were mounted portraits, about the size of a calling card, thus their name. They were often hand colored. They could be easily reprinted to produce the number of copies desired by the customer. Images of some celebrities sold in large numbers.

Cabinet cards were larger than CDVs. Both types were pasted on cardboard or mounted in ornate cases made of leather over wood. A union case was two photos in the same case facing each other. With these advancements in photography, the general public came to realize it could have portraits made. Formerly that had been limited to the wealthy who could afford to hire painters.

E. H. Allen of Bradford was one of the first photographers in Vermont. He moved to Bradford in 1858 and set up a studio in the Hardy building near where Perry’s Oil Service is located today. He first produced daguerreotypes, but soon adopted the more popular ambrotypes and CDVs. His studio burned in the fire of 1883 and he relocated across the street. That studio also was destroyed by fire seven years later, but was rebuilt.

In 1895, The United Opinion ranked both the studio and the photographer as one of the best in the state. Allen died in 1917 and is buried in the Upper Plain Cemetery. Allen’s clear professional photographs of local scenes and individuals are a valuable tool for local historians.

One popular type of photograph that Allen apparently did not produce was stereograph. These featured two nearly identical images mounted side by side and when viewed through a special holder, provided a three-dimensional image. Both itinerate and local photographers specialized in this type of photograph. They were a widely popular form of entertainment in the late 19th century.

From 1875 to 1881, itinerant photographer was Carlyle Goodrich of Plainfield traveled through northern Vermont taking images of buildings and their inhabitants. A recent publication by Richard J. Petit on this photographer includes stereographs of several local towns. Petit writes “[Goodrich] captured the styles, dress, homes, livestock, and occasionally, significant family events of the era defined by his career.”

A local stereographic photographer was Amos F. Clough of Warren and Orford. As early as 1865, Clough had a studio on Main Street in Orford and began publishing local stereo cards. He is best known, however, for his winter landscape photographs. In the winter of 1869-70, he joined geologists on the top of Mt. Moosilauke and recorded the impact of the wind and temperature. The following winter, he joined a group on Mt. Washington in a similar project. He is described as “eminent in his profession” and “a true lover of nature and devotee of science.”

Daniel C. Chapman, another professional recognized for his photographs of natural phenomena, was born in South Corinth in 1826. In 1863, he began his photographic work in New York City. Over the next thirty years he gained “a world-wide reputation” for his experiments in the photographic process including making plates more sensitive and creating a device for making photographs to exact scale. Additionally, he is recalled for his photographs of phases of the sun and moon. He served as the chief photographer for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Bureau of Weights and Measures.

There were a number of contemporaries who provided professional local photographs in late 19th and early 20th century. Lucius L. Pollard was a traveling photographer and artist who had a studio on North Main Street in Haverhill from 1880 to 1885. He previously had studios in Waterbury and Springfield.

A photographer by the last name of Corliss produced photographs in both East Corinth and Newbury. It is possible it was Elizabeth Hunter Corliss who is listed in the Newbury history as a photographer around 1902. If so, she is the only local female photographer I found in that era.

The introduction of the Kodak camera in 1888 made the taking of photographs available to a larger number of people. They took pictures of almost every aspect of their lives, and Kodak did the developing and printing. New types of photographic film and papers were introduced and the practice of pasting photos to cardboard mounts was mostly dropped, although cardboard holders were used.

Around 1900, the “Real Photo” postcard was introduced, allowing both amateur and professional photographers to print pictures on cards that could be mailed. The golden era of post cards was in the period before World War I, and cards with pictures of individuals and local scenes were common.

Even with affordable cameras available, professional photographers continued to be important. W. D. Chandler of St. Albans, H. L. Bixby of Chelsea and R.M. McIntosh of Northfield were traveling photographers who visited this area. Photographs bearing their names are in the collections of the Bradford Historical Society.

The most accomplished photographer who traveled to our area was Clara Sipprell (1885-1975). Her life-time affiliation with Vermont began in 1915 when she was invited to photograph a catalog for Camp Hanoum in Thetford. Sipprell and her business partner rented a studio nearby and, until 1939 she came to Thetford off and on to photograph the Vermont landscape and its people.

In a 1988 Vermont History News article by Gisela Gamper, Sipprell is quoted: “In and around Thetford I think my best landscapes are made. My Vermont neighbors enriched my life by their friendliness…there is a magic of roots growing deep in this state which touches the whole world.”

Sipprell’s photographs exemplify the style known as photopictorialism. It involved the use of natural light and soft-focus lens as an artistic tool. Her works include portrait of many celebrities and contributions to well-known periodicals. In 1974, the State of Vermont honored Sipprell with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, “recognizing her contributions to the history of photography with her luminous images in the pictorial aesthetic.” Her portraits are represented in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Important to the local historical record are photographs by Bracy and Adams. Charles F. Bracy worked in Warren in 1877, Wells River in 1886 and operated a studio and art store in Woodsville in 1890. It was said to, “compare favorably with any establishment in New England.” In 1910, he was advertised as being a partner with A. L. Adams of Fairlee. For the next decade or so, Adams took photographs that varied from local bands and farm workers to school photos.

Several photographers operated from studios in Woodsville. W. E. West had a studio in the Hotel Wentworth on Central Street in 1890, followed in 1894-96 by C. F. Bracy and J. J. Towle around 1900. H. C. Bailey opened a studio and art store in 1890 and was known in the state for his use of innovative techniques.

Silas Hobart operated a studio “specializing in photographs of all kinds” on School Street from 1914-1923. In 1925, E. McLeod Sipprell began to operate a studio on Central Street. Among his specialties were class pictures for local schools, and he was known as a “genial photographer.” In 1952, Sipprell’s studio was sold to Winthrop Klark, who, according to Blaisdell’s Haverhill history, had operated a studio in the Opera Block since 1948. It was later sold to George F. Scheller who operated the studio until 1960.

Bradford native Philip R Hastings (1925-1987) was one of America’s most gifted railroad photojournalists and is credited with inventing modern railroad photography. Born and raised within sight and sound of Bradford’s Boston and Maine station, he became a devoted railroad enthusiast. Beginning at the age of 12 and using a box camera, he began a life-long interest in railroad photography. It was in Bradford that Hastings began capturing in photographs the ritual that was the railroad industry, including both the equipment and the people in the railroading community.

His early mentor was Burnside Hooker, Bradford’s long-time station master. Railroad enthusiasts readily recognize the contributions Hastings made to capturing the soul of railroading, especially as it transitioned from steam to diesel. He contributed many illustrated articles in railroad magazines and contributions to and authored numerous books on railroading. His photographs depict an American landscape that has largely disappeared.

A collection of over 55,000 black and white photographs and 32,000 colored transparencies by Hastings are now housed at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.

Hundreds of photographs of all types fill the archives of local historical societies and private collections. They were taken by professionals using elaborate cameras and by amateurs using less sophisticated ones. The pictures are of both private and public events and places. Those photographs help us to understand the local landscape and the lives of inhabitants in ways that words cannot. Even when the subjects are not identified, they add to our understanding of times past.

Professional photographers still delight us with exceptional pictures of ordinary and special occasions. But many Americans have the capacity to take photos using their cell phones and digital cameras. Images can be easily printed, posted on the Internet or stored on computer software.

The holidays are a time when many are added to our collections and two thoughts come to mind. Will these photographs, like those taken in the past, be available to view 100 years from now? Will the contents be identified or will they end up nameless, with no one knowing or caring about them? Take care with your images, as they will be a way your descendants will know who you were.