ClassyArts Blog

January 30, 2013

19th Century American Artists

Filed under: Artists — ajmorris @ 11:11 am

Well, the previously mentioned plans for photographer ebooks has been shelved, turns out it just isn’t practical — too much effort for little or no return. So instead, over the past couple months I have taken all of the artists listings from my Little Known American Artists series of ebooks, and put them online in a new ClassyArts sub-section, called 19th Century American Artists.

Multiple listings for the same person are grouped together if they come from the same state, when artists moved from state to state and are listed, they get a separate listing for each state. You can order information on individual artists, or (much more economically) use ClassyArts credits to access the information. The same log-in works for both the artists and photographers sections of the site, and the same credits are used across both databases. As with the photographers database, we will continue to expand this listing by adding material from various sources.

September 13, 2012

Edgar Decker Observations

Filed under: Photographers — ajmorris @ 7:41 pm

Edgar Decker spent his entire photographic career in Cleveland, Ohio – and that career spanned nearly fifty years. One of the most interesting thing I found out about him actually pre-dated that career though. In the 1850 census, I found him living in Kingston, Ulster county, New York. The several short biographical sketches for him just mentioned he came from New York state, where he worked for a while a store clerk, and later had his own store. The interesting part come when we find who he worked as a clerk for — George North.

Cleveland historians will recognize North as the surname of two well-known Cleveland artists, William Case North and Walter Crane North, who were also connected with Kingston, New York. William was primarily a photographer, and the uncle of Walter, who was known primarily for his paintings, but also worked in photography for a while. I did some digging, and found that the George North with whom Edgar Decker was living in 1850 was in fact a brother of William, and another uncle for Walter. That 1850 census has Walter C North living with his parents, Mosier and Lucy North (other sources show Zachariah Mosier North). William North and his wife Anna are listed there too, living in a hotel run by Jane Decker, wife the Justice of the Peace, Daniel L. Decker. Edgar Decker’s parents and siblings are also listed, Davis S and Hannah Decker.

The biographies for William North say he moved to Cleveland in 1850 — if so it must have been very late in the year, since his listing in the 1850 census in Kingston NY was enumerated October 21st of that year. Walter North is supposed to have come with him to Cleveland, and his 1850 census record was enumerated November 26th.

Edgar Decker came to Cleveland in 1856 or 1857 according to those biographies — but since he married Ohio native Julia J. English on February 2nd, 1857 I suspect he must have moved there in 1856. It seems unlikely he would be marrying within a month of his arrival! Now Edgar Decker and Walter Crane North were only a couple years apart in age, and since Edgar had been working for Walter’s uncle, it seems very likely they were friends, or at the very least acquaintances. The William North biography mentions that his nephew Walter bought out his photographic studio in 1856, though he sold it back two or three years later. It seems highly probable then, that Edgar Decker worked with Walter Crane in that studio around 1856, and probably learned the photographic business there.

After William North bought back his photography business, we find Edgar Decker working for him, first as a clerk in his other (Coal and Lamp Oil) business, then operating his photographic studio. Soon afterward, Decker goes on to another studio, along with several other apparently independent operators, and styles himself photographer ‘agent’.

One biography of Decker states: “From 1883 to 1888 Decker was joined by Charles E Wilber, a talented crayon artist and retoucher…” In fact, Wilber worked for Decker from at least 1867, possibly even as early as 1865. It was not until 1883 that his name was added to the business, and that change coincided with their move to new quarters on Euclid avenue. Wilber probably contributed to the cost of equipping the new studio, and/or paid some of the rent, to warrant having his name added to the business. Another talented artist, George M Edmondson joined them in 1888, and Wilber moved to Wichita, Kansas soon after.

Most biographies seem to suggest that Decker’s career ended soon after 1900 when George Edmondson took over the business. Edmondson did take over the Euclid Avenue studio about 1901, but Decker opened another studio on Hough Avenue. And in 1904, Decker is listed as Vice-President of the B. A. Brigden Company at the Arcade. Burt A Brigden had worked for Decker for several years before opening his own studio in 1894. Edgar Decker died in 1905.

September 1, 2012

Edgar Decker of Cleveland Ohio Timeline

Filed under: ClassyArts, Photographers — ajmorris @ 7:40 pm

I completed the second publication in the ClassyArts Photographers Timelines series, this one providing information on Edgar Decker. Decker was a photographer in Cleveland from the late 1850s to just after the turn of the century, and his entire fifty-some year career was in Cleveland, Ohio.

As usual, I made some interesting discoveries about Decker and his photography business, but I will post those in a future message. This post is about the project, the ClassyArts site progress and plans. My previous guestimate that I might finish one publication per week was over-optimistic, especially for the more prolific and/or long enduring photographers. The Decker project took nearly three weeks to complete, but it is 43 pages long, with 29 different imprints/photographs. So perhaps one or two per month is more realistic.

The earlier Bachman publication is now freely available online, by the way. That serves as an example of the style and format for these publications, which is easier shown than explained.

The master index to photographs in the ClassyArts collection now has nearly 8,000 records — still a tiny fraction of the whole, but since that endeavor is only two months old, showing good progress. I need the tens of thousands of photos indexed in order to find photos by particular photographers for the timeline series, and I’m sure others will find the information useful, just like the Darrah index is useful, even though it lacks dates. The difference is that members of will be able to retrieve specific images to see how old they are, what the imprint looks like, etc. And of course there are cabinet cards and stereographs and miscellaneous other types of images in our collection.

Within the next few days we will cross the 100,000 records threshold in our photographers database, the point at which we have always said the price will be raised for ClassyArts subscriptions. So that price rise will take place October First 2012. Remember, anyone subscribing before then can lock-in the lower current rate — only new subscribers after the first of October will have to pay the higher rates. Suggest you Subscribe Now.

August 19, 2012

The Bachman and Jeanes Studio Switcheroo

Filed under: Photographers — ajmorris @ 2:15 pm

It seems each time I do extensive research into an historic photographer, I find some sort of surprising or intriguing detail. Perhaps that is because photographers have such interesting lives, interacting as they do with all sorts of people, from the rich and famous to the most average Joe. Or maybe it is a side-effect of the artistic temperament, and would apply equally to any artist.

Photographer A M Bachman of Allentown Pennsylvania seemed the least likely to arouse any special interest. One of several photographers active in Allentown, he does not seem to have been particularly successful, judging by the dearth of images surviving with his imprint. Born on a farm in Lehigh county he took up photography in the little village of Catasaqua before moving to the larger nearby community of Allentown. Married, with no children, his biography in the 1881 history of that county is modest, by the florid standards of that day.

Bachman’s photographic career in Allentown spanned 13 or 14 years, after which he moved on to Doylestown Ohio. In all those years in Allentown, he only occupied two studio locations, 716 Hamilton street, and then 629 Hamilton. It is in the purchase of that second studio that the mystery arises. The 629 Hamilton address remained popular with photographers long after Bachman left town, but I find only two imprints that seem to predate his purchase of the studio, one marked J Jeanes, and the other E D Jeanes.

I have not yet thoroughly researched the Jeanes family, who were photographers for three generations in Allentown, but J Jeanes was Joseph Jeanes and the father of E D Jeanes, Edmund D Jeanes. When I first noticed the E D Jeanes imprint with an address of 629 Hamilton, I thought perhaps it was Edmund’s first studio, and his father may still have been operating down the block at 637 Hamilton. But then I found a card with J Jeanes at 629 Hamilton, so it appears more likely he moved there from 637, and later turned the studio over to his son.

That the son soon decided to sell the studio in favor of another location does not seem too strange, and so Bachman moved from his 716 Hamilton street address, down the road to 629 Hamilton. The odd part is that Jeanes next appears at 716 Hamilton street. They switched studios. Now what’s up with that? Both seem to have been good locations, as they remained photographic studios until at least the turn of the century. So why the exchange? For now, the motivations remain a mystery — perhaps one of our readers has a clue to shed some light on the subject?

August 13, 2012

eBooks, eBooklets, Projects and Indices

Filed under: ClassyArts — ajmorris @ 7:34 pm

It has been several months without a post here, but activity behind the scenes has been intense, and much progress will soon be evident. As you will know if you have been checking the status, there are now well over 99,000 records in the photographer database. As was stated at the start some six years ago, the discount pricing will end when that reaches 100,000 – which will probably be by the end of this month or early in September.

Meanwhile, even our ‘pending images’ database has been growing way too slowly to make a dent in the tens of thousands of images in the collection, so a third database has been begun for images, called the basic index database. That index simply lists the name and address of the photographers or studios shown on the imprints. Begun just a month ago, that new database already has over 5,000 records, and we expect to keep it growing at a good rate for the next year or two. When it exceeds 10,000 records it will be made available online, but only to paid subscribers.

With the growth of the photographer database and this new growing index of photographs, we finally have enough data to begin publishing some ebooks. The original plan called for locality based books, beginning with Cleveland, but that proved too large a project to fit conveniently in an ebook. So I set my sites on a smaller location, and collected information on Allentown, Pennsylvania. Even that relatively small town had over 70 photographers active in the 19th century.

Time has come to rethink the plan. I have gathered over 1,000 photos for those two locations, and add a few more each week. I still like the idea of ebooks, but with numerous photographs the files get quite large very quick. So now the plan is to produce ebooklets, with a separate one for each photographer. That will be easier to manage and to update.

The first issue is complete, an 11 page booklet on Allentown photographer Amandus M Bachman, in PDF format. Members (both free and paid) can find a link to that on their control panel when they log-in at At the end of the month I’ll activate the page listing all of these booklets (to be called the Photographer Timeline series), and include that one as a free example. I’m hoping I can complete at least one new ebooklet per week, since I have most of the data already, and merely need to organize things.

These new ebooklets, and the couple of existing ebooks already listed on the site, will be available to subscribers for ClassyArts credits instead of cash, at a substantial savings. For example, the Bachman issue will be priced at $5, as that is the minimum price, any less it not worth transaction costs. Based on the pricing structure, it would be $4.60 or 46 ClassyArts points. At regular prices, a budget monthly subscriber pays $2.21 for 46 credits, while a premium subscriber paying annually gets 46 points for $0.92 — and those are at standard pricing. Join before the prices go up and those figures are $1.66 and $0.69, respectively.

I will try to remember to post further progress reports here in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, consider subscribing to lock-in the current discounted rate. It will be going up soon!

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