ClassyArts Blog

November 23, 2009

Nineteenth Century Cleveland Ohio Photographers

Filed under: Photographers — ajmorris @ 1:09 pm

A Work in Progress

One of the nice things about the ClassyArts photographers database is that you can often follow the movements of photographers from one location to the next. Some of these guys moved so often, I suspect they specialized in finding good potential studio sites, setting up business there, then selling the operating studio at a profit. Of course, other photographers were as geographically stable as farmers, tied to one location for decades.

I always have several projects going at once, and right now one of those projects is an ebook publication: Nineteenth Century Cleveland Ohio Photographers, which I expect to finish sometime in 2010, though it could go into 2011 — there have been far more photographers active there than I expected when I started the project. To date, I have a list of almost 700 photographers who worked in Cleveland prior to 1900! I have written biographical sketches for about 40 of those so far. I’ve been working on this project a little over three months, though I only got to the point of actually writing sketches a month ago — before that it was all background research.

How This eBook is Different

Two features will distinguish this project from similar books on photographers that have been produced by others. For photographers who had their own studios my emphasis is on helping to date their images, so I pay particular attention to finding the dates of operation at each different studio address. Secondly, the dating goal is further supported by an initial summary table, and illustrations of as many different examples of imprints as I can find for each photographer.

Below is an example of an entry for one photographer, M E Beckwith. His career spanned from late in the daguerrian era to his death in 1887 — and he seems to have had only one studio location, though the address was changed over the years. Obviously, there are more example photographs for such a long-standing operator than the average photographer, but I’m sure there are other imprint types yet to be found.

You Can Help

If you have any 19th century photographs from Cleveland, and would like to contribute copies for publication in this ebook, please contact me.

Also, use the comment form below to let me know what you think of this layout — beginning with a summary table, color coded to show birth and death, life events and photographic data; followed by a short biographical sketch with source citations, and finally small reproductions showing the different imprints found. Those small images will probably be linked to larger images on the ClassyArts site in the final version.

Sample Record

Beckwith, Marvin Edward

M E Beckwith, M E Beckwith & Son, Marvin E Beckwith
1823Nov4 Clarence, New York born to Alva and Hannah (Brush) Beckwith
1845Jan23 Cleveland, OH married Margaret Sophia McLeod
1846-50 Cleveland, OH occupation tailor
1855 Cleveland, OH learned daguerrotype process from Samuel Crobaugh
1859-ca1870 9 Pearl, Cleveland, OH M E Beckwith photo studio
ca1868-1870 119 Detroit, Cleveland, OH M E Beckwith photo studio (from CDV imprint)
1871-ca1876 corner Pearl and Detroit, Cleveland, OH M E Beckwith and Son photo studio
1877-80 175 Pearl (Pearl & Detroit), Cleveland, OH M E Beckwith and Son photo studio
1881-87 261 Pearl, Cleveland, OH M E Beckwith and Son photo studio, same studio — street renumbered
1887Dec13 Cleveland, OH died


Marvin Edward Beckwith was born in Clarence, Erie county, New York on November 4, 1823. His parents were Alva Beckwith (1797-1835) and Hannah (or Maud) Brush (1800-) (1, 2). The family moved to Willoughby Ohio in the late 1820s, then Monroe Michigan in the early 1830s. Marvin is said to have moved to Cleveland in 1839 (3). M E Beckwith married Margaret Sophia McLeod at Cleveland, Jan 23, 1845 (1). Mrs Beckwith may have been related to ambrotypist Daniel F McLeod and/or photographer Norman E A McLeod — all three were born within a ten-year span in Canada, and lived in Cleveland before 1860.

Marvin Beckwith is first noted in city directories in 1846, where his occupation is listed as tailor, and residence is 68 Ontario Street North. In the 1850 census his occupation is again listed as tailor, and he and Margaret have two children, Harriet age 2 and Alva age 1. The genealogies list Willoughby Ohio as Alva’s birthplace, though the family was living in Cleveland before and after his birth.

Marvin Beckwith learned photography from Samuel Crobaugh, probably about 1855 (3). By the 1859 city directory he is listed with his own gallery at 9 Pearl street, and is residing at 113 Hanover. The 1860 census if the first of several records that get his first name wrong, listing him as Martin E Beckwith, Daguerrian Artist. We have (see illustrations) an example of his work during the Civil War, a CDV with a tax stamp marked 1865, and the imprint shows he was still at 9 Pearl at that time. Another of our illustrations shows a late-1860s image with what Darrah described as a ‘Bilateral Ovoid’ imprint style, which shows M E Beckwith, 119 Detroit Street. As mentioned below, the 1870s studio had entrances on either Pearl or Detroit Streets. If this is (as I suspect) the same studio at the corner of Pearl and Detroit, then 119 Detroit may be the same location as 9 Pearl. An alternative explanation is that Beckwith moved from 9 Pearl to 119 Detroit, then to the corner of Pearl and Detroit.

The 1870 census again gets the name wrong, listing him as Myron E Beckwith, and shows his real estate valued at $7500, and personal assets at $800. The real estate may have included both his home and the studio location. Some directories about this time may list him as Marion E Beckwith, since others have copied that name — but I have not seen where that error originated. About 1870 or 1871, the business address begins being listed as ‘corner Pearl and Detroit’ — which may be the same location as 9 Pearl, but if so it was renumbered twice. From about 1877 the address is usually listed as 261 Pearl, but a late 1870 CDV (see illustrations) shows that this was the same location, listing not only ‘corner Pearl and Detroit streets’ but entrances at 175 Pearl or 186 Detroit. The Beckwiths also published local stereoviews in the 1870s, as evidenced by the illustrated example. The 1881 city directory listing shows the address as 261 Pearl (old address 175) showing that the street was renumbered about that time. Marvin is last listed in the 1887 city directory, living at 274 Hanover, which had been his address since 1884. Before that it was 115 Hanover, so that too may be due to street renumbering. In the 1888 city directory Sophia Beckwith, widow M E is listed at 274 Hanover. Marvin Edward Beckwith died December 13, 1887 (1). His son Alva took over the studio, listing it in the 1888 directory as Alva D Beckwith successor to M E Beckwith & Son; but from 1889 to 1891 he resumed using the title M E Beckwith & Son for the business, until he opened his own studio at another address about 1892.


NOTE: Census and Directory listings for Cleveland are not individually listed, they are referenced by year within the text. Directories are cited by year published, usually the year preceding that shown in the directory title.

  1. Marvin Beckwith and his wife Abigail Clark, Their Colonial Ancestors and Their Descendants; by A C Beckwith, Elkhorn WI 1899
  2. The Beckwiths, by Paul Edmond Beckwith. Albany, 1891. (384p.):120
  3. Craig’s Daguerreian Registry at


Civil War Era Portrait

Civil War Era Portrait (dated 1865)

Civil War Era Portrait (dated 1865)

M E Beckwith, No 9 Pearl Street (ca 1859-70)
Vignetted CDV portrait of a woman, with a dated tax stamp on the back. The imprint reads: M E Beckwith, Photographer, No 9 Pearl St, West Side, Cleveland, Ohio. The two-cent tax stamp is initialed M E B and dated 1865.

Gaunt Faced Gentleman

Gaunt Faced Gentleman (ca 1868-70)

Gaunt Faced Gentleman (ca 1868-70)

M E Beckwith, No 119 Detroit Street (ca 1868-70)
This CDV portrait shows an elderly gentleman with hollowed cheeks. The imprint is in a bilateral ovoid with wide white outer border, a late 1860s style that occasionally is found in the very early 1870s as well. It reads: M E Beckwith, Photographer, 119 Detroit Street, Cleveland, Ohio. Negatives Preserved.

Rocky River Stereoview

Rocky River Stereoview (early 1870s)

Rocky River Stereoview (early 1870s)

M E Beckwith & Son, Corner Pearl & Detroit Streets (ca 1871-76)
A stereoview of the Rocky River with the town of the same name in the background, on an Orange card mount, with M E Beckwith and Son paper tag on the back.

Head with Charicature Body

Head with Charicature Body (ca 1875)

Head with Charicature Body (ca 1875)

Beckwith & Son, Corner Pearl & Detroit Streets (ca 1871-76)
Unusual CDV portrait with a gentleman wearing a Derby hat, his head superimposed on a charicature drawing of a man in a comical donkey cart. Back imprint has the address as ‘Corner Pearl & Detroit Streets’ but notes two entrances: 175 Pearl or 186 Detroit.

Young and Pretty Woman

Young and Pretty Woman (ca 1887)

Young and Pretty Woman (ca 1887)

M E Beckwith & Son, S W Corner Pearl & Detroit Streets, Phone: 1664 (1871-87)
Cabinet card portrait of a young woman, on a dark chocolate brown card with gilt border. The back imprint includes a phone number, but not the street number, just ‘S W Corner Pearl & Detroit Streets’ again, though by this time the address 261 Pearl was used in directory listings. Presence of a phone number confirms the late 1880s date however. The front imprint is greatly enlarged and lightened, and repeated at the bottom of this view.

Little Boy

Little Boy (ca 1890)

Little Boy (ca 1890)

M E Beckwith & Son
This cabinet card portrait was probably taken after M E Beckwith died — his son continued to use the name M E Beckwith & Son for a few more years (1888-90). This image was found for sale on eBay, so we don’t know if the back was blank or the seller simply did not show it. The front imprint does not include a street address, but only reads M E Beckwith & Son, Cleveland, O. There is a monogram included, but it just has B & S for Beckwith and Son.


  1. Fascinating idea for an Ebook; I cannot wait to see it finished. I’ll buy it!

    Comment by Steve Flaum — August 23, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  2. I am currently documenting an album of CDV’s and tintypes that is full of photographs with backmarks from the Cleveland, Ohio area. In fact a search for “Pearl Street, Cleveland Ohio” brought me to your website, where I found the information you have posted on Beckwith (there are several of his photographs in the album). I’m hoping to get the album scanned and documented in the next week or two. There are approximately 70 images in it and I have two small children at home so it might take me awhile. Please contact me if you are interested in seeing these photographs and I will send you a link to where I have them posted.


    Eliza Simmons (Eliza’s Tintypes on flickr)

    Comment by Eliza — October 14, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

  3. This is such an interesting project! I love old photographs…specifically of the Cleveland area, where I have lived my entire life. At the moment, I am doing a research project on Detroit Street/Ave. Your site came up in a google search and I wanted to let you know I will book mark it and make return visits. Your ebook idea sounds great and I would be interested in it upon completion.

    Comment by Lori — January 17, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

  4. I was trying to research two large framed old photos that were taken out of my parents basement on the westside of Cleveland. On the bottom left “Beckwith Photo” is inscribed. On the bottom right “F.R. Bill Artist” is written. I am trying to find out more information on these (date, artist, photographer, etc.). Is there any way to contact you and have you look at these? Thanks

    Comment by Mary — April 3, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

  5. Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 6, 1889:

    “Everything is Kept in the Family—A Wise Disposition

    “The will of the late Marvin E. Beckwith was duly admitted to probate Tuesday. It bears the date of Nov. 22, 1887, and its contents are substantially as follows: The wife, Mrs. Margaret Beckwith, is left full control of the homestead, No. 274 Hanover street, with all its contents, for life. She is also to receive all insurance moneys. It was the testator’s wish that his daughter, Hattie Roosa, her husband, Hamilton Roosa, and their daughter Belle shall live in the homestead. At Mrs. Beckwith’s death Mrs. Roosa will receive a fivesixth share of the homestead and Alva Beckwith, the testator’s son, a onesixth share. Should Mrs. Roosa die before her brother, Alva Beckwith’s share will be increased to onehalf providing he has paid his sister $500, which she advanced to her father to make improvements on the property. Alva receives his father’s half share in the old photographic establishment of M. E. Beckwith & Son, No. 261 Pearl street, corner of Detroit, conditionally on his paying the debts of the firm and devoting one half the proceeds of the first six months to paying the deceased’s personal and estate debts. The grandchildren, Effie Belle Roosa, Mark Edward Berkurtt and Henry Hamilton Beckwith, get $100 each, to be paid out of their parents’ shares.”

    Comment by Anonymous — April 12, 2011 @ 12:29 am

  6. Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sept. 27, 1895:

    “Mrs. Margaret S. Beckwith Expires at the Residence of Her Daughter–A Historic Character.

    “In the death of Mrs. Margaret S. Beckwith, who died at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. H. Roosa, No. 269 Hanover street, Tuesday, Cleveland loses not only an old and highly respected resident but a noted character in history as well.

    “Mrs. Beckwith was born in Prescott, Canada, in 1819, and was the daughter of the famous Gen. Donald McLeod of the Canadian patriots who, in 1837, and for succeeding years made the life of the Tory government miserable. Gen. McLeod was driven from his home by the government and each week his daughter, the late Mrs. Beckwith, crossed the St. Lawrence river to secure the mail from him which he sent to Ogdensburg, just across from Prescott. It was necessary to make this trip on the ice and dragging the boat behind her and then through the open water and between floating cakes of ice. She wore in those days a hood with a heavy lining and each time she would place the letters in the hood and sew it up with so much neatness that it defied detection. She was searched by the troops every trip, but nothing was ever discovered that she had concealed. The house was daily searched for papers or letters stating the whereabouts of Gen. mcLeod and all kinds of indignities were heaped on the family. The report reached the town one night that Gen. McLeod was to attack the town that night and his family was given a few hours in which to leave. Margaret was in the country at the time and on her return found that the family had left. She remained in concealment that night and the next day came to the United States. The family then came to this city to live and here they have been since 1837.

    “Mrs. Beckwith was married in 1845 to the late M. E. Beckwith, whose death occured in 1887. Mrs. Beckwith was a member of the First M. E. church and first became a member when the services were held in Wood street. She was a member of the Early Settlers’ association, but in her latter years was unable to take an active part by reason of her poor health. She has been in failing health for some years, and by reason of a personal affliction was unable to go out to any extent in public. For thirty-five years she occupied the old family home, which is now occupied by the German hospital, at the corner of Hanover street and Franklin circle.

    “She leaves but one child, Mrs. H. B. Roosa, and three grandchildren, Ettie B. Roosa and Mark and Harry Beckwith. The funeral services will be held Friday afternoon at 2:30, standard, from the residence of her daughter, No. 269 Hanover street.”

    Comment by Anonymous — April 12, 2011 @ 12:41 am

  7. I have a small booklet , 5″ x 7″ called “Cleveland Photographs in Black.
    The copyright is 1889, by A. Wittemann, New York. These are tintype photos of
    old buildings, homes and lakefront scenes. I’m not sure where it came from.

    Would you be interested n copies?

    10/25/2011 Nancy Ward

    Comment by nancy ward — October 25, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

  8. Hi Nancy,

    How interesting … I did not realize they made books/booklets of tintypes, though it makes sense, they were cheap — you could not include too many images or it would be very heavy! I’d love to see a copy.

    Send me a note using the contact form on the site:
    and I’ll reply so you will have my email address. Thanks.

    Comment by ajmorris — October 26, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  9. I have been collecting CDV’s for over 15 years. I have been able to locate a nice variety from Cleveland artists, including a handful from Beckwith.. ranging from his earlier work to later. I am particularly attracted to images of women in elaborate dress/crinoline fashion of the 1860’s, and have a nice stack of ladies from Beckwith. One image is from Carson & Beckwith, at no. 9 Public Quare, which is not mentioned on here. I also have an earlier image, that lists M.E. Beckwith at 179 Pearl Street, which is also not mentioned. I also have images from N.E. McLeod, at no. 4 Pearl Street, and J. Dennison, at no. 151 Pearl Street. One of the greatest in the bunch is a cabinet photo I have from Beckwith and Son, dating from the 1870’s: and is of a girl of about 3 yrs, posed on a chaise lounge with her doll. Her closed eyes suggest that the image is post-mortem, you may really like this one. It bears the same backing as “head with charicature body”, but is in black with gold lettering. I have a nice assortment of other CDV’s and cabinet photos from other Cleveland artists from the 1860’s and 70’s. I would be more than happy to scan any or all of them and send them to you. Let me know if are interested. Was nice running into your site.. love learning some of the history behind the scenes. cheers!

    Comment by Eric Carrion — February 21, 2012 @ 6:37 am

  10. Hi Eric, thanks for your input and offer. I will email you so you have my address. I have not finished the Cleveland project, even though this post is over two years old — because I just keep finding more imprints and photographers to add. Now I have over 800 photographers and nearly 2,000 photographs. I have redesigned the table to fit more info into the chronological section with a thumbnail (click-able) image. This is no longer an ebook project, it is now at least a CD, or maybe even DVD. I still desperately need dated images with associated imprints, so that I can get the imprints in the right order, and associate reasonably accurate time-spans with each.

    Comment by ajmorris — February 21, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

  11. I am interested to know if you have a picture of 156 Pearl Street (address in 1861) Building housed a “commodities” broker’s office(?)- ” Terbets and Darby, Commission Merchants” and upstairs rental housing. thanks, Alison

    Comment by Alison DeRouin — May 31, 2012 @ 7:44 am

  12. Hello Andrew J Morris,
    Found you on ClassyArts blog looking for photographers M E Beckwith & Son. Have two cabinet card portraits with dark chocolate brown card with gilt border from the 1871-1876 era. And they are both identifiable.
    If you would like copies please contact me.
    Bernie Jones

    Comment by Bernie Jones — August 9, 2012 @ 9:43 am

  13. Alison, have you tried the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery? They have lots of old photos of Cleveland. Here we mostly have common family portraits.

    Bernie, thanks for the offer, would like to see those. I have lots more Beckwith images than when I wrote this post three years ago, but none quite match your description … seems there are always more to be found.

    Comment by ajmorris — August 13, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

  14. I have over 200 stereoviews of Cleveland and have resources to locate many more.
    Please contact me if you are interested in them


    Comment by steve ehrlich — August 19, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  15. A very strange thing happened to me. I noticed pictures up on posted by someone I didn’t know. Turned out it was a stranger who collected old photographs and put them up if there was a name attached. The name of one picture was that of my grandmother. That kind person sent me the album which contains people I cannot identify. Six or seven of them were taken at Balazs Studio in Cleveland at 533 Pearl St. There are also ones taken at the Schiffer studio, the Parker studio, and the Miles studio, all in Cleveland. The pictures look to be in the mid to late 19th century.

    Is there any way to identify these by comparison to other peoples’ photos? Silly question, I know. But thanks. Risa Kell, Wilmington, NC

    Comment by Risa Kell — November 26, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

  16. Risa: Sounds more like late 19th or early 20th century, based on the names you list. None of these people were active in Cleveland before the 1880s. The card and imprint style and clothing should allow you to narrow the dates down to within 5 years or so. Based on that and the apparent ages, you can draw up a list of potential subjects by looking at who would be the right age/sex from you family tree. Then look for descendants of that person, to see if they have photos of those people you can compare.

    Comment by ajmorris — November 28, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  17. I have a number of cabinet card photographs (portraits) (two are Beckwith, which is how I found your page), that are from Cleveland during the late 1800’s era. One simply says “Beckwith, Fostoria, O.” at the bottom in gold ink. The other says “Beckwith 166 Euclid Ave. Cleveland, O.” in either pale gray ink or it was embossed.

    I have been trying to identify them by starting with the information that is on the photos, which are the studio/photographer name and city. They are from my great-grandparents posessions, but I unsure as to the name of who is in the photo, as they are not identified, but their families were Cleveland and Ohio residents during the 1800-1960s. The cabinet cards I have I would estimate to be 1870’s or later, by the style of clothing and hair.

    The other cabinet cards are from Krumhar & Stiles, Cleveland, O,; J.F. Ryder, Cleveland OH; Frees, Tiffin Ohio; Foljambe, Cleveland; J.C. Haring, Massillion OH; and Star Gallery 472 Pearl Street.

    I would be happy to share digital scans of them if you would like to include them in your project.

    Comment by Karin Thomas — March 2, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

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