Buffham’s Brice House, Annapolis

Cabinet card photograph of Brice House, Annapolis, Md., by George BuffhamThis over-sized (8-1/2″x6-1/2″) card photograph by George Richard Buffham (1846-1915) is much larger than today’s tourist mementos, but the photo of the Brice House on East Street, entitled “Colonial Annapolis,”  seems meant for a tourist market.

English-born George Buffham moved to Annapolis from Baltimore and operated a photographic studio at 48 Maryland Avenue there from the 1890s to about 1910. He held an appointment as official photographer to the US Naval Academy between 1890 and 1900; in 1912 he sold his studio and retired with his wife, Ethel, to their home outside the town.

Buffham photographed several well-known graduates of the Naval Academy, including Chester W. Nimitz. Some of Buffham’s portraits can be found in the Maryland State Archives and the Library of Congress.

Buffham also operated a photographic studio at the Bay Ridge Resort, a popular summer hotel and amusement park now an exclusive enclave of homes just south of town that is fiercely protective of its heritage, wildlife, open space and community traditions.

George and Ethel (Hubbard) Buffham’s red-roofed home, built in 1891, still stands at 11 Barry Avenue in Bay Ridge. Unfortunately, a 1915 fire that destroyed Bay Ridge’s hotel also destroyed Buffham’s large collection of photographic plates.

This is the first example of one of Buffham’s tourist-market photographs that I’ve seen come up for sale. It depicts one of the oldest and best-known Georgian homes in Annapolis, the James Brice House on East Street. Begun by Annapolis Mayor James Brice, the Brice House was built of brick on a fieldstone foundation 1767-1774, in a five-part form featuring a central structure flanked by two “hyphens.”

The Library of Congress has digitized 15 of its collection of 17 photographs of Brice House’s interior and exterior. The house is now home to the International Masonry Institute’s headquarters, and apparently is not open to the public.

The house has figured in recent archeological work in the town.  1998 excavations in the east wing uncovered African-American protective Hoodoo caches.

Photographs like this one open a window into the ways that 19th century photographers attempted to expand their products beyond portraiture by capitalizing on Americans’ revived interest in their nation’s origins.

Additional Sources:

Jane Wilson McWilliams and Caroline Patterson, Bay Ridge on the Chesapeake: An Illustrated History (Annapolis: Brighton Editions, 1986) Available for purchase from the authors.

The Other Buffham Brother: John Hardiman Buffham

Vintage photograph collectors may have heard of English-born George Richard Buffham (1846-1915), official photographer to the US Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Buffham also had a studio in Baltimore, Maryland, which he ran under the name Buffham Brothers.

This is the other Buffham of Buffham Brothers: John Hardiman Buffham (1855-1940). Like George, John Buffham immigrated to the US from England in the 1870s and settled in Baltimore with his wife, Jessie, and mother, Mary Ann Johnson Buffham.

George and John first appear in the US census records in Baltimore in 1880 as “picture dealers.” They might have been exposed to the business through their father, George Richard Buffham, Sr., who had been a London carver and gilder–probably of frames.

George was apprenticed to a London “spectacle-maker,” and the training in grinding glass lenses must have served as a good background for an understanding of photography.

George Buffham moved to Annapolis and gained the appointment at the Naval Academy sometime between 1890 and 1900. He sold his studio, located at 48 Maryland Avenue, near Prince George Street,  in 1912.

Some of his most famous photos are studio portraits of future admirals Chester W. Nimitz Harold Rainsford  Stark and Wat Tyler Cluverius as  US Naval Academy cadets.

Buffham photographed many officers, Academy athletic teams, graduating class groups, as well as members of the Maryland General Assembly, and outdoor scenes of Annapolis and the Academy. The Maryland State Archives and the Library of Congress each hold small collections of his photographs.

While George focused on photography, John Hardiman Buffham gravitated toward business, eventually working as a representative of Baltimore’s Resinol Company. The company made cremes and soaps developed by Dr. Merville Hamilton Carter in his private practice. Buffham, who divided his time between Baltimore and England, became the company’s representative in London.

John died in London in 1940, leaving an estate of nearly £6,000 to his two daughters, Edith Mary (Buffham) Varney and Jessie Mabel (Buffham) Curry.

While George and John both kept a substantial presence in England, a third brother, carpenter Thomas Henry Buffham (1852-1921) settled in Port Chester, Westchester County, New York, for good. His descendants became solidly American, while John’s remained in England.

This cabinet card photograph lists the studio’s address at 116 South Broadway, Baltimore, a location that Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers says Buffham occupied between 1880 and 1889.

George Buffham’s bust portrait of John takes full advantage of John’s dark good looks, penetrating eyes, strikingly smooth, pale complexion and high forehead. Leaning dramatically toward the camera, John’s confident gaze compels the viewer to acknowledge and admire him.

Col. Ellwood Waller Evans, US Army (1866-1917)

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English-born photographer George Richard Buffham (1846-1915) took this photograph of then Maj. Ellwood Waller Evans in the late 1890s.

Buffham and his brother J. H. Buffham may have been the  Buffham Bros. of the eponymous studio in Baltimore in the 1880s. They are found in Baltimore in the 1880 census listed as “picture dealers.”

George Buffham had moved to Annapolis by 1900, and worked there as a photographer at 48 Maryland Avenue until ca. 1910. Buffham may have been the US Naval Academy photographer around that time, when he took out advertisements seeking a managing partner for his Annapolis studio, and directed interested parties to write him at the academy.

Evans, who graduated from West Point in 1887, was a military instructor at St. Johns College in the late 1890s.  He began his career with the 8th Cavalry in Texas, South Dakota, and Montana. When the US went to war with Spain in 1898, Evans was chosen to help lead the 5th Regiment of the Maryland National Guard as the regiment was prepared for active duty, then moved to the 1st Regiment and accompanied them to Cuba, where he served from 1899 to 1902.

After Cuba, Evans served in Missouri, the Phillipines, and Nebraska. Evans then became commander of the First Squadron of the 10th Cavalry, an all-black corps, and led these soldiers with Pershing in the incursion into Mexico (Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young, Brian G. Shellum, University of Nebraska Press, 2010, pp. 248, 330).

By now a colonel, Evans died in Pueblo, Colorado on 24 July 1917. According to Evans’ Baltimore Sun obituary of 27 July 1917, the career soldier was serving as inspector-general of the Colorado National Guard at the time of his death.

The Pueblo Chieftain recorded the elaborate pageantry of his military funeral in its 29 July 1917 issue:

“The funeral procession of Colonel Evans was the most spectacular seen in Pueblo for many years, for while the service itself was simple,  the special escort of 800 soldiers, added a touch to the funeral procession which brought home to the hearts of many the seriousness of the present conflict.”

These soldiers, and the officer who accompanied Evans’ body back east, came from Peublo’s Camp Gunter. The camp, likely named for Colorado Gov. Julius Gunter, apparently served as a temporary encampment set up on the Pueblo Colorado fair grounds for the mustering of Colorado National Guard troops at the outbreak of World War I.

The Evans and Waller families had deep roots in Somerset and Worcester counties, Maryland.  Evans’ father, George Washington Evans (1841-1896), was born on his father’s farm on Smith Island. Capt. George W. Evans served during the Civil War in Company I of the 1st Eastern Shore Maryland Infantry, and made  the Army his career after the war ended (Historical Register of the United States Army, Francis Bernard Heitman, 1890, p. 258).

Ellwood’s great-grandfather, William Waller, served in Capt. James Foster’s Company of the 51st Regiment, Maryland Militia, in the 1812 war with the British, and Ellwood was a member of the Society of the War of 1812 on the basis of this ancestry.

His great-great-grandfather, Col. Peter Chaille of Snow Hill, Worcester County, served in the Revolutionary War with the 1st Battalion of the Worcester County, Maryland Militia. Col. Chaille was also a member of the Maryland Convention and the Maryland Lower House from 1777 to 1780.

George Buffham made frequent journeys back to England throughout the early years of the century, and it is possible that his brother and mother returned there permanently. Buffham and his wife may have also returned to England for good around 1910; a brief item in an Annapolis newspaper mentions an urgent trip back to England to attend his ill mother.

The photograph’s  5″ x 3-1/4″ white mount has a pebbled surface with embossed frame design, serrated edges and beveled, square corners, and is dated ca. 1900 by McCulloch. The image is a simple, vignetted bust portrait, perhaps  taken for his wife before he left Annapolis for Cuba in 1898.