Joe Hammersla and the Pryor Boys, King Studio, Hagerstown

This cabinet card photograph of a group of men drew me with its appealing sense of playful, relaxed spontaneity and emotional expressiveness, rare qualities in nineteenth century photographs.

Taken at the studio of William Brown King in Hagerstown, Maryland, this portrait also attracted me because of the identifications on the back: Scott Pryor, James Pryor, Clinton Draper, John Pryor, and, mysteriously, the name “Hammerslea.”

Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900 dates King photos marked 46 & 48 W. Washington Street, Hagerstown, to the period 1891-1901. This gave me a rough way to gauge the birth dates of the men. The younger men had to be in their early to mid-twenties, so they would have been born in the 1860s-1870s, and the elderly central figure couldn’t have been born much later than  the 1840s.

So, off to ancestry.com I went to start researching possible candidates. I ended up creating a tree for the Pryor family, eventually focusing on the descendants of Jacob Pryor (1805-1889), a Frederick County farm laborer and stave-maker.

His son, John Emmanuel Pryor, had in turn three sons who are good candidates for the three young Pryors in this photo.

John Emmanuel Pryor was a shoemaker who lived in the Hauvers district of Frederick County, Md. His sons, Millard Scott Pryor (1860-1937), John Tracy Pryor (1862-1944), and James Albert Pryor (1872-1919), fit the bill.

Millard, who sometimes went by Scott M. Pryor, married Carrie Redman, and worked as a laborer in the Catoctin district of Frederick County. He eventually got work as a track sweeper, but on these modest means raised seven children.

Brother John Tracy Pryor scraped by as a day laborer. He lost his wife, Alice Swope, before 1900 and was left with two children, romantically named Commodore Perry Pryor and Beatrice Pryor. No doubt John’s mother, with whom they lived, helped to raise them. Their situation improved after 1920: He owned his own farm, and his son Commodore Perry had a good job as a mail carrier.

James Albert Pryor, who worked as a molder in a machine shop, raised six children on Ringgold Road with his wife Carrie Winters Pryor.

Young Clinton Albert Draper (1872-1960) related via marriage to the Pryors via his aunt Urillia E. Draper’s marriage to Robert E. Pryor, turned out to be the adventurer of the group: With his wife, Irene Toms Draper, he lived in Iowa and North Dakota before emigrating to Saskatchewan, Canada in 1916 with their three children, Franklin, Emeline, and John.

Clinton Albert Draper appears on Canadian voter lists as a farmer in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, in 1935 and 1945, and then in Midale, Saskatchewan in the 1950s; he died in Midale, and may be buried there.

But the star of the show is clearly Joseph Absalom Hammersla (1832-1912). Looking away to the left of the camera, he relaxes in the center of all this crowding, boyish energy like a man who knows where he belongs in the world and rests content.

I’m confident in my identification because another researcher on ancestry.com posted a different portrait that matches mine unmistakably.

A prosperous miller, he was born in Frederick, Maryland and died in Berkeley County, West Virginia. During the Civil War, he served on the Union side with the 1st Maryland Cavalry Potomac Home Brigade. According to an article on old mills in the Martinsburg, West Virginia Journal, Joseph Hammersla bought the Eversole mill on Tullis’s Branch in 1891, and descendants operated it to grind grain and cut lumber into the 1920s.

I also found an advertisement in the Hagerstown, Md. Herald and Torchlight for “Old Uncle Joe Hammersla’s Saloon,” dated 27 September 1876. The saloon offered “frogs, pigs feet, tripe,” and “Genuine Milwaukee Lager,” among other delights, “under the Lyceum,” a lecture and performance hall located near the Washington County Courthouse on West Washington Street.

He was appointed postmaster of Littletown, Berkeley County, West Virginia in 1895. He and his  second wife Indiana Morris Hammersla (1848-1929) are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown, Md.

Hammersla moved to Hedgesville, Berkeley County, West Virginia, between 1870 and 1880, so this photograph may have been taken on a visit back to Hagerstown.

My authority on the life and career of William Brown King is Stephen Recker, author of Rare Images of Antietam and the Photographers Who Took Them.

Brown trained in the Baltimore studio of James S. Cummins. Brown came to Hagerstown with his wife, Lelia Hall King, and their son William F. King, in the late 1880s.

Both King and his wife had fathers who’d served in the Civil War: King’s on the Union side and Hall’s on the Confederate.  King’s father, Robert G. King (1834-1886), was a major in Co. C, Purnell’s Legion, Maryland Infantry. Lelia’s father, James Reid Hall (1830-1904), was a sergeant with Co. A, 40th Virginia Infantry. The two had faced each other in some of the same battles, including the Seige of Petersburg.

All of the subjects in King’s portrait are dressed in rough work clothes and scuffed boots, perhaps reflecting the spontaneous nature of the photograph. They lean together and on one another, affectionate and informal and filled with life. While we may never know what brought these five men together on that day, we still feel the glow of their vigorous humanity.

Standing Where Jefferson Stood: William M. Chase Stereoview of Jefferson Rock

Stereoview of Jefferson RockThe excitement I felt upon acquiring this circa 1870s view of a man standing on Jefferson Rock above Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia was not really about the location. It was about the man. The stereoview was published by William Moody Chase (1817-1901), and the man in the view is the prolific Baltimore purveyor of stereoviews himself.

I would not have known what William M. Chase looked like if it were not for the work of Ross Kelbaugh. His invaluable Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900 includes rarely seen reproductions of some of the works in his own collection.

One of Kelbaugh’s stereoviews depicts William M. Chase and his younger colleague and sometime collaborator and partner David Bachrach encamped on a stereoview photography expedition. Chase’s long beard, lanky figure, and the distinctive straw hat he wore all match those seen in this view, as well as in the view of Chase and Bachrach’s “Artist Corps” encampment at Niagara Falls.

Those familiar with Harper’s Ferry and with Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia know the shale outcropping became a place of pilgrimage because Jefferson is believed to have stood on this rock in October 1783 while looking out upon the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. In the 1780s he famously wrote that:

“the passage of the Patowmac through the Blue ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature. You stand on a very high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain an hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac, in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their juncture they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea” (Notes on the State of Virginia, p. 27).

The eye was then drawn, says Jefferson, eastward down the Potomac toward the lovely and fertile lands around Frederick, Maryland:

“The distant finishing which Nature has given to the picture is of a very different character. . . . It is as placid and delightful as that is wild and tremendous. For the mountain being cloven asunder, she presents to the eye, through the cleft a small catch of smooth blue horizon, at an infinite distance in the plain country, inviting you, as it were, from the riot and tumult roaring around, to pass through the breach and participate of the calm below” (Notes, pp. 27-28).

Historian Pamela Regis places Jefferson’s book at the heart of “American self-creation and self-definition” (Regis, Describing Early America: Bartram, Jefferson, Crevècoeur, and the Influence of Natural History, Northern Illinois University Press, 1992, p. 3).

“The country itself,” says Regis, “needed to be written into existence,” and the Notes, she argues, were among a small but influential group of such fundamentally creative early American prose works (Describing, p. 3).

Jefferson described the view in terms that an educated 18th century gentleman would understand: America was a worthy location for the rebirth of republicanism because it  fulfilled the highest aesthetic standards of the era.

The view was sublime and beautiful, full of both the wildest and noblest scenery, but also of useful rivers, abundant natural resources and broad, fertile lands ready for the plow.

Jefferson’s artful eye and pen composed the view into a land that had all that was required for the establishment of a new society grounded in the best traditions of the old world–a society that would be egalitarian, educated, prosperous and self-governing. Together, says Regis, texts such as these constituted “the description of a ground on which [republican] politics could hold sway” (Describing, p. 4).

With the spread of railroads and middle class prosperity, the shale rock formation that Jefferson is believed to have stood upon became an early tourist attraction. The depredations of weather and visitors necessitated stabilization, and between 1855 and 1860 the uppermost slab of the formation was placed on four stone pillars (“Thomas Jefferson at Harpers Ferry,” National Park Service).

After the Civil War, Jefferson Rock became subsumed into a larger tourism that included pilgrimages to “John Brown’s Fort” and wealthy visitors escaping the heat of the Washington, DC summer to enjoy the mountains, walks and scenery around the town (Paul A. Schackel, Archaeeology and Created Memory: Public History in a National Park, New York: Klewer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2000, pp. 66-68).

Stereoviews of John Brown’s “Fort,” the ruins of the government armory, and other Harper’s Ferry sites made famous by the war joined views of Jefferson Rock in appealing to middle class hunger to see the places that made America a nation.

In standing where Jefferson stood, seeing what Jefferson made visible, William Chase took part in Jefferson’s descriptive creation of the nation.  Mass reproduction of Chase’s views enabled Americans in all walks of life, north and south, to do the same in a time when the nation sorely needed to recall a common vision of itself.

John F. Wiley, Printer: “In his job, very skillful”

Official printer for the State of Maryland, member of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Board of Directors and the Maryland House of Delegates . . . These are just a few of the accomplishments that made John Francis Wiley (1822-1877) a valued, if forgotten, citizen of Baltimore.

Despite a rather long obituary in the Baltimore Sun, John Wiley’s origins are obscure. He was born in Baltimore, apprenticed to the Philadelphia Ledger as a printer’s devil in 1834, became foreman of that paper’s job printing operations, then returned to Baltimore to fill the same position for the Sun in 1852, later going into business on his own account.

In the mid-1870s he was appointed State Printer, in charge of producing all of Maryland state government’s official publications.  He was twice elected to the Maryland House of Delegates for Baltimore, but died before he could serve his second term.

According to his memorialists, Wiley was a thoughtful and well-read man, as well as a successful printer and public servant. He self-published a travel narrative documenting his observations on his and his wife’s one trip abroad.

Printed privately, his Letters from Europe in the year 1869 is so obscure that it has not been cataloged. The Maryland Historical Society’s H. Furlong Baldwin Library owns a copy, and one copy has surfaced on the web for sale by a purveyor of rare books.

When Wiley died at the age of 55, multiple newspapers published obituaries honoring his enterprise and character. The New York Herald called him “a purely self-made man” (New York Herald, 19 November 1877).

The Baltimore Sun‘s obituary was, naturally, the longest. The anonymous writer remembered him thus:

“He was a ready writer, and though he only made occasional efforts with the pen his writings from time to time displayed culture and observation. He had many warm personal friends. As a businessman he was prompt and intelligent, and in his job, very skillful” (Baltimore Sun, 21 November 1877).

He and his wife, Sally Forman Wiley, had no children. After his death, Mrs. Wiley moved to Philadelphia to live with her brother, William Wiley Forman, his wife Mary, and their daughters, Lillie, Sarah Wiley Forman and Elizabeth Forman.

There is a sad coda to his life story.

Because his wife made no will before her  death in 1897, her brother attempted to have her dying words accepted in lieu of a written statement of intentions. “Rheumatism,” said William Wiley’s attorney, “had affected . . . her hands to such an extent that she was able to write only with great pain and labor.”

But “everything is to go to Willie,” she had said, “Mary, don’t you or the children worry about anything. I want Willie–brother Willie–to have everything” (Pennsylvania State Reports, v. 187, p. 82 ff).

The Pennsylvania courts declined to recognize Mrs. Wiley’s words as a will, and in 1898, the unnamed opponents of William Forman’s case successfully defended against his appeal.

The card mount of this carte de visite portrait bears the blind emboss mark of daguerreotypist and photographer Jesse Harrison Whitehurst (1823-1875). According to Maryland photography historian Ross Kelbaugh, Whitehurst’s photographic studio was at 123 Baltimore Street from 1860 to 1864. Photographs taken between 1864 and 1866 were taxed by means of a  revenue stamp on the reverse. Since this carte lacks a revenue stamp, Wiley’s portrait might might well have been taken between 1860 and 1864.

Whitehurst was one of the most successful of the early daguerreans and photographers, operating galleries in multiple cities, including Washington, DC and New York.  According to what is known of him, he took up the daguerreotypy almost as soon as it was introduced in the United States, traveling from Virginia to New York to study the new technology.

“Mr. Whitehurst,” said his brief obituary in the journal Photographic Mosaics, “was celebrated for securing sittings from distinguished characters, of which he was supposed to have had the largest collection of negatives in this or any other country.”

Whitehurst’s highly-prized portraits of the famous include General J. E. B. Stuart, General Sam Houston, and the actor Edwin Booth.

Whitehurst daguerreotypes and photographs can be found in the collections of noted archives, historical societies and museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Library of Congress.

John Francis Wiley is buried in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland.

Malcolm Westcott Hill, St. Paul’s School, 1893

According to the notes penned on the back of the mount, this cabinet card portrait depicts Malcolm Westcott Hill, age 18, in 1893, while Hill was a student at St. Paul’s School in Garden City, Long Island, an Episcopal boarding prep school with a progressive science curriculum.

Young Hill went on to study at Johns Hopkins University and became an electrical engineer and electrical contractor. During the first World War, he attended Engineer Officer’s Training Camp at American University in Washington, DC, serving the Corps of Engineers until 1919, when he mustered out with the rank of captain.

Hill’s family had roots going back to two of the republic’s earliest conflicts: The American Revolution on his mother’s side, and on his father’s side, the War of 1812.

Malcolm’s grandfather, Thomas Gardner Hill(1793-1849), was a sergeant in Captain McKane’s Company, Maryland 27th Regiment during the War of 1812, and said to have been at the Battle of North Point. Malcolm’s father, Thomas Hill (1834-1909) was a prominent businessman of Baltimore.

Malcolm’s mother, Harriett Louise Westcott, could trace her roots back to the Revolutionary War, when her great-grandfather, Capt. Samuel Westcott (1757-1854), commanded a company in Col. Silas Newcomb’s First Battalion, of Cumberland County, New Jersey.

Malcolm’s grandfather George Burgin Westcott (1801-1887), relocated from New Jersey to Chestertown, Kent County, Maryland, where he amassed land and wealth and served as president of Kent National Bank,  president of the Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Kent County, member of the Board of Governors of Washington College, and was prominent in the Episcopal Church.

The house they occupied in Chestertown from the 1830s to 1910, now known as the Geddes Piper House, is the headquarters of the Kent County Historical Society. They owned 320 acres of  “Hinchingham,” west of Chestertown, on the bay, but there is no evidence that they lived in the historic house of the same name.

The studio where this portrait was taken was the busy and successful business owned by Harry Lenfield Perkins (b. abt. 1854, Maryland), and founded by his father, Palmer Lenfield Perkins (b. 1824, Burlington Co., New Jersey).  According to Ross Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers, 311 E. Baltimore Street (old 103 W. Baltimore) was the studio’s address 1887-1897.

Like the Hills and the Westcotts, P. L. Perkins was a zealous and involved member of the Episcopal church. The Perkins belonged to Ascension Protestant Episcopal Church, Lafayette and Arlington streets (from 1932 called St. James Episcopal Church Lafayette Square); the Hills to St. Peter’s, from 1868 located at Druid Hill Avenue and Lanvale Street in Bolton Hill (today owned by Bethel A. M. E. Church).

Perkins chose a vignette style for this bust portrait, in which the background is burned out to create a soft, almost floating effect. Malcolm’s head is tilted to the left, his eyes raised up, as if gazing into his promising future–a style now  familiar to generations of school portrait victims.

St. Paul’s School for Boys, an impressive Gothic Revival complex built ca. 1880, was dedicated to the memory of the founder of Garden City, Long Island, Alexander Turner Stewart. It was run by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. Empty for decades, preservationists have been engaged for years in a struggle to save the buildings from demolition and find new uses for it.

The Two Mrs. Alexander Chaplains: Emily Thomas

My last post concerned a portrait of Elmira or Elma Kemp Chaplain (1837-1869), first wife of Talbot County Superintendent of Schools Alexander Chaplain (1835-1918).

A short time after I acquired that portrait, I had the very good fortune to find a portrait of Chaplain’s second wife, Emily, also called Emma, Thomas (1838-1904), in an old album of Maryland portraits.  On the back is written “Aunt Emily Chaplain, Uncle Alex’s 2nd wife.”

Emily Thomas, daughter of Dorchester County farmer Algernon Thomas and Deborah Shannahan, married Alexander Chaplain in 1872.  In 1880, Emily bore a half-sister, Eleanor Chaplain,  for her husband’s daughter Maude.

This  carte de visite portrait was made at the studio of Frank Kuhn, in Baltimore. According to Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers, Kuhn , who also partnered for a time with James Cummins, occupied 48 and 50 N. Charles Street 1879-1880. Note that Kuhn identifies himself not as a photographer, but as an” artist.”

Emily sports a long curl worn over one shoulder, a style typical of the 1870s, and possibly made of false hair.

Other surnames found in this album of mostly western Maryland portraits are Spalding, Bourne, Bowers, Willis and Martin. The presence of one Chaplain, referred to as the wife of an “uncle,” and another of Margie Robinson, one of Alexander Chaplain’s nieces (see previous posts under “Chaplain Family”), sent me on a frustrating search for family connections that remains full of unsolved puzzles.

Portrait of Charles D. Summers

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Charles D. Summers (1870-1948), husband of Elizabeth J. Gaither Summers, was the son of Talbot County furniture-maker and carpenter Samuel A. Summers (b. abt. 1832, Md.) and Anna Louise Ross Summers (b. abt.1850, Md.).

Charles, one of ten siblings raised in the village of Trappe, became a house carpenter. Sometime between 1880 and 1900, he moved to Baltimore, along with his mother, his younger brother Joseph Eugene Summers,  an aunt, possibly his grandmother Ellen Bullen Ross‘ sister, Anna L. Bullen, and a cousin, Mabel G. Ross.

By 1900, they were settled at 1936 West Lafayette Avenue, and Charles had found steady employment as a house carpenter. The block is a street of tidy two-story, two-bay row houses with bow windows, in an area, north of Edmondson Avenue and west of Harlem Park and Lafayette Square, that was undergoing rapid residential development at the turn of the century.

Elizabeth Gaither’s father, Vachel H. Gaither, was also a house carpenter, so perhaps Elizabeth met her future husband through their connection with the building trades.

Elizabeth and Charles had one daughter, Margaret Ross Summers (b. abt. 1905, Baltimore, Md.).

According to Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers, London Studio, where Charles Summers had his portrait taken, was located at 5 W. Lexington Street ca. 1894-1895. That would make Charles about 25 at the time of the photograph.

All photographs from the Elizabeth J. Gaither Summers album were acquired on ebay from jbatro (johnscollectibles@att.net).

Two Young Men by Jacob Byerly

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These two cartes de visite are probably my earliest examples of the work of Jacob Byerly, Frederick, Maryland’s earliest and most well-known photographer.

The unidentified young men in these portraits may have been soldiers; the vignette style that shows just the head and shoulders makes it difficult to identify their clothing. But bearded and sunburned, these two hale young men in the prime of their lives may, like many soldiers, have had their portraits taken at Byerly’s Market Street studio when passing through Frederick in 1862 (South Mountain, Antietam), 1863 (Gettysburg), and 1864 (Monocacy) during the Civil War.

They could also have been among the 9,000 or so soldiers who convalesced in Frederick after being wounded in these battles.

Ross Kelbaugh’s directory dates cartes de visite with this imprint to before 1866, when Byerly took his son J. Davis Byerly into the business. Since these photographs don’t have revenue stamps, we can be confident they were taken before 1864.

The simple three-line imprint and gold double border lines support this early dating. William Darrah places the double-border style to 1861-1869, so I’m going to guess that these date from sometime between 1861 and 1864.

Color Me Badly, Bendann

Even the renowned Bendanns could turn out bad work. I was fortunate to acquire two Bendann Brothers carte de visites of the same subject. One has been hand-tinted; one has not. The contrast is striking. Instead of animating nature, an unskilled hand has marred it.

These two cartes were produced at the Bendanns’ 205 W. Baltimore Street gallery, which, according to Ross Kelbaugh‘s Directory of Baltimore Photographers, the brothers occupied from 1859 to 1860.

Bendann with Blind Emboss

This ca. 1860 carte de visite has an unusual  blind-embossed “Bendann” mark instead of the usual printed studio mark.

According to Baltimore photography historian Ross Kelbaugh, Daniel Bendann opened his own studio in Richmond, Virginia in 1856. In 1858, he worked as a photographer for the B & O Railroad. He and his brother, David Bendann, opened their Baltimore studio in 1859.

I have one other Baltimore card photograph with a blind-emboss studio mark:  A carte de visite by Henry Pollock. Blind-emboss may be an indication of an earlier date in the wet plate era.

Like some earlier cartes in my collection, including the Pollock, this Bendann cdv was made with austere props on a thin, ivory card stock without border lines.

His coat is shorter and more fitted than the the typical sack coat of the 1860s. He wears a matching vest and contrasting checked trousers. His necktie is worn vertically, in a soft knot at the neck–a style that seems to have been common in the 1870s.

Without additional information about how the Bendanns marked their early work and when the blind emboss mark was in use, is not possible to be sure  when  this carte was produced.

“Barbara Fritchie’s Home,” J. Davis Byerly

This carte de visite sold by Frederick photographer  J. Davis Byerly depicts the home of the mythologized Civil War heroine Barbara Frietchie. Frietchie and her home became famous after John Greenleaf Whittier published his eponymous poem in the Atlantic Monthly in 1863.

According to the Maryland Online Encyclopedia, Frietchie’s home was destroyed in an 1868 flood of Carroll Creek, and not rebuilt until 1927. This photo had to have been taken prior to the flood.

The photo is identical to the one used on a similar souvenir carte sold by J. Davis Byerly’s father and founder of their Frederick studio, Jacob Byerly. Collector Gil Barrett allowed Maryland photography historian Ross Kelbaugh to reprint an image of the carte in Kelbaugh’s 2001 article on Byerly and Frietchie for the Daguerreian Annual in 2001.

There is a difference in the prints. This print appears to contain areas of damage in the upper lefthand corner. Since the damage is not to the print, it must be to the negative. Byerly, who took over his father’s business in 1868, must have continued to make prints from the same negative his father had used.

Whittier’s poem turnedphotographs of Frietchie’s Frederick home into lucrative tourist souvenirs after 1863.

Thanks to what we know about the destruction of the house and the Byerly business, we can safely date the photograph here to the period 1863 to 1868, but the carte itself could have been sold anytime between 1868 and 1899, when Charles Byerly, son of J. Davis, took over the business started by his grandfather in 1842.