The recent release of the first full 3D scan of the wreck of Titanic generated worldwide interest.
The sinking of Titanic is a story that continues to fascinate and one that wove its way into my recently-published doctoral thesis on early press photography.
By 1912, Underwood & Underwood (U&U), the 3D photography company that provided the case study for my thesis, was supplying news photos to newspapers and magazines across the world.
A story I was unaware of before beginning my research was the company’s role in securing a series a Titanic photographs taken by 17 year-old Bernice “Bernie” Palmer using a Kodak Brownie.
Bernice was a passenger on Carpathia, the ship that rescued passengers from Titanic. She was able to photograph both the iceberg involved as well as survivors recovering on deck in the days following the disaster.
The details are well described and illustrated in a blogpost featuring her remarkable snapshots put together by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
According to the National Museum of American History’s account, Bernice was approached on her return to New York by a “newsman” working for Underwood & Underwood who offered to develop, print and return the pictures to her along with $10.
As a result, U&U copyrighted the resulting images and was able to widely distribute her photographs making front-page headlines in the process.
Note the credit caption at the bottom of the page which states: “This photograph was purchased for The Call and copyrighted by Underwood & Underwood, New York.”
During a research trip to the Smithsonian in 2020, I was fortunate enough to be able to handle and view Underwood & Underwood’s original contractual agreement with Bernice dated 8th February 1913.
As this was several months after the sinking, it is reasonable to assume that by that point, the company had maximised the immediate commercial potential of its “exclusive” photos and and was willing to return the copyright to its owner.
The Epilogue to my thesis explores this sequence of events in more detail and examines some of the questionable behaviour that resulted in pursuit of a journalistic scoop.
If you wish to read more about the role played by stereoscopic 3D photography in shaping press illustration in the decades either side of 1900, you will find a link to the full thesis in my blogpost “Doctoral thesis” (13th May 2023).
In the past, England’s cathedrals have been photographed many times by both professionals and amateurs.
Among the professionals was my wife’s great great uncle Percy R. Salmon FRPS (1872-1959) whose life and career feature elsewhere on this blog.
From around 1897 to 1899, he worked as a travelling photographer for the stereoscopic 3-D photography company of Lévy et Ses Fils of Paris (or Lévy Fils et Cie as it is also known).
According to the Leeds Mercury (3rd June 1899), one of his commissions involved stereographing “all the English cathedrals.”
Inspired by visiting The English Cathedral and seeing Peter Marlow’s work, I wondered if it might be possible to identify any of Mr. Salmon’s cathedral stereos.
My first port of call was the website of the Roger-Viollet Collection in Paris whose archive features stereos he took for Lévy during an 1898 expedition to Egypt, Palestine, Turkey and Greece.
A “cathedrals” search yielded a sequence of six (3448-10 to 3448-15) that, like those from his 1898 trip, were colourised at some point by Lévy using gouache, a water-soluble paint.
Dated by Roger-Viollet to between 1895 and 1900, the circumstantial evidence suggests that they could be the work of Percy R. Salmon.
Three feature Westminster Abbey, scene of the recent Coronation of King Charles III but, as I learned from visiting The English Cathedral exhibition, not in fact a cathedral and so not photographed by Peter Marlow.
Another shows the interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral whilst the remaining two in the sequence feature Buckingham Palace (taken from an unusual side-on angle) and St. James’s Palace, both in London.
On this occasion, the cost of obtaining high-resolution versions of these stereos for publication is beyond my budget, but I hope you will enjoy viewing this watermarked version of the interior of
St. Paul’s, possibly by Percy R. Salmon.
You can view the other stereos identified in this blogpost by inputting the reference numbers (eg. 3448-10 3448-11, etc) in sequence into the Roger- Viollet website’s search engine.
Encouraged by the existence of these stereos and armed with the knowledge that Lévy also produced postcard versions, I spent time on Ebay to see if I could find any of them.
That search continues, but I have been able to purchase this black-and-white stereo postcard of the interior of Canterbury Cathedral produced by “Lévy Fils et Cie, Paris” and bearing its signature “L.L.” branding.
Is this the work of Percy R. Salmon FRPS? If he was commissioned by the company to stereograph “all the English cathedrals” during 1897, it is certainly a possibility worth considering.
Meanwhile, our Percy R. Salmon research project continues.
If you are a postcard collector or have examples of Lévy stereos or lantern slides, please use the comments box below to contact me.
On the eve of the 1902 Coronation of Edward VII and Alexandra, a photo call took place at Lambeth Palace in London.
Present were key players in the following day’s ceremony at Westminster Abbey, notably the Archbishops of Canterbury and York who were to crown the King and Queen respectively.
As the first coronation in Britain for 65 years, this 1902 timeline has echoes of 2023, but there is another significant fact. The 1902 Coronation was the first such occasion since the arrival of photography.
As a result, still and moving cameras were out in force during that coronation summer to record every official function and its participants.
Among the companies involved was Underwood & Underwood of New York, one of the era’s leading stereoscopic ‘3D’ photographers.
This U&U stereo, featuring Frederick Temple (1821-1902), Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Dalrymple Maclagan (1826-1910), Archbishop of York, was issued as part of a coronation-themed set.
The stereo also featured in the company’s short-lived magazine The Stereoscopic Photograph (September 1902) as part of an article promoting its products titled “The Crowning of the King.”
There, it was given an alternative title of “The Archbishops of Canterbury and York in Coronation Robes, with their Sons, London.”
Of course, this additional piece of information, “with their Sons,” provides both context and pointers as to the identity of the other figures portrayed in the stereo.
Here were the two most senior clergy in the Church of England being photographed with members of their families ahead of perhaps the biggest moment of their clerical lives.
Further research has revealed that the U&U stereo featured both a future Archbishop of Canterbury and an influential Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Frederick Temple’s son William (back left) pursued a career in the church and followed in his father’s footsteps during the years 1942 to 1944. William Maclagan’s son Eric (back right, later Sir Eric) was an art historian who led the V & A from 1924 to 1945.
Another photograph taken on this occasion is part of the Royal Collection.
As well as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, it features another participant in the 1902 Coronation service.
At this point, Randall Davidson (1848-1930) was Bishop of Winchester, succeeding Frederick Temple as Archbishop of Canterbury when he died a few months after the ceremony.
On the Royal Collection Trust website, the photographer of this portrait is credited as “unknown person.” (Update 18th May 2023: the Royal Collection Trust has amended its website and attributed the photograph to James Russell & Sons to reflect the research outlined below).
However, evidence identified by this blog points towards that person being John Lemmon Russell (1846-1915), head of the firm of J. Russell & Sons who held a royal warrant as photographers to Queen Victoria.
In an interview published by the weekly illustrated paper Black & White (27th December 1902), Russell described the photo call in some detail.
“The day before the Coronation, I had the pleasure of photographing the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of Winchester in their coronation robes at Lambeth Palace.”
He continued: “An American photographer, a representative of Messrs. Underwood and Underwood, was very anxious to accompany me, and I mentioned to the Archbishop of Canterbury the fact that he was present.
“‘I should very much like to speak to the American gentleman,’ said the Archbishop. On being introduced, Dr. Temple proceeded to say what a keen sympathy he had for the American nation. He delivered quite a little speech to my friend, who was exceedingly gratified by this honour.”
The American gentleman was U&U’s co-founder Bert Underwood, and this account helps explain how the company produced its “Archbishops and their sons” stereo.
The collaborative photographic relationship between U&U and Russell during the Coronation summer of 1902 is one that I explore in the current issue of The PhotoHistorian, the journal of the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group.
A free download of that article is available below with the usual credit protocols.
For photohistorians, the Coronation of Charles III has provided an opportunity to revisit similar royal events and examine how they were recorded photographically.
The Coronation of 1902 is an occasion that prompted my recent article for The PhotoHistorian, the journal of the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group (available as a free download via this blog).
The article looked at how the American stereoscopic photography company Underwood & Underwood (U&U) secured a 3D exclusive featuring King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in their robes and crowns.
One of the figures who emerged from the shadows during my research was the British man who stereographed the royal couple on that occasion for U&U. His name was James Edward Ellam.
This blogpost draws on public records, newspaper reports and local history sources to highlight his previously under-studied role in the evolution of early press photography. It also includes previously unpublished examples of his work.
Born in Lindley, Huddersfield in the summer of 1857, James came from a large family. His father, Firth Ellam, was a cloth dresser in the textile industry and held the elected post of Guardian for the Huddersfield Poor Law Union.
James’s apparent non-appearance in the 1881 England Census leaves a gap in our knowledge about his years as a young adult.
However, in April 1885, newspapers in Hudderfield reported that “Mr. J.E. Ellam” was leaving the town, bringing an end to a long connection with the High Street Sunday School. Involvement in church activities was to be a recurrent theme in his life.
James’s career as a pioneering press photographer started to take shape when he relocated to Yarm, near Stockton-on-Tees. There, he lodged with the Bradley family who ran a long-established tailors and drapers shop. It was a domestic relationship that was to endure for the rest of his life.
By 1890, James was secretary of the Stockton Photographic Society, involved in organising talks, exhibitions and conversaziones where members photographs were exhibited.
By day, he worked in Yarm as a chemist’s assistant for Strickland & Holt, founded in 1854 and still in business in 2023.
As more of its customers started taking their own photographs, James helped develop their negatives, producing high-quality prints. The business on Yarm High Street also featured an outdoor portrait studio.
James’s speciality and that of the Stockton Photographic Society was stereoscopic 3D photography.
The illusion of three dimensions, which our eyes produce naturally, is created when two slightly different images captured on camera are viewed side-by-side in a stereoscope.
Initially, James trained his stereo camera on local happenings such as the flooding of Yarm, a regular occurrence when the nearby River Tees burst its banks.
His stereos, such as “Temporary Bridge over the Tees at Yarm Gala 1891,” featured the stamp “J.E. Ellam, Yarm” on the verso.
And he captured local ‘views’ such as this stereo of Durham taken from the town’s railway station with the cathedral in the distance.
The same ‘view’ was produced as a glass lantern slide credited to J.E. Ellam that is now part of the collection of Shropshire Museums. The slide is marked “Yarm 6,” suggesting that it was part of a lantern slide lecture.
The presence on his stereos of “J.E. Ellam, Yarm,” some with printed labels and titles, indicates that they were sold commercially.
At this point, an opportunity arose which allowed James to share his photography with a wider audience.
In October 1894, he supplied photographs to the national press of the aftermath of a fatal train crash involving the “Scotch Express” at nearby Northallerton.
The following month, James registered the copyright of his rail accident photographs in order to protect his commercial interests.
These included “The Second Engine & Tender,” which the Illustrated London News had published uncredited in its report of the accident (“The Railway Accident at Northallerton,” 13th October 1894, p. 460).
Apparently intent on pursuing a career in photography, James left Yarm in the summer of 1896. His timing was auspicious as the illustrated press had begun to adopt half-tone printing. This process allowed photographs to be reproduced and required a regular supply of news pictures.
In London, James’s 3D work came to the attention of a leading American stereoscopic company, Underwood & Underwood (U&U). The company had an office close to Fleet Street and was already supplying prints to the press taken from one half of a stereo negative.
Among James’s first assignments was stereographing the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in June 1897. A set of stereos issued by U&U included a number taken in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral where the Queen attended a Thanksgiving Service.
These illustrate the prime location that James occupied and how events unfolded in front of his stereo camera over a number of hours. The lamppost located in the middle of the shots illustrates how the scene changed as he waited for the Queen to arrive.
In the second stereo, Queen Victoria (left of frame towards the top of shot) is visible in her carriage. It was positioned at the foot of the cathedral steps which she was unable to climb due to infirmity.
A few days after the event, a print taken from another of James’s stereos, “Ambassadors and Royalties witness the Thanksgiving Service,” was placed by U&U with The Graphic, a leading illustrated weekly paper, and credited to U&U, “Publishers of Stereoscopic Views.”
It was a significant moment for both James in his new career and for U&U in its pioneering efforts to establish a press photography service.
The copyright forms for these stereoscopic photographs refer to an agreement between U&U and “James Edward Ellam of Dunmow, Essex.” Dunmow was the town to which the Bradley family, with whom James had lodged in Yarm for several years, had also relocated.
Henry Bradley, a fellow committee member with James in the Stockton Photographic Society, took over a tailors and outfitters business in Dunmow which he ran together with his wife Dorothy and their daughters.
As an entrepreneur, Henry used his own amateur photography to produce promotional postcards for his business featuring scenes around Dunmow.
As a commuter, James worked in London and stayed with the Bradleys at weekends where the England censuses of 1901 and 1911 recorded his presence as a “visitor.”
His working relationship with U&U continued, coinciding with a worldwide revival of interest in buying and collecting sets of 3D ‘views.’
During the summer of 1902, the company’s co-founder Bert Underwood (1862-1943) was in London to supervise U&U’s stereo set celebrating the coronation of Edward VII.
As one of Underwood’s trusted stereographers, James was involved in a project which involved covering various society events. It may have been partly enabled by a connection supplied by James himself.
In Dunmow, he was a near neighbour of the Countess of Warwick. Frances Evelyn Maynard, or “Daisy” as she was known, inherited her family estate at Easton Lodge near Dunmow at the age of 21.
In the 1880s and 1890s, the estate was the scene of extravagant weekend house parties, attended by society figures including the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII.
During that coronation summer of 1902, “Daisy” hosted society events at Warwick Castle, her husband’s family seat.
A week before the coronation, U&U photographed a “lavish fete” there attended by “Indian Princes and Colonial Premiers.” Given his Dunmow connections, it seems possible that James accompanied Bert Underwood who recorded this assignment in an unpublished memoir.
On Saturday 9th August, James was at Buckingham Palace to stereograph the King and Queen Alexandra in their coronation robes and crowns.
A few weeks later, he travelled to Balmoral, the royal family’s Scottish home. This time he stereographed the King surrounded by his grandchildren including the future Edward VIII and George VI. Again, the image appeared in the illustrated press credited to U&U.
At another event that coronation summer, a photograph known to show Bert Underwood with his stereo camera atop a set of ladders featured another figure stood alongside him with an equipment bag at their feet.
Could this be James Edward Ellam? If so, it is the only photo of James that research for this blogpost has identified.
The following year, permission was given to U&U to create a set of 36 stereos featuring the new Pope, Pius X.
James was among the Underwood team who journeyed from London to the Vatican in Rome to create A Pilgrimage to See the Holy Father through the Stereoscope.
Such was the project’s global success that U&U later received a Silver Medal from the Pope to mark the occasion.
By now, daily newspapers such as the tabloid Daily Mirror, launched in 1904, were primarily using photographs rather than drawings to illustrate the news, and photography became integral to the press.
With his considerable experience, James was well placed to further develop his career. Around 1908, he began work as a staff photographer for the newly-established London News Agency Photos at 46 Fleet Street, one of many set up to meet the insatiable demand from the press for images.
Among his colleagues was Alfred James Robinson whose family compiled this 2014 blogpost about his career which includes some wonderful photos and information about the agency.
Alongside this professional role, James continued to be active in the world of amateur photography from which his own career had emerged.
In 1908, he exhibited a print titled “A Sea of Steps,” a much photographed scene from Wells Cathedral, at the West London Photographic Society’s 19th annual exhibition.
The following year, as a member of the United Stereoscopic Society, his work was exhibited by the Royal Photographic Society at its 45th annual exhibition in London.
Small details of James’s day-to-day life during these years are also revealed by public records. London electoral rolls for 1910 and 1912 record him paying six shillings a week to live in an unfurnished room on the second floor of a terraced house in Hammersmith.
In Dunmow, he continued to be actively involved in the life of St. Mary’s Parish Church where he was superintendent of the Sunday School, sang in the choir and was a server to the vicar.
Between 1905 and 1915, the vicar was the Reverend John Evans and a postcard featuring the church’s interior together with his portrait was published during his incumbency.
Whether or not James, or perhaps Henry Bradley, was involved in its conception, it certainly has stereoscopic qualities, using the rows of pews and the light fitting in the foreground to add a sense of depth.
Research has revealed little about James’s life in the years either side of the First World War.
However, in January 1920, his life came to a tragic end. Its circumstances were reported by many national and local newspapers.
As The Times stated in its News in Brief column: “Mr. James Edward Ellam, who had been associated with the London News Agency Photos, Limited, for many years was knocked down and killed by an omnibus in Fleet-street on Saturday morning.”
After the accident, James was taken less than half a mile to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, but the internal injuries he sustained in the accident proved fatal. An inquest later recorded a verdict of “accidental death” (City of London Coroners Court CLA/041/IQ/04/03/001/015).
The Essex Chronicle report of his funeral service at St. Mary’s Church, Dunmow described how Henry Bradley was notified by police about the accident. That same day, he travelled to London to identify James whose death brought to an end a relationship with the Bradley family that spanned at least 30 years.
In October 1921, an oak prayer desk paid for by “friends, choirmen and Sunday School scholars” at St. Mary’s was dedicated to James’s memory.
In the years since, James’s most celebrated photographs have taken their place in public collections, notably his royal stereos for U&U in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Further examples of his work as an agency press photographer are more difficult to identify as individuals were rarely if ever credited for their work.
Given his career with London News Agency Photos between 1908 and 1920, and his work prior to that for Underwood & Underwood, James Edward Ellam is deserving of greater recognition for his contribution to early press photography.
** The author would be pleased to hear from anyone with further information about James’s life and photographic career via the comments box below.
My latest carte-de-visite purchase via a well-known auction site caught my eye for a number of reasons.
The gentleman featured in this full-length portrait has a magnificent beard, is wearing a smart suit and waistcoat complete with watch chain and is carrying a silk top hat which has caught the light.
But it was actually the painted background in front of which the gentleman is standing that particularly attracted my attention.
Those familiar with Newcastle and the north east of England will recognise it as the lantern tower of the anglican Newcastle Cathedral, England’s most northerly.
Until 1882, it was known as St. Nicholas’ parish church, but the building’s distinctive lantern tower has been part of the city’s skyline since the 15th century.
The verso of the cdv confirms it to be by “W. & D. Downey of 9 Eldon Square, Newcastle upon Tyne” and states the firm is “Patronized By Her Majesty.”
This locates it to a period between March 1862 when Downey opened its studio in Eldon Square, and September 1866 when the firm took its first portrait of Queen Victoria.
After this point, it used the slogan “Photographers to Her Majesty” on its products even though its first Royal Warrant was not granted until 1879.
What I hadn’t realised until looking at the cathedral’s website is that in 1865, the celebrated architect Sir George Gilbert Scott was commissioned to underpin and rebuild the lantern tower after it started to lean as a result of nearby building work.
This dating suggests that Downey’s use of the landmark in its branding was not merely a sign of its arrival in Newcastle from nearby South Shields where it started in 1856.
Work to correct the leaning lantern tower would have meant St. Nicholas Church was a talking-point and customers having their portrait taken may have wished to mark their connection with Newcastle and its revitalised skyline accordingly.
It also might inform the dating in the mid-1860s of another Downey cdv in my collection (erroneously titled by an unknown hand in pencil as “St. Peter’s”) in which the then St. Nicholas’ Church takes centre stage.
Today’s unveiling of details of the forthcoming Coronation of King Charles III seems like a good moment to share research on the photography of a previous royal occasion.
My article about 3D stereography of the 1902 Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra appears in the latest issue of The PhotoHistorian, the journal of the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group.
It’s available here as a free download with the usual credit protocols.
The Slightly Foxed bookshop in nearby Berwick upon Tweed has already provided inspiration for this blog (see ‘Cartoon Dickens,’ 29th December 2022; and ‘Picture Post Memories,’ 15th December 2022).
But on my latest visit, I wasn’t expecting to connect with a significant chapter in photographic history.
Whilst browsing the shop’s ‘Photography’ section, I came across a copy of ‘Photographic Facts and Formulas’ by E.J Wall, FRPS published by Chapman and Hall, London in 1927.
Edward John Wall (1860-1928) was a name known to me from family research into the life and career of Percy R. Salmon, FRPS, my wife’s great great uncle.
As indicated by the FRPS initials, both were Fellows of the Royal Photographic Society and their lives had overlapped at various points.
In 1901, Salmon succeeded Wall as Editor of Photographic News and later, they collaborated on a number of projects including Cassell’s Cyclopaedia of Photography published in 1911.
Over and above their text and illustrations, old books often yield wonderful surprises within their pages and this second-hand book by E.J. Wall was no exception.
The title page boasted a stamp for one of its previous owners, the Department of Geography at Cambridge University. The ‘cancelled’ stamp suggested, at some point, that the department found the volume to be surplus to requirement.
But there was also an undated signature on the inside flyleaf, ‘P.A.L. Brunney.’
Those who know about the history of photography in Cambridge will recognise the name of Philip Alexander Lake Brunney (1913-2003).
In the mid-1930s, he had joined the female photography firm of Ramsey & Muspratt in Post Office Terrace.
Founded by Lettice Ramsey (1898-1985) and Helen Muspratt (1907-2001), Brunney later served as a director of the company before working as an industrial and scientific photographer for Aero Research, later Ciba Geigy,
In recent years, the remarkable story of Ramsey & Muspratt has been celebrated in books, talks and exhibitions and Brunney’s role in the firm’s success features prominently.
How my copy of EJ Wall’s book found its way to Philip Brunney via Cambridge University’s geography department is one that may remain a mystery though I’d be pleased to hear from anyone who knows.
However, in the meantime, here is a 2022 talk for the RPS by Mary Burgess about the Post Office Terrace photographic studio.
It includes a section on Ramsey & Muspratt and their collaboration with Philip Brunney starting at 16′ 46.”
My recent talk on W. & D. Downey for the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group prompted responses both to the ‘live’ event and to the recording via social media (see blogpost, 16th March 2023).
The company’s successful activities over several decades are reflected in the extensive photo collections held by museums and galleries around the world.
Thanks to digitisation, these portraits are now viewable online, often with supporting text and information.
So it has been pleasing to be able to share my research findings about Downey’s early years with the National Portrait Gallery in London (due to re-open in June 2023), which has nearly 1,000 portraits credited to the company.
My thanks to Clare Freestone, Curator of Photography, and her NPG colleagues for amending the online company entry for W. & D. Downey.
Today marks the 151st birthday of the photographer and writer Percy R. Salmon, FRPS (1872-1959).
A year ago, his life and career were celebrated in a short film commissioned by the Royal Photographic Society.
The RPS is an organisation with which he was connected for more than 60 years as a member, fellow and finally as an honorary member.
In the past 12 months, members of our family (Mr. Salmon’s great nephew Stephen Martin and my wife Helen Barber, his great great niece) have been following up various research threads.
Some were prompted by responses to the film. Others were previously unexplored.
One was a letter dated 26th April 1950 written by Mr. Salmon to the RPS donating five photographic objects to what was then its museum.
That collection is now part of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London alongside some 800,000 other photographic items.
Unsurprisingly given its size and scope, much of this material has yet to be researched and catalogued.
However, as we discovered on a recent family visit to the V&A, one of the donated photographs has been given a catalogue number.
It is ‘XRG 932’ and this is it.
The photograph featuring two women is framed within an arched shaped mount, edged in gold and black. The object is approximately 4 inches wide by 6 inches long.
One of the women is seated holding a wide-brimmed hat. The second is standing next to her, a hand resting on the other woman’s shoulder. They are posed against a painted landscape backdrop featuring buildings, a woodland, and distant hills.
A caption in Mr. Salmon’s hand attached to the verso provides more information about the photograph and its provenance.
It reads: ‘Photo Taken At A Village Feast (Little Abington, Cambs.) About 1860.’ Another hand has added ‘Glass Positive. Tinted.’
The photograph is intriguing on several levels.
Firstly, what was it about this object that Mr. Salmon, an expert in early photographic processes, deemed significant enough to donate it to the RPS?
In the letter that accompanied the donation, he described it as ‘a collodion portrait of two ladies’ and highlighted what he described as ‘a trace of colouring.’
The colouring can be seen in the dress worn by the woman on the right of frame which has a blue-ish tinge whilst the trees in the background have a green-ish hue.
Secondly, his donation letter added the telling phrase ‘Particulars Not Known,’ but was there anything about the portrait that gave it particular meaning to Mr. Salmon?
The reference in the verso label to ‘Little Abington, Cambs.’ relates to a village 8 miles south-east of Cambridge and provides a direct family connection.
His wife Eliza Salmon (née Dickerson) was born at Little Abington in 1863. Her father James, a thatcher, and his wife Lydia had four other young children at that point.
How Eliza, the couple’s youngest daughter and known within the family as ‘Tottie,’ met her future husband is uncertain, but Cambridge University seems to have played a part.
New family research has revealed that Alma Dickerson, Eliza’s elder sister, was a member of the domestic staff of Edward Byles Cowell (1826-1903), the university’s first Professor of Sanskrit.
Census records and newspaper reports confirm that Eliza was Cowell’s cook at the same time as Mr. Salmon was his footman at 10 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge from the mid-1880s to the early 1890s.
In due course, the relationship between Percy R. Salmon and Eliza Dickerson flourished and in July 1901, the couple were married in the parish church at Little Abington.
Given this information, does it yield any clues that might help identify the ‘two ladies’ featured in the photographic portrait donated to the RPS by Mr. Salmon?
His dating of the portrait to ‘around 1860’ would place his wife Eliza’s mother Lydia Dickerson in her late-20s, so perhaps she is a candidate. Or perhaps there is no direct family connection at all.
As to where the portrait was taken, ‘Feasts’ were celebrated throughout the 19th century in many English villages.
During this period, itinerant photographers proliferated, so it is possible that one or more were among the attractions on offer at the Little Abington Feast.
A mobile studio, complete with painted backdrop and offering a selection of suitable clothes to wear with ‘assistance for ladies,’ would have provided an opportunity to have a portrait photograph captured for posterity.
Fashion historians might also be able to shed light on the dresses being worn and the hairstyles on view.
‘Glean’ is an exhibition at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh celebrating 14 women photographers and film-makers working in Scotland during the first half of the 20th century.
The exhibition is wonderful, so it’s great to see that The Guardian has created a gallery/photo essay on its website showcasing some of the women, notably Margaret Fay Shaw, MEM (Mary Ethel Muir) Donaldson, Dr. Beatrice Garvie, Margaret Watkins, Johanna Kissling and Jenny Gilbertson.
Another of the featured photographers is Christina Broom (1862-1939) whose work I had come across in my research into early press photography.
Born in Edinburgh, she is best-known for her images portraying the suffragettes.
But what is best about projects such as ‘Glean’ is that you become aware of photographers and artists of whom you had not heard or knew very little.
The result is that word spreads and other people contribute their knowledge of a particular figure who has been forgotten or relegated to the margins of photo history.
For example, a recent online ‘Zoom’ talk about Violet Banks, another of the featured women presented by the ‘Glean’ exhibition curator Jenny Brownrigg, produced an amazing moment.
In passing, Jenny mentioned that she thought Violet Banks had produced ceramics during her career.
Much to everyone’s delight, one of the attendees in Brussels then produced a piece of Banks’ ceramic work and displayed it on camera.
Then last night, my wife who is a knitting enthusiast booked into a talk by the writer Esther Rutter about ‘how the fishing communities of Scotland’s west coast influenced knitting traditions across the world.’
And there among her illustrations of the links between knitting and the sea were photographs of fishing communities taken by several of the women featured in ‘Glean.’
If any of this floats your boat, there is a further free online talk on Thursday 9th March titled ‘Margaret Fay Shaw, Hebridean Female Crofters in Sharp Focus.’
The cottage features in this stereoscopic view from 1897, part of my own collection of 3D stereocards that were popular with Victorian and Edwardian audiences.
Its publisher, Excelsior Stereoscopic Tours, was the brainchild of ‘M.E. Wright,’ who is credited as the image’s copyrightholder.
But who was ‘M.E. Wright,’ and how did Excelsior’s stereoviews become so popular that they feature today in museum and photography collections all over the world?
Milford Elsworth Wright was American, born in 1861 in Perry, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. One of nine children, the 1880 US Census recorded him living in Perry with family members, including his twin Mildred, and working as a ‘farm labourer.’
The story of how Milford became involved in stereo photography and developed a successful career in the ‘views’ business is one that I researched further after coming across him during work for my PhD.
During the 1880s, the firm of Underwood & Underwood (U&U) launched a successful business in Ottawa, Kansas, selling 3D stereocards and hand-held viewers door-to-door, state-to-state.
By the end of the decade, the Underwood brothers, Elmer and Bert, had developed plans to grow their stereo business beyond the United States.
It was a plan that led in time to U&U becoming one of the world’s most successful and influential photography firms.
The plan took a major step forward in 1890 when the company put together a team of salesmen to expand its operations into Europe and beyond.
One of those chosen to make the trip from New York across the Atlantic was Milford E. Wright.
Travelling with Bert Underwood and his wife Susie, the party’s destination was the bustling port city of Liverpool where an office was established in a house (since demolished) in Oxford Street in the Mount Pleasant district.
A flavour of the life of a U&U sales agent following that pioneering Liverpool trip is provided by one of Milford’s colleagues.
Writing later in a U&U company brochure, one JLD Chandler described earning upwards of $50 a month in sales commission, travelling through Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and France as well as to Palestine and Egypt.
Initially, Milford seems to have concentrated on selling stereocards to the UK market.
A few months after arriving in Britain, he was in Wales lodging with a family in Cardiff. The 1891 Census recorded his ‘profession or occupation’ as ‘sailor,’ though this may well have been a mishearing of the term ‘salesman.’
Like other U&U salesmen, Milford became an accomplished stereoscopic photographer himself. ‘Excelsior Stereoscopic Tours’ was the brand he used to market his 3D photographs such as that of Robert Burns’s Cottage.
His exact movements during the 1890s are sketchy, but he made at least one return trip to the United States and a family photograph of him taken during this period suggests that he spent time in Scotland.
By the end of the decade, he had settled in the Lancashire mill town of Burnley where he had a photographic studio, and recorded his ‘profession or occupation’ as ‘publisher of stereo views’ in the 1901 UK Census.
The same year, he married Isabella Davidson from Alloa in Scotland and their growing family soon featured three sons and a daughter.
In contrast to international stereo companies like U&U, whose cards featured cities such as New York and London where they had offices, ‘Excelsior’ stereos featured the Wright family’s home address in Burnley.
With a growing family to provide for, Milford went on the road, selling his ‘Excelsior’ cards with stereoscopes manufactured by H.S. Walbridge & Co. of Bennington, Vermont.
Perhaps the highpoint of Milford’s stereo photography career came in May 1906 in Madrid when he captured the aftermath of an assassination attempt on King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria of Spain on their wedding day.
A bomb concealed in a bouquet of flowers was thrown at the couple’s carriage by an anarchist positioned at an upper-storey window.
Exploding in mid-air, it caused the deaths of more than 25 by-standers as well as horses taking part in the wedding procession.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, Milford took a sequence of images at the scene using his stereo camera and later produced as Excelsior cards.
These included the body of one of the horses lying in a pool of blood that was so graphic, I decided not to re-publish it here.
Instead, I’ve used another shot from the same sequence in which the horse’s body is visible through the legs of the mules in the foreground.
Despite its explicit nature, the dead horse image was reproduced in The Graphic (9th June 1906) by one of its special artists. The full-page illustration was accompanied by the credit ‘photographed by the Excelsior Stereoscopic Tours Company, Burnley.’
Another image from the wedding parade prior to the bomb going off also appeared, again reproduced by a Graphic artist, but was incorrectly credited to another company. A correction duly appeared in the following week’s edition.
While stereoscopy’s popularity began to wane in the years before the First World War, it seems Milford continued to be as photographically active as ever.
In February 1915 when he applied for a new passport at the US Embassy in London, he recorded his occupation as ‘photographer.’
An official noted on his form: ‘Applicant has identified himself many times at this embassy and has received several passports issued to him here.’
When Milford died from the effects of flu and acute bronchitis in December 1918, aged 57, the Burnley Express headlined its report ‘Expert Photographer.’
It reported that ‘he had travelled to many remote places in the world, and his collection of stereoscopic views and lantern slides is a very remarkable one.’
If you have any more information about Milford E. Wright or have Excelsior Stereoscopic Tours cards in your photo collection, I’d be interested to hear from you via the comment box below.
* Thanks to Milford E. Wright’s family, notably his grandson John Milford Wright and great-grandson Edward Wright, for additional information and photographs.
* Update Monday 6th February 2023.
Readers will find responses to this blogpost via the British Photographic History website.
On this day in 1862, an accident at the Hartley Pit in Northumberland led to the deaths of 204 men and boys.
Around 11 o’clock in the morning, a wooden engine beam snapped sending more than 20 tons of winding gear and equipment down the shaft at the colliery about ten miles north-east of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Those working the coal seams below were effectively trapped and, despite heroic rescue efforts, died in the aftermath of the accident from a build-up of gas.
Following the tragedy, an Act of Parliament was passed requiring that, in future, no pit would rely on a single shaft as its only means of access.
In terms of photographic history, the disaster was also significant.
This is graphically described and illustrated in Roger Taylor’s essay ‘The Hartley pit disaster, January 1862’ in Crown & Camera: The Royal Family and Photography 1842-1910 (London, Penguin Books, 1987), 60-63.
The article showcased a series of location photographs taken following the disaster by the firm of W. & D. Downey of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
The photographs’ inclusion in the Royal Collection came about because the images were sent to Queen Victoria by the company.
The monarch was grieving following the death of her own husband Prince Albert a few weeks earlier, and she wrote to the pit owner, Charles Carr, expressing concern for the fate of the miners and their families.
Once the bodies of those involved were discovered, the Queen headed the list of subscribers to a public relief fund set up to support the women and orphans made destitute.
Today, Downey’s ‘Hartley Colliery’ photographs can be viewed on the Royal Collection website in an online version of its 1987 ‘Crown & Camera’ exhibition.
However, research for this blog raises a key question about the photographs: were they taken on 30th January 1862 as stated in the article and on the website?
The first photograph, measuring 8 inches by 6 inches, is a group shot (RCIN 2935021) featuring Charles Carr, the pit’s owner, its manager Joseph Humble, and master sinker William Coulson alongside other members of the rescue team.
Two further photographs, again 8″ x 6″, were taken of the pit-head ‘after the accident.’ The first (RCIN 2935024) features the letter ‘A’ visible above ‘the Engine House’ and figures arranged along a walkway.
The dating of 30th January is one that I researched recently for a talk presented to the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group about the Downey company’s early years on Tyneside.
What I discovered from reading contemporary newspapers is that there is evidence that calls into question its accuracy.
Before looking at this evidence, how did Downey’s ‘Hartley pit disaster’ photographs come to be in the Royal Collection in the first place?
By way of background, W. & D. Downey, led by brothers William and Daniel, established its photographic business in and around the port of South Shields in the mid-1850s.
The company thrived and quickly established a reputation for high quality photographic portraits and as a supplier of news images to the illustrated press which appeared as engravings.
In October 1861, according to press reports, it opened its first ‘photographic rooms’ in Northumberland Street, Newcastle, several miles west from South Shields along the River Tyne.
It was a town-centre location that proved popular with ‘nobility, clergy and gentry.’
In January 1862, the firm began placing regular adverts in the Newcastle Daily Journal in a prized position on the front page at the top of the left-hand column.
This strategy made readers aware of its latest carte-de-visites portraits including ‘most of the public men of the north.’
It was a regular pattern that continued until Tuesday 28th January, twelve days after the disaster, when a marked change occurred in the advert’s wording.
Headed ‘The Hartley Colliery Calamity,’ it offered for sale ‘A Photographic View of the Engine-House, Machinery and Pit-Heap sent to any address, album size, for 13 Postage Stamps.’
The ad continued: ‘Those on a larger scale sent on receipt of 30 postage stamps by W. and D. Downey, 111 Northumberland Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The above may also be obtained from Mr. John Mawson, 13 Mosley Street.’
Mawson was a successful chemist at the heart of Newcastle’s contribution to early photography and someone with whom Downey regularly collaborated.
Further down the same column, Mawson used one of his own regular ads in the paper to advertise a ‘photographic view of the engine-house and machinery.’ Indeed, it was one he had first placed there in the previous day’s paper.
The photographs on sale, as described by both Downey and Mawson, suggest they were the ‘after the accident’ images in the Royal Collection highlighted above.
The next day, Wednesday 29th January, the same Downey and Mawson ads re-appeared alongside one placed by another leading Newcastle photographer, ‘Mr. R. Turner of the Fine Arts Repository, Grey Street.’
His advert headed ‘The Heroes of Hartley! Preparing For Immediate Publication’ referenced the human-interest story at the heart of the disaster.
For 7 shillings and 6 pence, it promised ‘a large, beautiful photographic picture of Mr. William Coulson, Master Sinker, and his brave workmen, who so nobly risked their Lives in the perilous Shaft for Ten Successive Days and Nights, endeavouring to save the Two Hundred and Four poor Colliers buried alive in the New Hartley Pit, Jan. 16th, 1862.’
Unlike the group photo in the Royal Collection credited to Downey, there is no mention of Mr. Carr, the mine owner, and Mr. Humble, the pit manager.
Taken together, these adverts suggest that all the photographs being offered for sale were more likely to have been taken, not on Thursday 30th January, but earlier that week.
By that point, the bodies of those who died in the disaster had been successfully brought to the surface and funeral services for its 204 victims had taken place.
So by Monday 27th, for example, a photo-call involving the key participants with access to the pit-head would have been viable.
Such a revised timeline is supported by a brief report that appeared in the Newcastle Daily Journal on Friday 31st January.
On page 2, the paper reported in its news columns:
‘Messrs. W. and D. Downey, the justly celebrated photographers of 111, Northumberland Street, in this town, last night [my italics] received a letter from Sir Charles Phipps, Osborne, thanking them for forwarding to Her Majesty the photographic views of Hartley New Colliery, the scene of the late terrible catastrophe.’
Phipps, Queen Victoria’s private secretary, was writing from the Queen’s residence on the Isle of Wight where she had retreated following the death of Prince Albert.
If the report in the Newcastle Daily Journal is accurate and to fulfill the statement ‘photographed January 30th,’ the following sequence of events happened in the course of a single day.
* First, photographs were taken on location at the Hartley Colliery.
* Prints, made by Downey from its negatives, were then dispatched to the Isle of Wight more than 400 miles away.
* And Sir Charles Phipps’ letter of thanks not only reached Downey back in Newcastle, but its contents were communicated to the Newcastle Daily Journal before its presses rolled.
Even allowing for the speed and reliability of the Victorian postal service, this seems unlikely.
What then might explain the ‘photographed Jan 30th, 1862’ inscription attached to Downey’s photographs in the Royal Collection?
That is a question that you may wish to speculate upon in the ‘comment’ box below this post.
Certainly, by the following Monday, 3rd February, Downey’s regular advert in the Newcastle Daily Journal offered a new and more detailed sales pitch.
‘The Hartley Catastrophe. Now Ready. A Series of Photographs, illustrative of the above Sad Calamity, taken upon the Spot, by W. and D. Downey, Photographers, No. 111, Northumberland Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.’
The ad then listed a number of images.
‘No. 1. Photographic portraits of Mr. Coulson and his Heroic Band of Sinkers, preparing to descend the shaft.’
‘No. 2. Mr. Coulson.’
‘No. 3. Johnny, the Tally Boy.’ This may refer to a portrait of a 12 year-old boy named as ‘Mark Bell’ by the Newcastle Courant (news report, 31st January 1862). He helped identify the bodies as his job entailed handing a tally to each miner who descended the shaft and collecting it again at the end of the shift.
‘No. 4. A general view of the Pit, Machinery, &c.’
‘No. 5. The Broken Beam.’
Each photograph was priced at one shilling, 1s 6d, or five shillings for a larger size print that could be bought from either Downey or John Mawson as before.
Accounts of this episode elsewhere state that W. & D. Downey were commissioned by Queen Victoria to take the photographs they did.
I have found no evidence to support this idea.
Rather, the use of the wording ‘most respectfully forwarded by W. & D. Downey’ in the Royal Collection archive suggests that the firm followed its own instincts in response to the Queen’s evident interest in the tragedy.
From a commercial viewpoint, it was soon able to use the slogan ‘Patronized By Her Majesty’ on the verso of its carte-de-visites whilst also promoting its new portrait rooms in Newcastle at 9 Eldon Square which opened in early March.
Given the wider public interest in the Hartley Pit disaster and the business opportunity foreseen by W. & D. Downey, it is intriguing to note that these celebrated photographs and larger size print versions referred to in this blogpost rarely appear for auction.
Perhaps they remain treasured momentos of those in the wider community of the North-East of England whose lives were so cruelly affected by events on that January day 161 years ago.
The Christmas/New Year holiday offers an opportunity to enjoy another treasure from my recent visit to ‘Slightly Foxed,’ a second-hand bookshop in Berwick.
‘The Pickwick Papers’ is a Charles Dickens that I haven’t read before.
Apart from the brilliance of the writing and story-telling, the copy I bought (along with ‘The Picture Post Album’ – see December 15th, 2022 post) came with an instantly recognisable Quentin Blake cover.
It dates from about 1971, the year Britain went decimal, as the price sticker has both 13 shillings and 65 pence.
Blake, now 90 and still active as an artist and illustrator, has an informative website that is well worth a visit.
Number 1 in Underwood’s ‘Life of Christ’ set is titled ‘The Nativity. The shepherds adoration.’
Each card comes with a text taken from The Bible, in this case the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 2 verse 16 – ‘And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger’ (Revised Standard Version).
On the verso, there follows a brief description of the scene followed by the card’s title in English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish and Russian.
This gives an indication of the scope of the international market at which such stereocards were aimed.
It seems Underwood were not the only stereoscopic company marketing this 3D ‘Life of Christ’ at the turn of the 20th century, presumably because of its commercial appeal.
I’ve seen other examples of the same set including colourised versions and one marketed by Sears, Roebuck & Company, the American mail order giant.
Close inspection of the nativity scene in its half-stereo version adds to the mystery of what we are being invited to witness.
Is it a painted scene? Or were individually figures placed against a painted backdrop? Or is the tableau the result of a stereographer working with a cast of actors?
It was timely that ‘The Mystery of the Nativity’ (Sky Arts, 20th December 2022), presented by the art historian Waldemar Januszczak, helped shed light on the tradition of scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ.
What he ably demonstrated was how little the Bible has to say about events at Bethlehem and how much artists down the centuries have used their imagination to portray the Nativity.
That would help explain the presence in the Underwood stereo of the ‘girl, carrying a basket upon her head’ who, the verso text explains, is ‘an attendant bringing refreshments from the inn.’
If you know any more about the ‘Life of Christ’ stereocard set and its history, I for one would be very interested to learn more about it.
Amid the avalanche of news stories from the past week, there was one in particular that stood out for our family.
It involved Cambridge University PhD student Rishi Rajpopat, who attracted headlines worldwide for solving a grammatical puzzle that has long perplexed scholars of the ancient language of Sanskrit.
Earlier this year, it was Sanskrit that made an unexpected appearance while I was researching a film, commissioned by the Royal Photographic Society, marking the 150th birthday of Percy R. Salmon, FRPS.
As a teenager in the 1880s, Salmon served for several years on the domestic staff of Professor E.B. (Edward Byles) Cowell, Cambridge University’s first Professor of Sanskrit.
The 1891 UK Census records that Salmon, my wife’s great-great-uncle, had risen to the rank of ‘footman.’
He left the city soon afterwards and embarked on a long and successful career as a photographer, journalist and author.
Sadly, our research failed to shed any further light on the working relationship between Messrs. Salmon and Cowell.
However, we did make a pilgrimage to Scroope Terrace, a grade 2 listed terrace of Cambridge townhouses, where Cowell lived as a Fellow of Corpus Christi College.
Though the house numbering system may have changed in the years since Prof. Cowell lived at number 10, counting the surviving doors along the terrace brings you to this section of the terrace.
It gives an idea of the elegant and grand circumstances in which Prof. Cowell lived as a Cambridge don and the location of Percy R. Salmon’s working life as a young man.
The RPS film about Percy R. Salmon’s life contains a section covering his time in Cambridge (beginning at 2.38).
An illustrated talk that I presented recently for the Royal Photographic Society’s Historical Group set me thinking about one image in particular.
The subject of the talk was the photography firm of W. & D. Downey and its first decade in the North-East of England in the 1850s and 1860s.
Downey’s celebrated image of Alexandra as Princess of Wales carrying her daughter Louise on her back featured in an earlier post (2nd December 2022).
In the past year, I’ve started collecting Downey carte-de-visite. Such was their ubiquity that many thousands are still in circulation.
The carte-de-visite format appeared in the late-1850s and immediately proved popular with the public.
Aside from its affordability, a carte-de-visite by design nestles conveniently in the palm of your hand
As the talk took place at Newcastle Cathedral, I was pleased to track down a card that featured the building’s distinctive ‘lantern tower’ and then included it in my presentation.
Confusingly though, at some point in its life, an unknown hand has written ‘St Peters’ in pencil on the front of the card, a point that members of my North-East audience were quick to point out.
In fact, the cathedral’s patron saint is St. Nicholas and not St. Peter.
However, that’s not the only aspect of the photograph that prompted a little head scratching.
When you turn the card over (to its ‘verso’), it lists ‘W. & D. Downey. Photographers’ as being based at ‘4 Eldon Square, Newcastle on Tyne.’
This is unexpected and a little perplexing.
As proclaimed in regular adverts for its wares in the local press, the company’s studio in the city from 1862 to the late 1880s was at 9 Eldon Square rather than at number 4.
What then might be the explanation for this apparent anomaly?
Eldon Square, a group of impressive townhouses created by the eminent architect John Dobson between 1825 and 1831, became one of the most fashionable addresses in Newcastle by the mid-19th century.
Public records reveal that 4 Eldon Square was home to one ‘Thomas Humble MD,’ a physician who features in both the 1861 and 1871 censuses for that address.
According to a notice he placed in the Newcastle Courant (1st March 1867), Dr. Humble served the Newcastle Dispensary, a medical charity treating the city’s poor and destitute, for nearly 38 years. He was resigning the position, he said, due to his ‘increasing engagements.’
Given this background, is it possible that he needed to let out rooms to his photographer neighbour to earn additional income?
Downey’s photographic business was certainly booming and extra capacity to accommodate its growing clientele may well have been welcome, if only on a temporary basis.
This scenario is partly supported by other information on the card’s verso.
It lists ‘illustrious and eminent persons’ the firm had photographed including Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
This dates the card’s likely production to late 1866/early 1867 by which point Downey had recently photographed the Queen at Balmoral for the first time.
On the other hand, human error might have been responsible.
Simply put, a batch of carte-de-visite produced for Downey were printed with the wrong address featuring number 4 rather than number 9 Eldon Square.
Despite this error, they were used anyway and sold to a public whose main interest lay in a carte-de-visite photograph rather than its ‘advert’ verso.
There is one remaining possibility though and one that needs to be considered by collectors of all kinds of objects.
That the card is a fake.
If so, it’s a very convincing one.
The faker has even gone to the trouble of attaching a sales sticker for Allan, a bookseller, stationer and news agent in 1860s Newcastle, known to have been one of Downey’s sales outlets.
Or there might be another explanation that I have failed to consider.
Here’s a link to a Twitter thread prompted by this post …
Alexandra – Britain’s Queen of Hearts, a 70-minute documentary broadcast this week in the UK on Channel 5, was a veritable feast for photohistorians.
The programme featured photo after photo of the woman who was Princess of Wales from 1863 to 1901 and then Queen Consort to her husband as King Edward VII during his 9-year reign.
Various eminent royal historians made a persuasive case for Alexandra, now a largely forgotten figure, creating the template for the royal women who followed in her footsteps.
They included subsequent Princesses of Wales such as Diana and Kate as well as Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
As the documentary’s photographic riches revealed, photographers clearly adored Alexandra as a subject and the camera loved her in return.
But given its role in both her story and that of photographic history, it is surprising that one photograph in particular did not feature.
In September 1868, the firm of W. & D. Downey of Newcastle-on-Tyne photographed Alexandra carrying her baby daughter, Princess Louise, on her back.
According to Frances Dimond’s Developing the Picture: Queen Alexandra and the Art of Photography (Royal Collection Publications, 2004), the informal pose was unusual, especially for a member of the royal family.
Dimond argues it was designed to show that the then Princess of Wales had made a good recovery from a long illness caused by a severe attack of rheumatic fever.
When made available to the public, the ‘mother and baby’ photo proved a popular seller, clocking up reported sales of around 300,000 making it among the best-selling carte-de-visite of the era.
Given its widespread circulation, the card features occasionally on Ebay.
Recently, I was able to purchase one for just a few pounds (rather than the tens or hundreds as is sometimes requested by sellers around the world).
This was largely because the seller had described the item as ‘woman with baby on her back.’
It was a transaction that rather underlined the fact that Alexandra, once one of the most famous women in the world thanks to photography, is less recognised in the 21st century.
Documentaries such as Channel 5’s may help rectify that situation.
It’s curious though that the ‘screen grab’ advertising the programme on the channel’s My5 site features what appears to be a shot of Princess Alexandra of Kent, a cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
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