Byron R. Johnson operated a photographic gallery from 1867 to 1869 at the village of Delhi in Delaware County, New York.
Logo for the Byron R. Johnson Art Gallery. Author's Collection.
Byron R. Johnson arrived at the village of Delhi circa 1867. He purchased the photographic gallery of B. F. Gilbert.
Previously, in 1859, Gilbert had purchased the gallery from E. C. Riggs, the “Ambrotype Artist.” The E. C. Riggs gallery had operated for only a few years from 1856 to 1859. Prior to arrival at Delhi Gilbert had previously operated at Hobart and Stamford.
In 1867 the B. F. Gilbert Gallery would be bought by Byron R. Johnson, who had previously operated a gallery for 16 years at San Francisco. In June, 1867, it was noted in the local newspaper that “B. F. Gilbert has associated with him the Photograph business Mr. Byron Johnson, long successful operator in California.” (Delaware Republican. June 23, 1867.)
By around October, 1867 Byron R. Johnson purchased the gallery of B. F. Gilbert, but Gilbert continued to work there. An October 1867 advertisement in the Delaware Gazette for the Johnson gallery noted that “Byron R. Johnson having purchased B. F. Gilbert’s Photograph Gallery in Delhi . . . Mr. B. F. Gilbert is retained in the employ of B. R. Johnson and will be glad to wait on any of his old customers as usual.” (Delaware Gazette. October 2, 1867.)
Map of Main Street in the village of Delhi in Delaware County, New York, including the photographic gallery of B. R. Johnson.
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. "Atlas of Delaware co., New York : from actual surveys by and under the direction of F. W. Beers assisted by A. B. Prindle & others" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 16, 2020. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/63eb0760-c5f7-012f-9bb5-58d385a7bc34
Johnson came to his gallery with a great deal of experience. As per his advertisements, it was noted that “B. R. Johnson is well and favorably known by all first-class Artists in the United States as an Artist of superior merit, having carried on the most extensive Gallery in San Francisco for the last sixteen years.” (“Now is your Time!” Delaware Gazette. December 11, 1867.)
In addition, “Mr. Johnson has had the advantages that few Artists in this part of the world have had; he has carried on extensive business in this line for the last 17 years in San Francisco, and has been acknowledged to be at the head of his profession by all good judges of the art.” (Bloomville Mirror. February 16, 1869.)
Portrait by Byron R. Johnson. Author's Collection.
While in the village of Delhi, Johnson resided at “the late residence of Hon. J. H. Graham.”
Johnson’s full advertisements in the local newspapers highlighted the extended offerings available at his new gallery.
Delaware Gazette, October 2, 1867. “Now is your Time! Byron R. Johnson having purchased B. F. Gilbert’s Photograph Gallery in Delhi is now prepared to do better work and at shorter notice, than any Gallery in Delaware county, having fitted it up with the latest and most approved style of Instruments, Apparatus, Imperial Grounds, Fancy Chairs, & c. In fact, every thing necessary to make work equal to the first Gallery in the worlds. B. R. Johnson is well and favorably known by all first-class Artists in the United States as an Artist of superior merit, having carried on the most extensive Gallery in San Francisco for the last sixteen years. Persons wishing fine work done in the line of Photography, would do well to call and examine his work of art and satisfy themselves as to his facility and ability for doing fine work, and that his prices are 25 per cent less than New York prices. Photographs taken from the size of a pea to full life size, either Plain, India Ink, Water, Oil or Patelle colors. Old Pictures Copies to all sizes. If you have an Old Picture of a friends or relative ever so indistinct, I can bring it out as perfect as life by the new improved Copying instrument made expressly for such work, You will find the Imperial Card Pictures, Graces and Sun Pearls something entirely new. VIEWS OF DWELLINGS, LANDSCAPE, MACHINERY, & c.. taken at short notice. Visitors can pass off time in viewing our collection of California views, which are free to all for inspection. Attention is called to his large and varied stock of Oval and Square Frames, Also, Mouldings of every size and description. The largest and finest assortment of Albums ever brought to Delaware county. Also, a good assortment of English Steel Engravings, all of which are offered to customers and the trade generally, at prices so low as to exclude competition. INSTRUCTION given in every branch of the art. Instruments, Apparatus and Stock for sale. N.B. Mr. B. F. Gilbert is retained in the employ of B. R. Johnson and will be glad to wait on any of his old customers as usual.”
Delaware Gazette, December 18, 1867: “We have visited B. R. Johnson’s fine Art Gallery and pronounce it and his pictures the finest we ever saw. Delaware county should be proud of such an establishment.”
Delaware Gazette, December 25, 1867: “If you want a fine large size India Ink picture of yourself or friend, go to B. R. Johnson’s Gallery, Delhi.”
Delaware Gazette, January 1, 1868: “Go to Johnson’s Gallery of Art if you want the best style picture.”
Delaware Gazette, June 3, 1868: “Go to Johnson’s Art Gallery And see his beautiful specimens of new style Picture called SUN PEARLS. Also, life size Photographs, & c., &c. Card Photographs only Two Dollars per dozen.”
Delaware Gazette, August 26, 1868. “Cheapest and Best Photographs Are to be had at B. R. Johnson’s Justly Celebrated Gallery, Delhi, N.Y. over Dr. Calhoun’s Drug Store. Mr. Johnson has had the advantages that few Artists in this part of the world have had; he has carried on extensive business in this line for the last 17 years in San Francisco, and has been acknowledged to be at the head of his profession by all good judges of the art. Those wishing Good Work and at Reasonable Rates, should call and see for themselves the best collection of work ever exhibited in this part of the world. All pictures shown by Mr. Johnson are made by him in his gallery. Mr. Johnson would call particular attention to his life-size Portraits from life, and enlarged from old defaced Pictures, and made perfect by the art of the brush. He has the only Patent Copying Instrument in Delaware Co., and claims copying as a specialty. All the old style of Pictures, such as Ambrotypes, Tintypes, Porcelain, & c., made at short notice. Mr. Johnson’s India Ink Portraits, new style Sun Pearls, are the admiration of every person. He has the most extensive assortment of Oval and Square Frames, Picture Nails, Cords and Tassels, Albums, & c. in Delhi. Give him a call before squandering your money on inferior work elsewhere. B. R. JOHNSON.”
Delaware Gazette, August 26, 1868.
Bloomville Mirror, March 23, 1869: “Johnson, at his Gallery in Delhi, is now taking some of the best pictures ever made in Delaware county.”
Johnson’s time at the village of Delhi did not last long. By early 1869 Johnson was preparing to move to Europe. Johnson advertised for the sale of many of his possessions including a piano, a leather top buggy, harness, saddle, bridle, blanket, household furniture and more. Johnson was preparing to leave by April 1, 1869.
As that April 1st date approached customers were still encouraged to visit the gallery. “Strangers as well as residents are attracted to the show window connected with Johnson’s Photograph Gallery. No better specimens of the art can be found anywhere. Be sure and call before he leaves town.” (Delaware Gazette. March 10, 1869.)
In June 1869 it was noted in the local newspaper that Johnson’s Art Gallery, over Calhoun & Son’s Drug Store, was being managed by proprietors J. M. Arnout, a photographer formerly of Frederick’s, N.Y., and O. E. Bingenheimer, Artist. In an advertisement Arnout and Bingenheimer wrote of the Johnson Gallery that they “RESPECTFULLY ask your attention to their FINE ART GALLERY, well known as the best in the surrounding country.” (Bloomville Mirror. June 29, 1869.)
The ownership of Arnout and Bingenheimer may have been temporary since newspaper advertisements in both October and November of 1869 announced the return of Byron R. Johnson from Europe, including his travels to Rome, Naples and Paris.
Delaware Gazette, October 6, 1869: “Photographs Cheaper and Better Than Ever. Byron R. Johnson Has just returned from his course of studies in Europe and brought with him all new Instruments, Apparatus and everything to facilitate the production of FINE PHOTOGRAPHS in every style, tone and shade. Particular attention paid to ENLARGING and REPRODUCING PICTURES. I have in my employ a first class German Artist for the purpose of improving old and defaced Pictures by the aid of his brush in India Ink, Oil and Water Colors. I have reduced my prices so that all, even those of the most limited means may preserve Pictures of their deceased friends at a FIRST CLASS GALLER, and by fine Artists. We show no New York work. Our specimens are made by ourselves and will compare with any work in the world. The public are cautioned against all imposters and peddlers using my name to procure Pictures for copying, as I have no partners or runners for my Gallery. GALLERY OVER Dr. CALHOUN’S DRUG STORE, DELHI. A fine collection of European Views on exhibition, free to the public. INSTRUCTION given in the Art. Also, a large assortment of Albums, Frames, Etc., constantly on hand and for sale at the lowest figure. Delhi, September 27, 1869.”
Bloomville Mirror, November 23, 1869: “Photography! B. R. Johnson, Late from Rome, Naples and Paris, form which places he has brought a collection of his study, as well as new and modern Improvements in Photography, which few American Artists possess, has with him the full set of Improved Instruments and working material for producing A SUPERIOR STYLE OF WORK, in fact, everything to advance the Art of Photography, and guarantee Better Work than any Gallery can produce West of New York, and as good as can be made in the world. He has Reduced His Prices, so that those in the most meagre circumstances may procure fine pictures of those most dear to them. At this Gallery, you will not be humbugged, as we show no New York work for ours. All his pictures are made in his Gallery, and by himself. He has in his employ a German Artist for the purpose of improving old and defaced pictures, and by the aid of his brush, in INDIA INK, OIL and WATER COLORS. The public are invited to call and see his collection of European Views, also the Emperor, Empress, and Prince Imperial of France; all original pictures. The public are cautioned against all imposters and peddlers, using his name to procure pictures for copying, as he has no partner or runners for his Gallery. Instruction given in all branches of the arts, also, a large assortment of frames and albums, constantly on hand. Gallery over Dr. Calhoun’s Drug Store, Delhi.”
However, by December 1869 Maurice Farrington was the new proprietor of the Byron R. Johnson Art Gallery at Delhi, New York. This would have included the business along with the equipment. The gallery was located over the Calhoun & Sons Drug Store.
“The public will be gratified to learn that Maurice Farrington had purchased the picture gallery of Byron R. Johnson in this place, and has taken possession and engaged in business. He has the skill, experience, and every facility for doing the best of work, and will doubtless meet with success. For further particulars respecting his business, see advertising columns.” (“Local and Miscellaneous.” Delaware Republican. December 18, 1869.)
Farrington continued to use and operate under the “Johnson Gallery” name for several years. Around 1872-73 Maurice began to use the name “Farrington’s Photograph Gallery,” and other similar names. Maurice Farrington continued to work at his photography business until he passed away in 1914.
Maurice Farrington, in addition to running his photography business, also acquired a drug store business, which would eventually be taken over by his son Frank Farrington. In 1911 Frank Farrington sold “Farrington’s Drug Store” to P. B. Merrill and W. A. Humphries. In addition to operating the drug store, the partnership of Pierre “Pete” Merrill (1880-1975) and William A. Humphries also published photographic postcards of the Delhi area under the name Merrill & Humphries.
Byron R. Johnson was the third in a succession of five photographers to own this Delhi, New York gallery. E. C. Riggs, the “Ambrotype Artist,” operated from 1856 to 1859; he was succeeded by B. F. Gilbert, who operated from 1859 to 1867; West Coast photographer Byron R. Johnson then purchased the gallery, operating from 1867 to 1869; next, Maurice Farrington acquired the gallery in late 1869, and operated for the next 45 years from 1869 to 1914; and, finally, the partnership of Merrill & Humphries operated well into the 20th century.
Small town galleries such as these, through their timeless photographs of the citizens of the community, offer a virtual time capsule into the town’s history.
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