William England and His 1859 Tour of the Catskills (Part 1)

March 12, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Introduction

 

William England (1830-1896) was a 19th century British photographer who was widely known for his travel images. He was an early adopter of photography, operating a studio in the late 1840s, less than ten years after the daguerreotype was created by French inventor Louis Daguerre. England’s 1859 trip through the United States, including a visit to the Catskills, and Canada gained widespread praise. His image of Charles Blondin tightrope walking across the Niagara Gorge is among the top selling stereoviews of all time. Although largely forgotten today, William England was considered one of the great photographers of his era.

 

Portrait of William England, noted British photographer.Portrait of William England, photographer.William England (1830-1896) was a 19th century British photographer who was widely known for his travel images. He was an early adopter of photography, operating a studio in the late 1840s, less than ten years after the daguerreotype was created by French inventor Louis Daguerre. England’s 1859 trip through the United States, including a visit to the Catskills, and Canada gained widespread praise. His image of Charles Blondin tightrope walking across the Niagara Gorge is among the top selling stereoviews of all time. Although largely forgotten today, William England, in his era, was considered a “giant of 19th century British photography.”

Wm. England. “Current Topics.” The Photogram. Vol. 3, No. 34. October, 1896. London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd., 1896. p. 254.

Source: Wm. England. “Current Topics.” The Photogram. Vol. 3, No. 34. October, 1896. London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd., 1896. p. 254.

 

Background

 

William England was born around 1830 near Trowbridge, Wiltshire in southwest England. He was the son of John England (c. 1794/96-1872), a “cloth worker” or “cloth dresser,” and Jane (Mizen) England (c. 1796-1848). John and and Jane were married at the Chapel of Holt in December 1817. William was one of six children, including three sisters and two brothers. As per the 1841 England census, the family was residing at Wellhead in the borough of Westbury in the Parish of Leigh.

 

William, on November 25, 1850, married Rosalie Sophie Vornier, with whom he would have five children. They were married at Saint John’s Church in the Paddington Parish of Middlesex County. At the time of their marriage, they resided on Star Street. Rosalie was the daughter of Louis Vornier, a surgeon, and Sophie Joseph Prevost.

 

The children of William and Rosalie included Louis William (1851-1919); Marie Rosalie (b. c. 1852/53); Walter John (1854-1914); William Frank (b. c. 1855/56); and John Desire (1861-1931). England’s wife Rosalie passed away in 1873, after which William would remarry to Eliza Hagar Read Riches. In 1890 England married for the third time, this time to Ada Grace Maud Roberts.

 

The Beginning: Daguerreotypist

 

“The Daguerreotype I still regard as the most beautiful of all photographic processes, and the most permanent . . .” – William England, 1893.

 

 

The earliest known photographic process was announced to the world in 1839 by Louis Daguerre (1787-1851), a French inventor, artist, theater owner and chemist. Known as the daguerreotype, the process was introduced to great fanfare at the French Academy of Science in Paris. It was widely hailed as a scientific milestone, and was thought to be so monumental that the French government arranged to purchase Daguerre’s invention with the purpose of making it free to the world. In exchange Daguerre received an annual pension of 6,000 francs. The daguerreotype was the most common photography method through the 1850s, only to be replaced with the collodion or wet place process.

 

According to various sources, in the late 1840s William England began his lifelong love of photography, first as an amateur and later as a professional. An 1868 article about the England studio “noted that Mr. England is one of the very few veterans of the art who commenced the practical business of life as a professional photographer. Upwards of twenty years ago [i.e., 1848], when he was a lad of eighteen years old, he undertook the charge of a Daguerreotype portrait establishment.”[1]

 

At a March 1890 meeting of the Photographic Society of Great Britain, regarding the subject of daguerreotypes, England personally mentioned his work with the process in the year 1844. His opinion on the subject was supported by Valentine Blanchard (1831-1901).

 

“MR. JOHN SPILLER then read a paper on some early experiments by Dr. Percy and Mr. George Shaw. He premised that he had been personally acquainted with the late Dr. Percy, having been his laboratory assistant at the School of Mines, and had received a note-book containing the experiments, which he would describe, having had permission from Mr. Shaw and from the executors of Dr. Percy to do so. These experiments referred principally to the direct action of light upon silver chloride in sealed glass tubes under varying hygrometric conditions and in atmospheres of either air or nitrogen. One of the experiments referred to a Daguerreotype plat which had been coated with chloride of silver by exposure to chlorine gas, and he inquired of Messrs. V. Blanchard and W. England, as old Daguerreotypists, whether the Daguerreotype plate of the period referred to was made of rolled standard silver on a copper back or was electroplated.

 

Mr. ENGLAND replied that in 1844 only rolled plates were in use, but that electroplate was afterwards introduced, and was decidedly superior.

 

Mr. BLANCHARD concurred in this view.”[2]

 

In 1873 England wrote an article for the Year-Book of Photography titled “On Copying Sculpture” in which he talked of his personal experiences with daguerreotype work. “My experience in copying statuary dates from the days when Daguerreotype plates were used, and working in all sorts of light, from a dungeon to sunshine; therefore, if any hints I can offer should prove of service to any of your numerous readers interested in this subject, I shall feel my time has not been lost.”[3]

 

In 1882 The Photographic News wrote of a forthcoming article from England where he would write of the Daguerreotype process. “Many an amateur photographer, aye and professional too, would practise the beautiful process of Daguerreotype if only he possessed the vapour generators, exciting-boxes, and other strange paraphernalia he has been given to understand are necessary for the production of the image. Mr. William England, one of the few Daguerreotypists still living, had, we are glad to say, promised us to dispel the illusion of all this mystery, and will explain in the YEAR-BOOK for 1883 how common utensils may very well be used in the process, and how simple it really is from first to last.”[4]

 

In 1882, as part of the Cantor Lectures series, England presented on the old daguerreotype process. “I have the pleasure tonight of introducing to your notice an old worker of the daguerreotype process, Mr. England. He has kindly consented to show the whole manipulation of the process from beginning to end, thinking it might interest what I may call a juvenile audience; for juvenile I suppose most of you are, as regards photography.”[5]

 

As part of the lecture, a daguerreotype of Louis Daguerre taken by England was presented. Given that Daguerre passed away in July 1851, the daguerreotype must have been taken some time prior to that date. The daguerreotype was noted as being “taken by himself [i.e., England] and was credited with being “one of the very earliest daguerreotypes known.” [Author’s emphasis.]

 

“Amongst some pictures which Mr. England has kindly brought we have an instantaneous view of New York Harbour, taken about twenty-five years ago, and I doubt very much whether there are any wet-plate instantaneous pictures equal to that; from age it has become a little bit tarnished, but otherwise it is a most perfect picture. The size is about five inches by four inches. I have a transparency taken from this, and one from a negative, also in the possession of Mr. England. This last is a portrait of Daguerre, taken by himself. This is interesting as showing one of the very earliest daguerreotypes known.[6]

 

In 1893, England again discussed the daguerreotype of Daguerre, noting that it been taken “nearly fifty years ago.” This would have been circa 1843, although England would have been only approximately 13 years old at the time. [Author’s emphasis.]

 

“I have several specimens [of daguerreotypes] taken nearly fifty years ago, one of Daguerre, which is still perfect; another, a copy of a painting taken by Kilburn; also one of myself taken in New York, 1858; also an excellent specimen of instantaneous work which, as you will see, is not much behind the work done at present time.”[7]

 

Very few daguerreotype portraits of Daguerre are in existence, with perhaps the most well-known being those taken by Charles Richard Meade in 1848. Despite being regarded as the inventor of photography, the reason for the lack of portraits was Daguerre himself. Upon Daguerre’s passing in 1851 The New York Daily Tribune wrote that “it is a little singular that M. Daguerre would hardly ever allow himself to be pictured by his own process . . .”[8] Furthermore, C. W. Canfield, in analyzing the history of Daguerre portraits, wrote in 1891 that “in addition to Daguerre’s traditional aversion to sitting for his portrait, he himself made scarcely any portrait work; having worked out the process, he left it to others to study the applications.”[9]

 

According to Helmut and Alison Gernsheim in their 1968 biography of Daguerre, the William England daguerreotype of Daguerre was taken in 1846, and the original is now located with the Société Francaise de Photographic, an association dedicated to the history of photography.

 

“At Bry Daguerre was always delighted to receive visitors from all countries who wanted to lionize the famous inventor. Several well-known photographers were granted a sitting, though the majority of such requests met with a polite refusal. The well-known portraits by A. Claudet, William England, J. E. Mayall, and Charles R. Meade show him sitting in a chair, his head supported by his left hand, a pose which he obviously regarded as the most attractive, for he photographed his wife in a similar position. (Plate 60.) Resting the head on the hand, of course, avoided the necessity for a headrest.”[10]

 

The Daguerre daguerreotype by England was presented to the Société Francaise de Photographic in 1905. Given England’s passing in 1896, it was likely donated by one of his sons. According to the Gernsheim biography, other known daguerreotypes of Daguerre have been taken by E. Thiesson (1844), Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot (1844) and Pierre Ambroise Richebourg (n. d.).

 

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre.Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre.Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. c. 1844. Unknown photographer. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. c. 1844. Unknown photographer. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

For more information about the detailed, and often confounding, history of Daguerre portraits, see “Portraits of Daguerre” by C. W. Canfield in the 1891 American Annual of Photography; “More Portraits of Daguerre” by C. W. Canfield in the 1893 American Annual of Photography; L. J. M. Daguerre: The History of the Diorama and the Daguerreotype by Helmut and Alison Gernsheim; “Charles R. Meade and his Daguerre Pictures” by Rita Ellen Bott in History of Photography; and “The Daguerre Portraits by Meade – A Review and a Discovery” by Rita Ellen Bott in The Daguerreian Society Newsletter.

 

Demonstrating his skill in the production of these early daguerreotypes, England published several articles over the years with technical details, including “The Daguerreotype Process in Practice” in 1883 and “Cleaning and Copying Daguerreotypes” in 1889. Even decades after the decline of the daguerreotype, England maintained his love of the early process, writing of his affection in 1883 for the The Year-Book of Photography and Photographic News Almanac.

 

“I have been requested by the Editor to write a short article on the Daguerreotype. Now, I was under the impression that this most beautiful process was as defunct as good Queen Anne, and about as likely to revive again. I cannot see, however, why some interest should not still exist, for I hold that no more beautiful results can be obtained by any other of the photographic arts; it was my first love, and one for which I still retain a great affection – so much so that I have not only retained all the original apparatus used by me in early days, but have on several occasions of late years taken many Daguerreotypes for my own gratification, and to the no small interest of a few of my acquaintances whose entry into the photographic art dates not back to those days.”[11]

 

England then, in “The Daguerreotype Process in Practice,” continued with a brief, but certainly interesting, and technical, description of the daguerreotype process.

 

“I will now briefly describe the process, and I think any amateur with a little ingenuity and practice will succeed; but as the materials and apparatus cannot easily be obtained, he will have to make a few contrivances for the purpose. The plate must be copper electroplated, and highly polished – a quarter-plate is a convenient size, as it will fit into the ordinary holders now used. It is very important to have the plate perfectly clean, and most of the beauty depends on a brilliant polish.

 

The next process is the sensitizing. For this purpose get two evaporating dishes or saucers; make a frame to lay on the top to hold the plate; now sprinkle on the bottom of the dish some crystals of iodine, and in the other some lime to which a few drops of bromine have been added; not place the plate over the iodine, and let it remain till it assumes a deep yellow, which may be observed by lifting it and holding it to a white light for a moment; after, place it over the second dish containing the bromine till it takes a rose tint; now again over the iodine (carefully excluding all the white light) for about ten seconds. The plate is now ready for the camera. The exposure should be about double that of ordinary collodion. Now comes the most beautiful part of the process, the development; this can easily be done in the following manner. In the absence of proper apparatus, get an ordinary white basin of about six or seven inches in diameter, and on the top place a frame to hold the plate, and on the bottom a few ounces of mercury. Now place the basin on a stand, and underneath apply a spirit lamp, and heat the mercury to about 140 degrees; in a few minutes the plate can be lifted and examined by the yellow light, and if not fully developed, should be again placed over the mercury. All this should of course be done in the dark room. The plate as soon as developed may be taken into the light and placed in a dish of hyposulphite solution, which will instantly remove the sensitizing film. It must now be well washed in distilled water, and afterwards fixed – or, as it is sometimes called, gilded – in the following way. Make a solution of about one grain of chloride of gold to one ounce of distilled water, and into another ounce of water put twenty grains of soda hyposulphite; now pour the gold into the hyposulphite, and filter the solution. The Daguerreotype must now be placed on a levelling-stand with sufficient solution to cover the plate; apply a spirit lamp till the image gets a little darker, and then becomes brighter; then stop and well rinse with distilled water, and dry off by the lamp. And if the operator has been successful, he now possesses what is unlike many photographic pictures, a “thing of beauty, and a joy for ever,” for there can be no doubt of the permanency of the Daguerreotype.

 

I have described the above as briefly as possible, for I know your space is very valuable, but I hope it will be of service to some who may still feel an interest in this beautiful branch of photography.”[12]

 

William England’s “Cleaning and Copying Daguerreotypes” was published in The British Journal Photographic Almanac, and Photographer’s Daily Companion 1889.

 

“CLEANING AND COPYING DAGUERREOTYPES. By WILLIAM ENGLAND. As many of the readers of this Annual may have some very valuable daugerreotypes [sic] which have become tarnished, and of which they would like to obtain copies, I have thought that a few hints may be of service. It is useless to attempt to make a copy unless the surface is clean, so a few instructions to help those who have not had experience in these matters may be useful.

 

First remove carefully the plate from the mount and pass a camel-hair brush lightly over the surface, now have ready a solution of pure cyanide of potassium, ten to fifteen grains to the ounce of distilled water, the latter if the daguerreotype is much tarnished. Place this in a small porcelain dish, but before immersing the plate pour over two or three times from a measure some alcohol, now plunge the plate in the cyanide solution, and rock it until the tarnish has disappeared and the plate looks bright. This may take from three to six or seven minutes. The plate must now be well washed in clean water, and finally with distilled water, and dried in the following manner:–

 

Hold the corner by a pair of pliers, and with a spirit lamp warm the back of the plate, at the same time blowing with the breath without stopping until the surface is dry. If care has been taken the picture will be as bright as on the day it was taken. Every care must be taken not to touch the surface, except with a camel-hair brush, should dusting be necessary.

 

Copying a daguerreotype is not a difficult matter if the following directions are carried out:–It must be placed in a good light. If a top light, the plate must be placed sideways so that the vertical light may fall in the direction of what are called the buff marks across the plate. If a side light, then, of course, the plate must be fixed upright. Placed in the sun at a proper angle gives the best of all illumination, if convenient. Having now arranged the picture, place the camera as you would for copying a carte-de-visite or cabinet, using a rapid rectilinear lens and medium stop, and, to avoid any reflection in front, a piece of cardboard about a foot square covered with velvet, and with an opening just showing the glass of the lens, this will very effectually stop all reflection on the polished surface. In the earlier days of photography collodion was the only method of taking the negative, but now, should I have occasion to copy a daguerreotype, I use the slow landscape gelatine plates or the new rapid chloride of J. Desire England’s; the latter requires the same exposure as wet plates, the former about one-sixth. In all cases the slower the plates the better are the results obtained. Very rapid plates should never be used.

 

One word in conclusion. Great care must be taken in remounting the daguerreotype; it must be bound round with thin gummed paper to prevent the air getting in between the plate and the glass, or it will soon show signs of tarnishing; if well done it will have secured it a new lease of existence.”[13]

 

In 1890 Valentine Blanchard wrote of England and his role in the history of the stereoscope, including his prior work with daguerreotypes. “Mr. W. England who is fortunately still with us to give to modern workers the benefit of his varied experience, was also a large producer of daguerreotype slides, but he also was one of the first to take up the collodion process, for with practical eye he saw the importance of the increased facility of production furnished by it.”[14]

 

At the monthly technical meeting of the Photographic Society of Great Britain on May 23, 1893, England provided a demonstration of the daguerreotype process, which was followed by a question-and-answer session. England discussed the type of plates and chemicals that were used, the developing process, how to sensitize the plate and finishing the picture. England stated that the largest plate used was 15 inches by 12 inches, and that typically the whole plate was used. England also stated of daguerreotype quality that “the pictures never looked painfully sharp; there was always a soft and beautiful appearance, although the definition was perfect.” One attendee, upon viewing several of England’s exhibited daguerreotypes, “remarked it was to be hoped that the photographs produced at the present time would look as well thirty or forty years hence as did some of the Daguerreotypes which Mr. England has shown.”[15]

 

In 1895 an exhibition of photography was held at the Imperial Institute in South Kensington. In the historical division England displayed “some interesting old Daguerreotypes.”

 

In September 1896, The British Journal of Photography wrote of England’s death, and his earlier work with daguerreotypes. “The gentleman whose name is at the head of this notice, and whose loss old photographers must deplore, was one of its earliest workers, having been a most successful Daguerreotypist.”[16]

 

In 1897, the Imperial Victorian Loan Exhibition was held at Crystal Palace. In the historical section, the daguerreotype works of England were displayed. “In the cases are to be seen one of the finest collection of Daguerreotypes ever got together . . . There are also instantaneous Daguerreotypes, one of New York Harbour, taken later on, lent, amongst others, by Mr. L. W. England, in which the frame of the paddle wheels of a steamer, and the waves, are as sharp as in modern work, as well as an excellent picture of Daguerre himself.”[17] Also displayed were the actual Daguerreotype equipment used by the late William England.

 

Cordwainer

 

For several years it seems that England may have left the photography trade, or only took shots as an amateur, as various sources then note that England worked for several years as a “cordwainer,” or shoe maker. On the 1850 marriage record of William and Rosalie his profession was listed as “cordwainer.” On the 1851 England and Wales census, William’s profession was provided as “shoe maker.” In 1852 William was recorded as having a profession of “boot maker,” as per the baptismal record of his son Louis William.

 

London Stereoscopic Company

 

“No home without a stereoscope.” – Advertisement for the London Stereoscopic Company.

 

 

Around that time, in the early 1850s, circa 1854, the London Stereoscope Company (LSC) was formed by shopkeeper George Swan Nottage (1823-1885), later the Lord Mayor of London, and his associate Howard John Kennard (1829-1896), later a prominent businessman in the iron industry. The LSC would quickly grow to become one of the largest publishers and manufacturers of stereoviews in the world, advertising a catalog of over 100,000 unique views. In 1862 it is estimated that the LSC sold over one million stereoviews. In addition, operating with a motto of “a stereoscope for every home,” the LSC extensively manufactured stereoscopic cameras and viewers.

 

The LSC, also working under similar names such as the London Stereoscopic Company and the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company, continued to operate for nearly 70 years until its closing in 1922.

 

Seeing opportunity, William England would leave his career as a cordwainer to join the newly founded LSC in its earliest days and quickly became one of its principal photographers. Beginning in circa 1858, four years after joining the LSC, England took several domestic and foreign photographic journeys on behalf of the LSC, including Wales, England, Ireland (c. 1857/58), the United States (c. 1858/59), Canada (1859) and France (1860, 1861).

 

The British Journal of Photography, in 1885, in a review of the International Inventions Exhibition, talked of some of England’s earliest work. “As showing the degree of perfection to which the collodion process was brought at a very early date, attention may be directed to the instantaneous views of England and Blanchard, taken from 1855 to 1860.”[18] This appears to be anecdotal evidence supporting the fact of England working as a photographer in 1855.

 

Ireland

 

England traveled to Ireland in circa 1857 or 1858, resulting in a series of stereoscopic views. Joseph Henggeler in a 1987 article for Stereo World magazine wrote of England’s early work in Ireland. “The 1860 London Stereoscopic catalog first mention views of Ireland. Twenty-three views were listed and there is agreement among collectors that these were probably taken in 1858. The company endorsed their own views as being “the finest ever produced, of this beautiful and world renowned scenery.” The catalog – although American-oriented, named Irish views ranging from “Sackville Street – showing Nelson’s Monument, Dublin,” to “View in Enniskerry, showing the Sugar Loaf Mountain” to “The Lodge, Entrance to same.” William England has been credited as the stereophotographer.[19]

 

Interestingly, two of the views attributed to England that Henggeler refers to individually, “Sackville Street” and “View in Enniskerry,” are both listed verbatim in an 1859 catalog for the Negretti and Zambra company. The catalog, titled Descriptive Catalogue of Stereoscopes and Stereoscopic Views, Manufactured and Published by Negretti and Zambra, lists 100 Irish views. Many of the other Irish views listed in that catalog listing have been attributed to William England and the London Stereoscopic Company, although there is no mention of either.

 

A series of Irish views was reviewed in March 1858 in The Art-Journal.

 

“The London Stereoscope Company have recently issued a series of views of charming scenery in Ireland; they will be classed among the most interesting of those productions, in which this company continues to lead, by constantly producing “novelties,” and these of the best order. The Irish views are chiefly taken in Wicklow, and all-beautiful Killarney. One of the Dargle, and another of the Powerscourt Waterfall (introducing a picnic group of “celebrities”), are especially effective, while those of “the lake” are in the highest degree attractive. The scenery of Ireland is now much better known that it was a few years ago; happily, the country has attracted many tourists, and they have been largely repaid for their visit. That visit is now made without any of the “old” inconveniences – a voyage of four hours lands the traveller at Kingstown; railways, admirably conducted, are now plentiful; and those capital characters, the “car boys,” are as abundant as ever. This series of stereoscopic views will aid materially to draw visitors thither: they will behold scenery unsurpassed in the world for beauty and sublimity, and especially for the blending of both. They have examples, though but few, in this attractive selection; we hope that it will be largely augmented.”[20] 

 

The timing of the above review, March 1858, along with later discussed evidence that England was in the United States in 1858, leads one to believe that England may have been in Ireland in 1857, a year earlier than widely attributed. Nonetheless, the series was widely appreciated as advertising Ireland’s beauties in the tourism market.

 

Although William England is not mentioned by name, an 1858 book mentions a well funded photographer from the London Stereoscopic Company working in Ireland at that time.

 

“We have noticed this business in consequence of its rising importance as a commercial speculation. The London Stereoscopic Company keeps a staff of artists continually engaged in travelling, taking views in differenct countries. While we are writing, one of these gentlemen has just returned from an Irish tour of scenic observation, and we were informed by the manager that the travelling expenses of the journey was £400! From this it will seen that the business must absorb a large amount of capital.”[21]

 

Instantaneous Views of Paris

 

“We have never seen a series of stereoscopic photographic views more calculated to give pleasure than this collection . . .”

 

 

In 1861 the London Stereoscopic Company, with photographs taken by William England, published a series of stereoviews titled Instantaneous Views of Paris. The comprehensive series, containing approximately 113 views, was widely praised in numerous newspapers and trade publications of the day, including The Photographic Journal, The Photographic News, The Times, The British Journal of Photography, The Morning Post and The Athenaeum. A few noteworthy examples of the reviews are included here.

 

May 31, 1861. The Photographic News.

“INSTANTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHS.– We have received some specimens of a beautiful series of instantaneous photographs of Paris, just issued by the London Stereoscopic Company executed by their talented artist, Mr. W. England. They, for the most part, represent scenes in the crowded streets of the French capital in the midst of its busy traffic. In many of them the conditions of complete instantaneity are perfectly fulfilled, for we have walking figures with foot uplifted beautifully rendered, and rapidly driven equipages produced without blurring. In addition to their interest as instantaneous pictures of scenes so full of subject as Parisian streets, they are harmonious photographs without the common enormity of white skies. There is in all cases a tone over the skies, and in some the natural clouds. The only point at all at fault, is the lens, which has not always given perfect sharpness and illumination to the edges, the results, we presume, of the large aperture necessary to instantaneous pictures.”[22]

 

October 15, 1861. The Photographic Journal.

“We have never seen a series of stereoscopic photographic views more calculated to give pleasure than this collection; and of the so-called instantaneous pictures, these are decidedly the best which have hitherto been brought under our notice. There is no blurring. There are no indistinct masses which puzzle the beholder to ascertain exactly what is intended, but all is clearness and well defined. Persons in motion are excellent; they are not aware of having their actions permanently recorded. The horses and vehicles are passing with their usual activity, the result being altogether natural and agreeable.

 

To describe each view would be a mere repetition of recording an effective good photograph; and we strongly recommend our friends, especially those who have not visited Paris in late years, to possess themselves of the entire series.”[23]

 

October 18, 1861. The Photographic News.

“INSTANTANEOUS VIEWS OF PARIS. London: The Stereoscopic Company. This is a second series of instantaneous street views of Paris, issued by the Stereoscopic Company. Excellent as were their former series, the present in many respects, surpasses it. The most crowded thoroughfares of lively Paris are here most exquisitely rendered, with a perfection of definition and detail perfectly marvellous. Walking figures, running figures, falling figures, equestrian figures and vehicles, all caught in their acts without the slightest appearance of movement or imperfect definition. Here is a lad transfixed in the act of falling, flying forward, as something has tripped him up; he remains on the slide doomed neither to fall further nor rise again. Here we have unimpeachable evidence that two well-dressed Parisians were seen walking down the Boulevard Montmartre actually out of step, the right leg of the one and the left leg of the other being uplifted at the same moment. The majority of these pictures are entirely free from every trace of under exposure, and are brilliant, clear, sharp, bold, and delicate, some of them also possessing fine natural skies. They are remarkably clean and free from blemish or manipulatory faults, furnishing fine examples altogether of what instantaneous pictures ought to be. Of the interest of the scenes it is unnecessary to speak. Life in Paris is almost a synonym for all that is brilliant and gay, and these views are chosen from the busiest scenes of the gay metropolis.”[24]

 

October 22, 1861. The Times.

“PHOTOGRAPHS OF PARIS. – A most interesting series of instantaneous stereoscopic views of Paris have just been published by the London Stereoscopic Company, whose collections of similar pictures of America, Switzerland, England, and most of the capitals of Europe are already so well known. The Paris series gives the French metropolis under every possible variety of out-door life. All the chief public buildings, the new Boulevards, the old historic barriers, even the intended new streets now in progress, are given with a finish and clearness of outline rarely attained in these pictures of an instant. As instantaneous views they are certainly among the most remarkable specimens of photographic art that have been published for some time. The points from which they are taken, too, are well chosen, so that altogether the series illustrates admirably the daily routine of life in Paris, from the most fashionable promenades to the hurried crowds along the narrow trottoirs and by way of third-rate Faubourgs.”[25]

 

February 14, 1862. The Photographic News.

The London Stereoscopic Company have just issued a further series of Mr. England’s admirable stereographs of Paris, instantaneous and other wise. Of the instantaneous street scenes, it is only necessary to say that they surpass, if possible, in definition and detail, his former pictures. Some of the subjects are somewhat critical tests of instantaneity; here, for instance, in No. 91 is a regiment of infantry, five abreast, with fixed bayonets, marching towards the camera; every detail in every part is rendered without the slightest confusion. Here also in No. 101, “Halles Centrales,” is a busy market-scene, containing a surging crown of many hundreds of bustling moving people, all perfectly detailed. Many of the subjects are very perfect as pictures, altogether apart from their interest as instantaneous views. Of these we may mention No. 106, a view in the Rue Royale, with natural clouds, which is a most charming composition, and a fine photograph. In this series, Mr. England has produced some very fine interiors. In speaking of them we accord them very high praise when we state that we think some of them equal to Wilson’s interiors. Several views of the interior of the church of St. Etienne du Mont, which we believe presents some considerable difficulties as regards the question of lighting, are exceedingly fine. The magnificently carved pulpit, which, though nearly black and dimly lighted, is here secured with the most perfect definition, detail, and gradation. There are also some fine pictures of scenes in the Bois de Bologne, which are very perfectly executed.”[26]

 

As a result of the resounding success of his work in Paris, England was the subject of a popular industry joke. “An old photographic joke of this period in connection with his name may be mentioned:– “Have you heard the news? England has taken Paris.”[27]

 

Instantaneous Views of ParisInstantaneous Views of ParisINSTANTANEOUS VIEWS of PARIS.–Just Out. The London Stereoscopic Comapny, 313, Oxford-street. 1s, 6d. each, or seven for 10x, free by post. These are the finest views of Paris ever issued, and the wholesale orders for them from Paris will take the Company some months to execute.

 

Palais Royal à Paris. Vue Instantanée. Views of Paris.Palais Royal à Paris. Vue Instantanée. Views of Paris.Palais Royal à Paris. Vue Instantanée. Views of Paris. William England, London Stereoscopic Company. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Palais Royal à Paris. Vue Instantanée. Views of Paris. William England, London Stereoscopic Company. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
 

 

The International Exhibition

 

“On the whole, this pictorial record of the finest Exhibition that has yet been held is in every way worthy of the advance the chymical art has made since our last World’s Fair in 1851.”

 

 

In 1862, in response to a public tender, the LSC was awarded the exclusive rights to photograph the International Exhibition, a world’s fair. In exchange for this exclusive right the LSC paid what was then considered a “prodigious outlay,” which included a guaranteed 2,000 guineas plus royalties on sales. The LSC also invested £500 to outfit the space and paid a further £300 to purchase brand new lenses “when it was discovered that Dallmeyer’s lenses executed the work better than the equipment of first-rate lenses already in use.”[28]

 

The International Exhibition was held over the course of seven months from May to November at South Kensington in London. England served as the lead photographer on behalf of the LSC, with a team that included other notable photographers William Russell Sedgfield (1826-1902) and Stephen Thompson, “a highly accomplished and artistic photographer.”

 

A series of 350 stereoviews was published to wide acclaim, with The Photographic Journal writing that “as photographs they are all we can desire, and those who are unable to visit the building will obtain a very good idea of its vast interest by the inspection of these beautiful productions.”[29] The first proofs were to be forwarded to the Queen at Balmoral, and another set were to be sent to the Princess Frederick William of Prussia. Given the anticipated demand, one firm placed an order for not less than 50,000 prints before the exhibition even opened. With the stereoviews available to the public, it has been estimated that over 300,000 views were sold at the Exhibition. England later estimated that the most popular kind of souvenir were photographs, of which “more than ninety-five per cent of the views were for the stereoscope.”[30]

 

Writing in November 1862 The Photographic News reviewed the photography of the Exhibition, noting the incredible investment of the London Stereoscopic Company, the work of William England, the incredible volume of sales and the beautiful nature of the photographs.

 

“As to the quality of the photographs produced, the public verdict has been given in the demand for the prints. They comprise a treasury of the choicest gems which the world of art and science could produce, photographed with an amount of skill which could not, we believe, be surpassed. Some of the slides before us are choice gems of photography, as well as exquisite delineations of gems of art. Nothing can exceed the beauty of many of the general views of the nave, transept, and various courts. In the representations of ornamental glass and ceramic wares, the exquisitely delicate rendering of texture is something marvellous, the perfect detail and softness giving an effect of reality to these substances in the stereoscope, which we have hitherto regarded as only possibly in stereoscopic transparencies on glass. The grouping of various art products, in some of the slides, has been managed with much judgment, taste and skill.”[31]

 

Another review of the Exhibition, this one in June 1862, was published by The Standard, of London.

 

“Yesterday also we were enabled to inspect a number of stereographs and cartes de visite just issued by the London Stereoscopic Company. It is pleasant, as showing a love for art and a desire to possess mementos of the Exhibition, to be able to state that all their works, and especially the slides, are going off very fast. Among those just issued we notice particularly a stereograph of Gibson’s “Venus,” for which there is a perfect rush; a slide of Minton’s majolica fountain, another of the south-eastern picture gallery, one of the entrance to the staircase in the western dome, one of Thomas’s “Lady Godiva,” and one of the nave from the western dome. The cartes include the statues of the dais, the machinery annex, and the foreign half of the nave. The portraits of the Prince and his suite, as well as that of Sir C. W. Dilke, are really excellent, although so small.”[32]

 

The Times, of London, in August 1862, wrote an extensive review about the photographs of the International Exhibition. The challenging photographic environment was described, as was one of the most popular stereoscopic views of the International Exhibition, the Reading Girl. This statue, “among the most attractive pieces of sculpture in the Exhibition,” and “about which every one has gone wild,” was sculpted by Pietro Magni (1817-1877). The statue was first exhibited at Florence, Italy in 1861. It was later estimated that the sale of photographs of the “Reading Girl” were so large that the proceeds exceeded the cost paid by the London Stereoscopic Company to photograph the entire International Exhibition. During the course of the exhibition the statue was purchased by George Nottage, chairman of the London Stereoscopic Company.

 

“The first results of the efforts of this company [the London Stereoscopic Company] have now been given to the public in about a hundred large and small plain and coloured carte de visite views, and views adapted only to the stereoscope. The latter, as might be expected from the fame of this company for such pictures, are among the best, and are really wonderfully good, when we consider the extreme difficulty of taking them.

 

The light in the building is so extremely bad for photographic purposes that at first it was believed that none could be taken there at all. This supposition was so near the truth that even now, on bad days, it requires from 12 to 15 minutes’ exposure of the plate to get a good negative; and when we remember that, in addition to this difficulty, the varied colours are so sadly metamorphosed in the process as often to destroy not only the beauty but the likeness of the picture, the care and cost required to get good views have been very great. Of these difficulties, however, there is no trace in the series which has just been issued. They are each as clear and sharp as instantaneous views, and the tinted views especially bring out every light and shade, and every tone of colour, in the building. Here we see the nave as only photographers and policemen have the luck to see it – in the cool clear air of the early morning, when there is no dust, no crowd, when not a living being is visible over the whole expanse of the noble hall, when it looks like fairyland of beauties undiscovered and unknown. In these pictures the statuary comes out with all the sharpness of high relief, and every column and rib of the nave may be counted.

 

In some, such as the collection of glass in the English and Austrian Courts, the effect is more than stereoscopic – it is an optical delusion; less a picture of the places as we see them than the places themselves. The quaint, funny monstrosities of the Japanese Court are here reproduced to the life; here we get the long vista of ponderous wheels and thrusting pistons of the Machinery Annexe; here we find the Picture Galleries as visitors have never found them yet – quiet and empty; and here, above all, are the best specimens of the statuary.

 

The tinted Venus of Gibson is so tinted as to avoid the discoloration of the marble which in the original gives the goddess the appearance of having dirty legs; the veiled figures of Monti come out with beautiful distinctness; and the pale, earnest features of the Reading Girl are copied with all the force of the statue itself. This latter is apparently the popular picture, as nearly 200 gross of its copies are sold per week. Some of the best gems of the Roman Court are among these pictures, though it is much to be regretted that up to the present no permission has been obtained to copy two of the finest works in it – Storey’s beautiful statues of Cleopatra and the Sibyl.

 

On the whole, this pictorial record of the finest Exhibition that has yet been held is in every way worthy of the advance the chymical art has made since our last World’s Fair in 1851. These views will be enduring records of what we did in 1862, and the only regret we feel in looking over this wonderful delineation is that the art was not sufficiently advanced to have served the same purpose for our first great effort in 1851. Many more views have yet to be brought out before the series is complete. It they are only as good as those already issued, they will reflect high credit on the Stereoscopic Company.”[33]

 

In an extensive review The Art-Journal praised the stereographs from the International Exhibition, noting them as a complete collection capable of teaching.

 

“Amongst the Notabilia of this Exhibition, none can rival the stereographs, which render the Exhibition itself at once indestructible and ubiquitous. In the stereoscope they place before our eyes the well-known Courts, the favourite groups, the infinitely diversified collections, and the most popular objects, precisely as they existed, and as we used to study them. And, as we suppose that “no home” is now “without a stereoscope,” we may assume that the stereographic presence of the Exhibition will be diffused as widely as its fame. It is no slight advantage that the stereoscope thus bestows. Unerring fidelity, complete in its power of representation, and always certain of absolutely successful action, this wonderful little instrument now accomplished exactly what in 1851 was felt to be equally important and impossible. We can enjoy this year’s Exhibition again and again in the stereoscope, and in the stereoscope we can study it, and thoroughly learn all it has to teach. The “slides” with the Stereoscopic Company have produced in such abundance, are much more than pleasant reminiscences, forcibly and vividly conveyed. They are the most impressive of teacher also – or rather, through their agency the Exhibition, in the most impressive manner, conveys its eminently valuable lessons . . .

 

Working, as they have, under no ordinary pressure of difficulties, the Stereoscopic Company have, nevertheless, been faithful to the duty which they took upon themselves. Never have more admirable stereographs been produced than those which the Company have placed before visitors, and before the public, and, indeed, the world at large. Every most effective general view has been photographed from the best point of view; and the same may be affirmed with equal justice of particular groups, collections, and objects. And when the eye glances over the list of the subjects of the Exhibition stereographs, or, far better still, when the stereographs themselves are displayed in close contiguity as a collection, it becomes apparent that a substantial history – such as never before was prepared from any Exhibition – is here present, which begins with the commencement of this Exhibition, and accompanies its career from day to day; and when the closing shall have taken place, without doubt the series will be found to be complete, as far as the Stereoscopic Company will have been able to attain to completeness.”[34]

 

The photography at the International Exhibition was widely attributed to William England, while working for the London Stereoscopic Company. Interestingly though, in November 1862 The Photographic News wrote that much of the work was being completed directly by William England. “The number of persons employed in Mr. England’s establishment, in albumenizing, exciting, printing, toning, fixing, washing, mounting, & c., may easily be conceived; and this is only one portion of the Exhibition work, and does not include any of the large pictures.”[35]

 

England’s work at the International Exhibition was considered the peak popularity of stereoscopic views in England. “The high water mark of the popularity for the stereoscope may be fixed at about 1862, and it is curiously noteworthy that while the great exhibition of 1851 practically gave birth to it, the next great exhibition – that of 1862 – saw it at its fullest growth. The enterprise of the late Mr. Nottage, of the Stereoscopic Company, secured the exclusive right to photograph the noteworthy objects in that wonderful collection, and he gave into the hands of Mr. England the entire control of the stereoscopic department, and it is not too much to say here that no one could have been found more able for the work. There have been many exhibitions since, but never such a beautiful series of stereoscopic slides, to perpetuate the remembrance of them. The demand for England’s slides of the Exhibition was simply incredible.”[36]

 

The Nave, from Eastern Dome. The International Exhibition of 1862.The Nave, from Eastern Dome. The International Exhibition of 1862.London Stereoscopic Company, Publisher, photographer by England, William. The International Exhibition of 1862. “The nave, from eastern dome.” [London: London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2010646522/>.

The Nave, from Eastern Dome. The International Exhibition of 1862.

London Stereoscopic Company, Publisher, photographer by England, William. The International Exhibition of 1862. “The nave, from eastern dome.” [London: London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2010646522/>.

 

 

Views of the International Exhibition advertisement by the London Stereoscopic CompanyViews of the International ExhibitionJust Arrived. Stereoscopic and Album Views of the International Exhibition of 1862. London Stereoscopic and Photographic Co., 579 Broadway, opposite the Metropolitan Hotel, N. Y.

Source: New York Herald. July 17, 1862, p. 6.

 

Advertisement for the 1862 International Exhibition.1862 International Exhibition advertisementINTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION, 1862.–A SET of 50 STEREOGRAPHS of the leading objects of interest and beauty, and the finest general views, in handsome leather case, sent free for £3 10s. Post-office orders payable to GEORGE SWAN NOTTAGE, London, Stereoscopic and Photographic Company (sole photographers to the Exhibition), 54, Cheapside, and 110, Regent Street. "They are gems of photographic art." Photographic Journal of the Society.

1862 International Exhibition advertisement1862 International Exhibition advertisementThe Great Exhibition in the Stereoscope.

J. Haddock has just received a collection of BEAUTIFUL STEREOGRAPHS of the Interior of the Building, taken by the London Stereoscopic Company; comprising views of the various Courts and Galleries, and all the best known specimens of Sculpture, & c.

Portrait Albums in great variety, from 2s 6d. to Two Guineas.

Ancient House, Old Butter Market, Ipswich.

 

Early Reputation

 

By 1862 William England had already established a reputation as one of the finest photographers in England, if not the world. In April 1862 The Photographic News wrote of England’s experience. “Mr. England, whose experience is, perhaps, more extensive and varied than that of any photographer of the day . . . Mr. England’s experience exceeds that of some of his compeers, inasmuch as it has been more varied, his practice having been on the Continent and in America, as well as in this country.”[37]

 

The Castles and Abbeys of England

 

Just prior to his trip to the United States, England was photographing a series of castles and abbeys in his home country of England.[38] This time of England’s career is relatively unknown and requires further research.

 

 

[1] “Visits to Noteworthy Studios. Mr. England’s Establishment at Notting Hill.” The Photographic News. Vol. 12, No. 502. April 17, 1868. p. 184.

[2]  “Photographic Society of Great Britain.” The British Journal of Photography. Vol. 37. March 14, 1890. London: H. Greenwood & Co., 1890. p. 172.

[3]  “On Copying Sculpture.” The Year-Book of Photography and Photographic News Almanac for 1873. London: Piper and Carter, 1873. p. 29.

[4] “Notes.” The Photographic News. Vol. 26. December 8, 1882. London: Piper and Carter, 1882. p. 744.

[5]  “Recent Advances in Photography.” The British Journal of Photography. Vol. 29. August 18, 1882. p. 478.

[6]  “Recent Advances in Photography.” The British Journal of Photography. Vol. 29. August 18, 1882. p. 478.

[7]  “Monthly Technical Meetings.” The Photographic Journal. New Series, Vol. 17, No. 9. June 29, 1893. London: Harrison and Sons, 1893. p. 259.

[8]  “Respect for M. Daguerre.” New-York Daily Tribune. August 6, 1851. p. 4.

[9]  Canfield, C. W. “Portraits of Daguerre.” The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1891. New York: The Scovill & Adams Company. p. 27.

[10]  Gernsheim, Helmut; Alison Gernsheim. L. J. M. Daguerre: The History of the Diorama and the Daguerreotype. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1968. p. 126.

[11]  “The Daguerreotype Process in Practice.” The Year-Book of Photography and Photographic News Almanac for 1883.  London: Piper and Carter, 1883. pp. 100-101.

[12]  “The Daguerreotype Process in Practice.” The Year-Book of Photography and Photographic News Almanac for 1883.  London: Piper and Carter, 1883. pp. 100-101.

[13]  “Cleaning and Copying Daguerreotypes.” The British Journal Photographic Almanac, and Photographer’s Daily Companion 1889. London: Ross & Co., 1889. pp. 573-574.

[14] Blanchard, Valentine. “The Stereoscope – II.” The Amateur Photographer. Vol. 11. May 16, 1890. pp. 354-355.

[15] “Monthly Technical Meetings.” The Photographic Journal. New Series, Vol. 17, No. 9. June 29, 1893. London: Harrison and Sons, 1893. pp. 261.

[16] “The Late Mr. William England.” The British Journal of Photography. Vol. 43. September 25, 1896. London: Henry Greenwood & Co., 1896. p. 618.

[17] “The Photographic Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.” The British Journal of Photography. Vol. 44. May 14, 1897. London: Henry Greenwood & Co., 1897. p. 307.

[18] “International Inventions Exhibition.” The British Journal of Photography. Vol. 32. September 25, 1885. London: Henry Greenwood, 1885. p. 618.

[19] Henggeler, Joseph. “Stereo Emeralds: A Look at Nineteenth Century Irish Stereo Views.” Stereo World. Vol. 14, No. 1, March/April 1987. pp. 24.

[20] “Minor Topics of the Month.” The Art-Journal. March 1, 1858. p. 95.

[21] Burn, James Dawson. Commerical Enterprise and Social Progress. London: Piper, Stephenson, & Spence, 1859. p. 29.

[22] “Talk in the Studio.” The Photographic News. Vol. 5. May 31, 1861. p. 264.

[23] “Instantaneous Views of Paris.” The Photographic Journal. No. 114. October 15, 1861. p. 288.

[24] “Instantaneous Views of Paris.” The Photographic News. Vol. 5, No. 163. October 18, 1861. p. 495.

[25] “Photographs of Paris.” The Times. October 22, 1861.

[26] “Stereoscopic Views of Paris.” The Photographic News. Vol. 6, No. 180. February 14, 1862. p. 78.

[27] Blanchard, Valentine. “The Stereoscope – II.” The Amateur Photographer. Vol. 11. May 16, 1890. pp. 354-355.

[28] “Stereoscopic Views of the Interior of the International Exhibition.” The Photographic News. November 7, 1862. p. 533.

[29] “Photographic Views of the International Exhibition.” The Photographic Journal. August 15, 1862. p. 104.

[30] “Stereoscopic Photography.” The Photo-Miniature. Vol. 1, No. 5. August, 1899. p. 211.

[31] “Stereoscopic Views of the Interior of the International Exhibition.” The Photographic News. November 7, 1862. p. 533.

[32] “The International Exhibition.” The Standard. June 19, 1862. p. 6.

[33] “Photographs of the Exhibition.” The Times. August 13, 1862. p. 20.

[34] “The Stereographs of the Stereoscopic Company.” The Art-Journal. New Series, Vol. 1. London: James S. Virtue, 1862. p. 223.

[35] “The Commerce of Photography.” The Photographic News. Vol. 6, No. 220. November 21, 1862.

[36] Blanchard, Valentine. “The Stereoscope – III.” The Amateur Photographer. Vol. 11. May 30, 1890. pp. 394-395.

[37] “Bromides in Instantaneous Collodion.” The Photographic News. Vol. 6, No. 187. April 4, 1862. pp. 157-158.

[38] Blanchard, Valentine. “The Stereoscope – II.” The Amateur Photographer. Vol. 11. May 16, 1890. pp. 354-355.

 


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