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.
Continued from Part 4.
“One of the remarkable things about this collection . . . is that it can be attributed to a single hand, that of William England, one of Nottage’s principal photographers. It is also rare – indeed unique – in being a complete account of a single trip, through the Northeast. It was also, and as you would expect of a commercial photographer, a disciplined journey, one which took account of pictorial expectations, for America, in particular, was a much traveled land . . .” – Ian Jeffrey. (p. 10)
Upon returning to Britain after his travels in the United States William England exhibited his American stereoscopic views in various forums. His work was also reviewed in several leading publications.
On May 3, 1860, The Times, of London, published an extensive review of England’s North American series in an article titled “America in the Stereoscope.”
“America in the Stereoscope.– It is hardly too much praise to say that a good set of stereoscopes is equal in interest to a good book of travels, with all those additional advantages which the former must derive from giving us their quick, life-like glimpses into costumes, manners, and modes of life of all kinds, and reproducing with minute fidelity the scenery which is always so characteristic of a people. Stereoscopes, in fact, anticipate travel.
The peculiar genius of the Egyptians, as manifested in their rock-hewn temples and colossal monuments, can be appreciated and understood in beautiful little stereoscopes without quitting an arm-chair. The great pictorial features of British India are familiar to millions who have never been within the tropics. We can study and admire the sacred shrines of the Holy Land, and look with something like dismay on these arid places which spread in a sea of hot sand around Mounts Horeb and Sinai. Robertson has made the mosques of Constantinople and the ruined temples of Aegean as familiar as Tintern or Melrose; and, except among the untrodden wilds of Asia Minor and Circassian coast, where Europeans seldom venture, photography has done all it can do for the East.
The West, however, has not been attempted, and till within the last two or three months the grand scenery of North America with its checkered beauties of cataract and river, lake and mountain, have remained unknown save to those who have extended their travels so far.
Now, however, the turn of the New World has come round for photographic illustration, and under the title of “America in the Stereoscope,” the London Stereoscopic Company have just issued a most charming set of views, so well chosen and so varied that as we pass from one to the other American life and scenery in every phase are present to the eye. American cities, as a rule, afford little matter for pictorial illustration when compared with the gorgeous edifices and many-tinted capitals of the East. The artist therefore has, with much tact, avoided a repitition of American towns and villages, and flown to those scenes on the Delaware, the Hudson, and the St. Lawrence which seem always new. In these views we seem to travel through the states, starting from New York, which is of course made much of, and with its angular streets and blinding sunglare is brought with all the vividness of reality before the spectator.
From this point, then, we journey along the Hudson, past the Falls of the Poniac, Patterson, Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, Indian Glen, and Sunnyside. The Hudson, of course, affords an endless source of views, and the "Falls of the Poniac," "Sleepy Hollow," "Indian Fall," and "Rustic Bridge" are among the best things of the kind that has ever been attempted.
In the gorges and gaps of the Katskill Mountains we look for and get some sublime pieces of mountain scenery, rough and wild as can well be conceived; but it is in "the matchless cataract," the fountain of an infant sea – Niagara, that the artist exhausts all his skill in instantaneous photographs of this tremendous scene. In these views, fortunately, he is even, if possible, more successful than with the others, and for a marvellous specimen of stereoscopic skill we should select the view of the fall from Prospect Point and the Rapids as being in clearness and grandeur of detail beyond all views of the kind that we have seen. All the views of the Falls, in fact, are perfect studies, and here we get the cataract from every point, lit by the sun or moon red in the day's decline, gray as evening slowly falls upon it, or in the winter when snow and ice are the ruling genii of the spot, and when the spray which rises from the cataract hangs heavy in gigantic crystals on all around. The view near the Terrapin Tower in winter is a splendid example of this kind.
In addition to these grand objects we find scores of others less striking, but of equal interest – the tomb of Washington, Trenton Falls, the Mississippi river boats, the broad commodious trains and sleeping cars, with grand suspension bridges out of number, and the great Victoria Bridge, of course. In fact, the title which has been given to those views of "America in the Stereoscope, is amply borne out, and the whole series forms a most interesting and attractive collection.
In connexion with the stereoscopes, the Stereoscopic Company have published some large views of the Falls of Niagara, which are wonderful examples of the vividness with which, in skilful hands, photography may be made to reproduce even the most fleeting grandeur of these tremendous cataracts. Some of these are most beautiful and excellent of their kind – quite beyond mere description to do justice to.”
The Art-Journal, in July 1860, published an overwhelmingly glowing review of the work created by William England during his tour of the United States and Canada.
“There are hundreds of thousands in Great Britain who are continually hearing of the grandeur and beuaty of scenery in the United States and in Canada who have not, and probably never will have, a chance of examining its peculiar marvels and graces, except by the aid of the artist. And that aid is rarely so obtained as to convey assurance of positive truth; we suspect, if we are not certain, that Art has derived help from Fancy; we doubt while we admire, and attribute to invention that which may be only fact. The photography, however, cannot deceive; in nothing can it extenuate; there is no power in this marvellous maching either to add to or take from: we know that what we see must be TRUE. So guided, therefore, we can travel over all the countries of the world, without moving a yard from our own firesides. Fortunately there are those who, from love of wandering, or of Art, or of gain, will incur any amount of fatigue or danger, and bring to us enjoyment and knowledge, without demanding from us either labour or risk; giving in an hour the information that has been gained by years of toil and peril. All honour to the men who are thus our ministers!
The series of stereoscopic views recently brought under our notice by the London Stereoscopic Company – taken in various parts of Canada and the United States – bring us, as far as they go, into closer and safer aquaintance with the New World than all the books that have been written on the subject, and “their name is legion.” Lake and mountain, glen and river, picturesque waterfalls and gigantic cataracts, spacious harbors, populous cities – all the glories of Nature and of Art – are here brought so vividly before the eye that we seem to have journeyed with the traveller and worked with the artist. It is indeed impossible to overrate the debt we owe for so much of pleasure and so much of information.
The city views are chiefly those of New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Quebec, Montreal and Ottawas (the new capital of Canada); but more interesting are those which picture attractive scenes on the rivers St. Lawrence, the Delaware, and the Hudson. Still more so, perhaps are those that introduce us to the far-famed “Katskills,” Sleepy Hollow, the Indian Fall, the Falls of the Pontiac, and Trenton Falls – not forgetting Pougheepsie, and which other accomplished Americans have made renowned. There is, indead, no one of the series that fails to gratify; some may be better than others, but all are full of interest, anc convey instruction. The artist has, however, most put forth his strength where it became most effective. Hundreds of pictues have been painted, and description written, to make us acquainted with NIAGARA; but until now we seem to have been utterly ignorant concerning the character of this – one of the wonders of the world. The views are many: – Comprising 1. the Suspension Bridge, hung, as it were, in mid air; the railway trains, as they pass, seeming but little larger than the miniature toys of children; 2. The Bridge again, a nearer view; 3. The Bridge over the Rapids, a remarkably light and graceful structure; 4. The Lewiston Suspension Bridge; 5. The American Fall; 6. The American Fall in winter; 7. The Terrapin Towr and Bridge, the tower standing on the very edge of the Great Horse-shoe Fall –
“How dizzy ‘tis to cast one’s eyes below;”
8. Another view of the terrific scene, the torrent rushing over the brink; 9. The Rapids: a view that must have been caught instantaneously, the tremendous character of which is given with marvellous accuracy; 10. A general view of the Falls, in which Niagara is beheld “in all its glory and magnificence;” 11. A sylvan scene on Goat Island, the rush of water in the distance; and though last not least in this singular series, are two views showing the daring adventurer, Blondin, crossing the Niagara on a tight rope – one of the most daring feats ever achieved. We have thus ome fifteen or sixteen views of this wonderful wrok of nature, including the objects by which Art has succeeded in rendering Niagara in a degree subject to the will of man. Unquestionably no series of stereoscopic views has been yet issued at once so interesting and so instructive; they so thoroughly convey accurate ideas of the marvels they depict. Moreover, they are exceedingly well executed, and may vie with the best, in clearness of detail and power of effect, when seen in the stereoscope. A brief but carefully written description accompanies each view, giving such particulars as are requisite for a complete comprehension of the theme, in its grandeur, or its beauty, or its combination of both.
We shall rejoice if our notice be the means of enabling others to partake of the rich treat we have enjoyed in examing this delightfuly series: it would be difficult to pass an hour more pleasantly or more profitably. Of the many boons conferred by the London Stereoscopic Company, this, their latest, is undoubtedly the best.”
Yet another praising review was published on August 31, 1860 in The Photographic News.
“AMERICA IN THE STEREOSCOPE, a Series of One Hundred Views of the most choice and interesting Portions of American Scenery.
We know of no application of instantaneous photography more important in its relation to the picturesque, more capable of aiding the imagination in realizing some of the most sublime and soul-stirring of nature’s beauties, than is presented by some of the stereographs before as of the cataract scenery of the Western World. We gaze with varying wonder and elight as we turn from the silvery cascades of the Kauterskill to the turbulent rapids of the Niagara, and from these to the overpowering immensity and bewildering sublimity of the gigantic cataract. To secure the slightest approximation of a truthful effect in depicting such scenes, it is imperative that the operation be in the strictest sense of the word, instantaneous, otherwise the broken mass of falling water becomes a white patch, and the boiling, surging, seething abyss into which they faill is represented by a mass of something like wool.
In the pictures before us we have some of the best instantaneous effects we have seen, and in the various views of Niagara, of which we have something like a score, their value and beauty are strikingly illustrated, conveying as they do the most vivid and impressive idea, not simply of the whirling and conflicting waters; but also of the transparent cloud of misty spray with which they are enveloped. So real is the scene, that as we turn from slide to slide, obtaining with each change fresh views and new surprises of tumultuous beauty, we seem to lose the monechrome of the photograph, and behold the scene invested with all the glorious hues as well as the “thousand fantastic shapes” of nature, and stand with silent awe before the stupendous cataract.
Among the views of Niagara which please us most by a charm peculiarly their own, are the various winter scenes in which snow and ice are “the ruling genii of the spot.” Huge icicles hang from every available point, and the spray which bursts rom the thundering avalanche of water encrusts everything with a coat of dazzling purity and whiteness, which seems to give additional sublimity to the darkling waters.
In addition to the various views of the mighty Niagara we have a large variety of cascades and cataracts of varying degrees of beauty, but less considerable in vastness and sublimity, such as the falls on the Passaic and Genessee rivers, the Trenton Falls, and some exquisitely beautiful cascades in the Catskill Mountains, in all of which a large amount of artistic skill in selection is displayed.
We have headed these remarks by a quotation from the catalogue, describing the series as “One hundred views” of choice and interesting portions of American scenery. We believe, however, that we have looked through a selection of not less than twice that number, comprising every variety of the characteristic natural scenery of the western world, together with some striking street-scenes and architectural views. Among the former, we may especially mention a scene in Goat Island, Niagara, called the “Lovers’ Walk,” – a perfect gem of landscape stereography, full of sun-light. An ice-cavern in the White Mountains presents in the stereoscope a wondrously beautiful and sparkling effect. Some of the subjects, in addition to their natural beauties, have the added charm of associations, as scenes identified with popular literature. Amongst these, is an interesting view, and excellent photograph of the “Rustic Bridge, Sleepy Hollow,” the scene of Washington Irving’s “Headless Man.”
A slide which possesses some interest, as the verification of what has been regarded as a somewhat mythical event, is a stereograph of Blondin crossing the Niagara river on a tight rope. The feat, at the time of its accomplishment, was the subject of so much assertion and enial, that it became generally regarded as an American canard. We have it here, however, verified by the lens which will not lie, the adventurous Frenchman being taken in transitu.
An interesting circumstance, in connection with these slides, is the fact that they include the several spots of interest which his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is now in course of visiting. A set of the stereographs of these places, together with twelve-by-ten pictures of the same places, have been purchased by his father the Prince Consort, in order that he might thus trace his son’s progress.
In concluding our notice of this series, and speaking of their high merits as photographs, which, as a whole, we have not seen surpassed, we may mention the interesting fact that they are the production of an English photographer, sent out specifically by the Stereoscopic Company, for the purpose of taking them. The negatives are produced by the wet process, and possess merits as high of a photographic character, as they do in an artistic and picturesque point of view. The prints are clear, bright, and vigorous, and of the warm, purple-borwn tone which is so satisfactory in landscape photograpy.”
In August 1860 the Photographic Notes publication provided a brief, but very positive, review of the American series. “The London Stereoscopic Company have lately brought out a series of stereoscopic views of American Scenery, which possess uncommon interest, and are well executed.”
In August 1860 The Literary Gazette published a review of a small selection of severn views from the series. Once again, the views were widely praised, being noted as “fantastic, and exceedingly beautiful.”
“SEVEN Select Stereoscopic Gems of American Scenery.” (London Stereoscopic company, 54, Cheapside, 313, Oxford Street, and 594 Broadway, New York.) The photographer is a great teacher; he brings home to our very doors scenes and likenesses which very few of us could ever hope to realise. But the photographer has an ally in that simple, but yet wonderful, discovery of Sir David Brewster, the stereoscope, which places his art in such a position as almost to deceive the spectator.
We have before us “Seven Select Stereoscopic Gems of American Scenery,” issued by the London Stereoscopic Company. The first is an exterior view of the Victoria Tubular Bridge two miles in length, spanning the great St. Lawrence, at Montreal, Canada, and which was designed by the late surprising genius, Mr. Robert Stephenson. Its purpose is to connect the British colony of Canada with the United States of America, by the route of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada. The pictures before us give a wonderful impression of the stupendous work, and are so clear and well defined as to make us believe we are looking at the structure itself.
The next subject is that of Blondin’s Tight Rope Feat, which the hazardous adventurer is depicted crossing the Niagara river. Placing this picture in the stereoscope, and looking at for a moment, we realise the impression of a scene which, whatever may have been though of its sanity, is one of great peril to the performer, and so vividly does the image become impressed on the mind by the medium of the eye, that it becomes actually painful to contemplate.
The Ice Caverns in the White Mountains, New Hampshire, U.S., is the next in order. The description tells us that, during the winter, the roofs, which are formed of the trunks of trees falling upon small rivulets, soon accumulate a very beautiful stalactite appearance, or, in the words of Bryant –
“You might deem the spot
The spacious cavern of some virgin mine,
Deep in the womb of earth – where the gems grow
And diamonds put forth radiant rods and bud
With amethyst and topaz – and the place
Lit up most royally with the pure beam
That dwells therein.”
They are very fantastic and exceedingly beautiful. The remainder are – Niagara Falls; White-hall Street, New York; Montreal; and a View on the St. Lawrence. Too much praise cannot be given to the London Stereoscopic Company for these views. They are clear, distinct, and graphic, conveying such an impression of the places represented that will ensure remembrance. Each picture has a brief description printed at the back, and the getting up, generally, is worthy of succes.”
In October 1860 Simeon Headsman visited the facilities of the London Stereoscopic Company at Cheapside. In a letter titled “Letters to a Photographic Friend” Headsman wrote of his impressions of the new American views taken by William England.
“I next made my way to the London Stereoscopic Company, in Cheapside, and examined an extensive series of photographs of American scenery lately introduced into this country. These comprise not merely stereoscopic subjects, but large views of the most interesting spots in Canada and the United States. Of course, Niagara figures largely in the series; and one is easily able to form a very good idea of the grandeur of those mighty Falls by examining such stereographs as The Rapids, No. 115; The General view of the Falls from Prospect Point, No. 140; The Horse-Shoe Fall and the Terrapin Tower (instantaneous) No. 153; and the Table Rock, from the base of the Horse-shoe Fall.
Among the large photographs there is a capital panoramic view of the entire scene. Most persons in England have been in doubt as to whether Blondin was not an apocryphal personage, but a stereograph in this series depicts a gentleman in the usual “India-rubber—incredible-brother” costume, poised on a rope over the rushing waters of Niagara. This is something like an authentic proof that Blondin had an existence otherwise than in the fertile brains of a Yankee editors or in the veracious and voracious columns of American newspapers. Slide 136 gives an exquisite rendering of the stalactite-like icicles in one of the ice caverns of the White Mountains, New Hampshire; The Chaudier Falls, No. 113; The Cataracts on the Genesee, near Portage, No. 125; whilst many other of these stereographs present objects of great interest. Moreover, they are as well executed as the points of view are well selected.”
In April 1861 The Photographic Journal extensively reviewed the American series, including individual descriptions of twenty photographs. Locations in the series include Niagara Falls, the Victoria Bridge at Montreal, the city of Montreal, Montmorenci Falls at Quebec, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the city of Boston and the Natural Bridge in Virginia.
“We have before us a collection of twenty admirable stereograms of some of the most remarkable scenery in the United States and Canada, which possess great interest as representations of the natural beauties of the country, as well as the great engineering triumphs of our transatlantic cousins. Of these views nine are devoted to the town and Falls of Niagara, and of which we will first proceed to speak.
Bird’s-eye view of Niagara.–We have here a view of Niagara town, the great Suspension Bridge, and two miles of the river, clearly and brightly photographed. The definition from the foreground, which does not possess much interest, to the extreme distance, in which is seen the world-renowned Falls – a mass of spray, but which with the river forms a valuable “bit” of light in the centre of the picture, the effect of which is strengthened by the dark towers of the bridge cutting sharply against it.
General View of the Falls from Prospect Point.–Niagara in all its glory! In the foreground is the American fall, falling sheer 164 feet, making the beholder feel anxious for the safety of the little ferry-boat steaming across the river below. In the middle distance is seen the Terrapin Tower and the Horseshoe Fall enveloped in a cloud of mist: the stereoscopic effect of this cloud is exceedingly fine.
The Horseshoe Fall affords a good idea of the awful power of the mass of descending water; we can almost hear the deafening roar. The effect of viewing this little photograph in the stereoscope is to make one giddy. Byron’s description of the Falls of Terni” might be well applied to this view:–
“The roar of waters!–from the headlong height
Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice;
The fall of waters! rapid as the light
The flashing mass foams, shaking the abyss;
The hell of waters! where they howl and hiss,
And boil in endless torture; while the sweat
Of their great agony, wrung out from this
Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocks of jet
That gird the gulf around, in pitiless horror set,
And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again
Returns in an unceasing shower.”
The Spiral Staircase, Table Rock, although not equal to the others as a photograph, is interesting as being the entrance to the path beneath the great Horseshoe Fall.
The Terrapin Tower and Bridge.–This tower occupies a singular position on a scattered mass of rock on the verge of the Horseshoe Fall, and which is gradually dissolving away from the action of the water; threatening in time to swallow tower and rocks into its gulf. It is approached by a wooden bridge, and its summit affords a fine view of the rapids and falls.
The Rapids. (Instantaneous.)–A fine scene, admirably photographed, reminding us of Wilson’s sea views. Although the water is rolling and dashing along in wild confusion, there is no want of detail; every wave and fall is sharp and distinct. Perfect in every respect, this is one of the best photographs of rushing water we have seen.
The Niagara Suspension Bridge. (Three Views.)–This bridge is a stupendous structure, 258 feet above the water, forming a communication between Canada and the United States. The interior view, besides being a fine photograph, gives a clear idea of its ingenious construction. The three pictures are also noticeable from some well-placed figures.
Two Views of the Victoria Bridge, Montreal, designed by the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, and constructed by Messrs. Peto, Betts, and Brassey, are interesting as memorials of this extraordinary undertaking. Some ideas of the solidity of its construction may be gathered from the fact that each buttress is calculated to withstand the pressure of 70,000 tons of ice, which comes sweeping down the St. Lawrence when winter breaks up. This bridge is the great feature in the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, the longest railway in the world, extending the distance of upwards of a thousand miles.
A General View of Montreal from Mount Royal.–An admirable and extensive view of the city, with the Victoria Bridge, in course of construction, spanning the St. Lawrence, in the distance.
View on the Montmorenci River, near Quebec.–Perhaps the most picturesque river in the world, being a wild and continued torrent from its source till it empties itself into the St. Lawrence. This view consists of a wooden bridge extending between beautifully wooded banks; a broad sheet of water broken about into picturesque forms; and in the foreground a cascade dashing over immense rocks – forming a charming picture.
The Falls of Montmorenci, where that river joins the St. Lawrence, is a delicious subject. Its natural beauties are still further enhanced by some judiciously placed figures. The reflexion [sic] in the water is admirable, and in the stereoscope has an astonishing effect.
Crystal Cascade, White Mountains; View on the Genesee River, and portion of the Chaudière Falls, are exquisite specimens of well-photographed falling water, having no evidence of the wooliness which so often mars the effect of photographs of scenes of this kind.
Ice Cavern, White Mountains.–This is the gem of the collection. The long icicles hanging from the top of the picture to the bottom have a marvellously [sic] natural effect, particularly when ween in the stereoscope, the want of achromatism in the lenses adding the prismatic colours often seen in ice.
Washington Street, Boston.–An instantaneous view of a picturesque street, with omnibuses, carriages, & c., full of life and motion; all, with the exception of a gig which must have been proceeding at a very rapid pace, as distinct as if they had stood for their portraits.
Natural Bridge, Virginia.–This well-known bridge is one of the greatest natural wonders in America, and is a good subject for the stereoscope.
In looking over this collection of stereograms, we were much pleased with the even tone and general excellence of the whole, and we much regret that the name of the clever artist who produced them has not been given.”
In April 1861 twenty views from the North American series reached Australia. That month the Sydney Morning Herald wrote of their impressions of the series.
“PHOTOGRAPHS OF AMERICAN SCENES.–We extracted, a few weeks ago, from the Times, a notice of several beautiful photographic views taken in North America by artists engaged for the purpose by the London Stereoscopic Company. ON Saturday last we had the pleasure of inspecting a complete set of these views – about twenty in number – which have lately been imported by Mr. J. R. Clarke, of George-street. A very superficial glance at these pictures will show the encomiums passed upon them were well deserved. As photographic pictures, they are remarkable for the exquisite softness of the shades, and for the almost stereoscopic distinctness of the minutest lines; but, in addition to their intrinsic excellence as photographs, the scenes selected are some of the most conspicuous to be found in North America, either for their picturesque beauty, or for the magnitude of the engineering works. Several views were taken of Niagara, and they represent as accurately as it is possible for photographs to do, the wild impetuosity and grandeur of that celebrated cataract. The views of bridges across Niagara, and also across the St. Lawrence, and the Genesee, are of great interest as showing the ingenious construction of works, which are the wonders of this, as they will doubtless be of succeeding ages. Of course the most remarkable of these is the Victoria Bridge, across the St. Lawrence, which was opened a few months ago by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. A good position has been taken for giving some idea of the enormous length of this viaduct, which connects shores a mile and three-quarters distant from each other, and is supported on only twenty-four piers. Considering the beauty of these pictures as photographs, and the interest which attaches to the scenes they represent, we may doubt whether any similar works of greater value have arrived in the colony.”
In March 1862, at a Polytechnic Institution meeting, England conducted a full showing using “the aid of the magic lantern.” The Photographic News wrote of the show, including views of New York City, Sleepy Hollow, West Point, Niagara Falls, Quebec and the Catskills.
“The Polytechnic Institution is one of the oldest favourites with the public as a place combining instruction and amusement, and has, moreover, many associations connected with photography. Recently, it has acquired a distinctive characteristic in the prominence which it gives to photographic illustration. By the aid of the magic lantern, or dissolving view apparatus on a very large scale, photographic transparencies receive the utmost possible effect. The series of photographs which are now exciting considerable attention consist of a selection from Mr. England’s stereoscopic views of American scenery, published by the London Stereoscopic Company. These pictures, illuminate b the oxy-hydrogen lime light, are thrown on an immense screen, the disk covering seven hundred superficial feet, and notwithstanding this immense amplification, produce a very fine effect. The only faults we have to notice consist in a little hardness in some, and a little coldness in the tone of others.
Firs on the list is the Broadway, New York, an instantaneous view, giving a very good idea of that busy thoroughfare, and reminding us vividly of the day we first stood there. West Point, on the Hudson River, with its military academy, is a fine picturesque view, as is also the view of Sleepy Hollow, rendered so famous by the legends of Washington Irving. Here we have the veritable spot where the “Headless Man,” to the no small terror of the inhabitants of this dreamy region, performed his nocturnal excursions.
Passing up the Hudson, we find ourselves amongst the Catskill Mountains, where Rip Van Winkle slept and dreamed. Some of the scenery here is very grand, and like the Hartz Mountains, fit dwelling place of elf and gnome. Here are the Catskill Falls, a deep gorge, with a cascade descending some hundreds of feet, dashing from rock to rock in wild confusion and turbulent beauty.
The chief attractions of this series are the superb views of Niagara. The falls in summer, with warm glowing atmosphere, soft and sunny, and in winter, when the spray is frozen into myriads of sparking diamonds; whilst around are icicles of enormous size, hanging from the rocks, and reaching almost to the foot of the falls. The panorama from Prospect Point shows the American and Horse-shoe Falls, the figures in the foreground suggesting the vastness of the scene. This is a charming photograph, full of softness and atmosphere. The Lover’s Walk, Niagara, is a well chosen view, with fine perspective, very sunny effect. Passing down the Niagara River, we get a representation of the longest suspension bridge in the world. The details of this fairy-like structure is very fine. Here also we have the crowning work of Stephenson – the Victoria Bridge, Montreal. The St. Lawrence at Quebec, with its thousand ships, riding peacefully at anchor on the broad bosom of this mighty river, is another excellent view.
The Falls of Montmorenci, a cataract near Quebec, of two hundred feet in height, is a fine and telling picture. An ice cavern is amazingly effective and beautiful. Long icicles depending several feet from the roof glitter in dazzling rays of wondrous splendour, such subjects illustrating pre-eminently the excellence of photographic delineation.
The undoubted success of these transparencies is due as much to their photographic excellence as to the interest of the subjects. We are glad to believe that photographs must ere long largely, if not entirely, supersede the gaudy and unreal paintings which have hitherto formed the staple of views for the magic lantern.”
In March 1862 England again displayed his American photographs, this time at the London Photographic Society. “The chairman announced that Mr. England would exhibit some instantaneous and other views of Paris and America. They would be enlarged on the screen ten feet square and by the aid of the magic lantern, so as to be seen by all the members at once. Mr. England had not prepared a paper on the subject, but would be happy to answer any questions put to him as to the process followed in the production of the pictures . . . The members were entertained for more than half-an-hour by the inspection of these photographs.”
The “America in the Stereoscope” series firmly estalished the reputation of both William England and his employer, the LSC. Although very skilled, England, before the America series, was not, perhaps, as well-known as he should have been. This was likely due to the fact that the LSC had a policy of not including the photographer’s name on any of their published stereoviews. It is conjectured that this may have eventually contributed to England leaving the LSC.
Advertisements for the “America in the Stereoscope” Series
“The London Stereoscopic Company . . . having sent out a special artist to America and Canada, have secured all the above celebrated places in large single, and also in stereoscopic photographs of remarkable beauty, both of which sets his Royal Highness the Prince Consort has most graciously patronized.” – The Morning Post (London).
“The company have, through their aid, just secured a most remarkable series of upwards of 100 views from America, among which Niagara presents us, within compass of a few inches, all its rush and roar, and ever-hurrying waters.” – The Morning Post (London).
Advertisements for the “America in the Stereoscope” series were placed in various publications around the globe. The commercial response was near universal, with the LSC selling an incredible number of views. One advertisement from the company noted that 12,000 views were sold on their issue date alone. Below are a few examples of these “America in the Stereoscope” advertisements.
This advertisement one was featured in published in The Cathedrals of the United Kingdom.
Caption: “America in the Stereoscope. This wonderful and extraordinary Series of Pictures is now ready; they comprehend the wildest and loveliest portions of this world-renowned Scenery. In Leather Case, price £7 7s. the Set. Specimens sent (Niagara if desired) free by post, 18 stamps each. As proof of the high quality and beauty of the above, 1000 Dozen were sold on the first day of their issue. EXPORTERS AND TRADE SUPPLIED. Post Office Orders (crossed Union Bank of London) payable to George Swan Nottage.”
Another advertisement was placed in The Art-Journal Advertiser over several months in 1859.
Caption: Now Publishing, America in the Stereoscope. The LONDON STEREOSCOPIC COMPANY beg to announce that their long expected series of American Views is now complete, consisting of ONE HUNDRED. The Company have had one of their principal Artists engaged upon these views in the United States for upwards of six months, and all who have examined the subjects, declare them to be the grandest series of views ever produced. They comprehend alike the most terrific and the loveliest portions of this world-renowned scenery, and are specimens of the highest style of the Photographic Art. As a simple proof of their excellence and beauty, upwards of 1000 DOZEN were sold on the first day of their publication. THE SET COMPLETE, in gold lettered HANDSOME LEATHER CASE £7 7S. 54 Cheapside, E.C., and 313, Oxford Street, W. Post Office Orders (crossed “Union Bank of London”) payable to GEORGE SWAN NOTTAGE.”
This advertisement was placed in The Morning Post of London on May 15, 1860.
“This day (Tuesday), the 15th,
Seven new American
S T E R E O G R A P H S.
NEW VICTORIA BRIDGE, Two Miles Long.
PANORAMA – BROADWAY.
PANORAMA – MONTREAL.
PANORAMA – QUEBEC.
ICE CAVERN – WHITE MOUNTAINS.
BLONDIN CROSSING THE FALLS.
In Ornamental Envelope.
Free by post, 10s.
Post-office orders to GEORGE SWAN NOTTAGE,
54, CHEAPSIDE, and 313, OXFORD STREET.
“A most charming set of stereoscopic views. In the matchless cataract of Niagara, the fountain of an infant sea, the artist exhausts his skill in instantaneous photography of this tremendous scene. For fearlessness and grandeur of detail, these surpass anything of the kind we have ever seen.” – Times, May 3.
A SET of 21 LARGE PHOTOGRAPHIS OF AMERICAN SCENERY,
Portfolio Included, £5 5s.
This advertisement was published in The Athanaeum in May 1860.
P H O T O G R A P H S
Price 5£. 5s.
“They are wonderful examples of the vividness with which, in skillful hands, Photography may be made to reproduce the most fleeting grandeur of these tremendous cataracts; and are quite beyond mere description to do justice to.” – Times, May 3.
LONDON STEREOSCOPIC COMPANY
54, CHEAPSIDE, AND 313, OXFORD STREET.
*** The New Stereoscopic Series will be published Next Week.”
The London Stereoscopic Company also advertised their American and Canadian views in association with the trip of Albert Edward (1841-1910), the Prince of Wales, i.e., the future King Edward VII, to Canada and the United States in 1860. During the Canadian portion of the extended 3-month tour the Prince of Wales visited St. John’s, Sydney, Halifax, Hantsport, Fredericton, Pictou, Charlotte Town, Gaspe, Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and London. During the American portion of the tour the Prince of Wales visited Niagara Falls, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Washington DC, Mount Vernon, Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Boston and Portland.
Several of these sites had been visited and photographed by William England in the years prior to the Prince’s trip. In Canada, locations that were photographed by England and later visited by the Prince of Wales included Quebec, Chaudière Falls, Montmorency Falls, Montreal, the Victoria Bridge and Ottawa. American locations that were photographed by England included Niagara Falls, Washington DC, Mount Vernon, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. The Prince Consort, father of the Prince of Wales, reportedly purchased a set of the stereoviews in order to follow his son’s trip, a fact that the London Stereoscopic Company gladly advertised.
THE PRINCE OF WALES’S TOUR.
His Royal Highness the PRINCE CONSORT.
A SET OF STEREGRAMS, including
NIAGARA, for 10s., in stamps.
LONDON STEREOSCOPIC COMPANY,
54, Cheapside, and 313, Oxford-street.
A Large St, 35s.
“The most wonderful pictures we ever saw.”–Art Journal.”
THE PRINCE OF WALES'S TOUR. A Series of large Photographs of the principal places visited by his Royal Highness, with portfolio, £5 5s. The LONDON STEREOSCOPIC COMPANY have had the honour to receive the royal commands for the above fine series of views. The above are sent carriage free, on remittance to George Swan Nottage, 54, Cheapside. They form a handsome New-Year's gift. "Impossible for mere description to do justice to these photographs."–Times.
"We never realised America until we saw these wonderful photographs."–Art Journal.”
“THE PRINCE OF WALES IN CANADA.–His royal highness visits, on the 18th, Quebec; 20th, Chaudière Falls; 22d, Falls of Montmorency; 23d, Montreal; 25th, Victoria Bridge (opening ceremony); 31st, Ottawa; 12th September, Falls of Niagara. The London Stereoscopic Company, of 54, Cheapside, and 313, Oxford-street, having sent out a special artist to America and Canada, have secured all the above celebrated places in large single, and also in stereoscopic photographs of remarkable beauty, both of which sets his Royal Highness the Prince Consort has most graciously patronized. The cost of the set of seven large pictures is 35s.; the stereoscopic set of seven, 10s. Sent free to any part of England on remittance to Mr. George Swan Nottage, the managing partner. Opinions of the press:– “Quite beyond mere description to do justice to.”–Times. “We never realized Niagara before we saw these wonderful pictures.”–Art-Journal.”
 “America in the Stereoscope.” The Times. May 3, 1860.
 “America in the Stereoscope.” The Art-Journal. Vol. 6. July 1, 1860. London: James S. Virtue, 1860. p. 221.
 “Critical Notices.” The Photographic News. Vol. 4, No. 104. August 31, 1860. pp. 208-209.
 Photographic Notes. Vol. 5. August 1, 1860. London: Sampson Low, Son, & Co., 1860. p. 204.
 “Fine Arts.” The Literary Gazette. New Series, Vol. 5, No. 113. August 25, 1860. p. 137.
 Headsman, Simeon. “Letters to a Photographic Friend.” British Journal of Photography. Vol. 7, No. 128. October 15, 1860. pp. 302-303.
 “American Scenery.” Published by the London Stereoscopic Company.” The Photographic Journal. Vol. 7. April 15, 1861. London: Taylor and Francis, 1862. pp. 167-169.
 “Photographs of American Scenery.” The Sydney Morning Herald. April 1, 1861. p. 4.
 “Photography at the Polytechnic Institution.” The Photographic News. March 28, 1862. London: Thomas Piper, 1862. p. 150.
 “London Photographic Society.” The British Journal of Photography. Vol. 8. March 15, 1862. Liverpool: Henry Greenwood, 1862. p. 113.
 Walcott, MacKenzie. The Cathedrals of the United Kingdom. London: Edward Stanford, 1860.
 The Art-Journal Advertiser. November 1859.
 The Athenaeum. May 19, 1860.
 “The Prince of Wales’s Tour.” The Morning Post. August 24, 1860. p. 4.
 “The Prince of Wales’s Tour.” The Morning Post. (London.) January 5, 1861.
 “The Prince of Wales in Canada.” The Morning Post (London). August 20, 1860. p. 6.