Detroit Publishing Company: Capturing the Beauty of the Catskills (Part 1)

April 08, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Introduction

 

“One firm, the Detroit Publishing Company, a part of the Detroit Photographic Company, covered the length and breadth of America shortly after the turn of the century and chronicled as no other publisher attempted the diversity of people, activity, and industry found in the United States.”

 

 

The Detroit Publishing Company, earlier known as the Detroit Photographic Company and the Photochrom Company, was established in 1895 by William A. Livingstone, a Detroit businessman and publisher, and Edwin H. Husher, a photographer and photo-publisher. The company would grow to become one of the largest American publishers of photographic prints, postcards and lantern slides in the early decades of the 20th century. Part of the company’s extensive inventory included beautiful black-and-white photographs and colorized photochrom postcards from the central and northern Catskills and from the city of Kingston, as well as the Mohonk Mountain House and Lake Minnewaska areas near New Paltz.

 

Kaaterskill lakes and mountain, Catskill Mts., N.Y.Kaaterskill lakes and mountain, Catskill Mts., N.Y.

Kaaterskill lakes and mountain, Catskill Mts., N.Y. Library of Congress.

 

The Founders – William A. Livingstone

 

William Allan Livingstone (1867-1924), co-founder of the Detroit Publishing Company, was born on January 13, 1867, the son of William Livingstone (1844-1925), a prominent Detroit businessman in the shipping, banking and publishing industries. William was the eldest of eight children.

 

William Livingston, the father, moved with his family to Detroit at the age of five. His work career began at the age of 17 as a machinist, but he then entered a partnership with Robert Downie to operate a grocery store. Thereafter he opened his own business, expanding it greatly over time. Operations would eventually include a wholesale and resale grocery, flour and grain merchant, lumber dealer, operating a fleet of tugboats and founding his own steamship company. As he continued to prosper, he helped establish the Detroit Dime Savings Bank, serving as its president for many years, and purchased the Detroit Evening Journal. He helped found the still operating Lake Carriers Association, serving as its president for many years. The Livingstone Channel on the lower Detroit River near Grosse Ile and the Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse on Belle Isle are both named in his honor.

 

William, the son, was educated to become an engineer, having graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1889.

 

Livingstone served as an agent for the Anchor, Western and Union Steamboat lines for four years. He resigned his position in 1897, citing ill-health and “a desire to engage in a business that promised better returns.”[1] Upon his resignation he bought stock in the Photochrom Company, became the company manager and embarked upon a business trip to Europe.

 

The 1900 United States census listed Livingstone’s profession as “Manager – Photochrom Co.” The 1910 United States census listed his profession as “Publisher – Own Business.” The 1920 United States census listed his profession as “Manager – Publishing Co.”

 

As his career progressed, Livingstone was the first president of the Print Publishers’ Association of the United States, a prominent industry group comprised of picture and photographic publishers. He was a member of the public lighting company and, in efforts to support the local community, served as treasurer for the Detroit High School Scholarship Fund. Within the legal area he contributed to the development of copyright law on prints, photographs and music, as well as being instrumental in the development of tariff policies for the United States.

 

William Livingston, after being ill for several weeks, passed away at St. Mary’s Hospital in Detroit, Michigan on October 26, 1924. Funeral services were held on October 28 at the family residence at 76 Eliot Street. He is buried at Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit.

 

The Founders – Edwin H. Husher

 

Edwin Hector Husher (1863-1923), co-founder of the Detroit Publishing Company, was born in 1863 in the state of Indiana. He was the son of photographer Jacob W. Husher and his wife Mary M. Husher. Jacob Husher (1823-1879) operated his own photographic studio at Terre Haute, Indiana during the 1860s and early 1870s and later at Greencastle, Indiana from circa 1873 to 1879. He had attended Asbury University and worked for some time as a teacher. Jacob was active in the community, being a member of the Roberts Chapel, the International Order of Odd Fellows and the National Photographic Association.[2] He died in 1879 by suicide after contracting typhoid fever, which induced him to cut his own throat with a razor.[3] He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, Indiana.

 

Before establishing the Detroit Publishing Company, Edwin Husher had a varied career across multiple locations. With the passing of his father in 1879, he began to work as a photographer at Greencastle, Indiana. The United States census of 1880, taken when Edwin was only 17 years of age, already listed his profession as “photographer.” He then worked as a reporter and photographer for the Courier-Journal at Louisville, Kentucky.

 

By the mid-1880s Husher had moved to San Francisco, where he worked as the chief operator at the famous Taber Gallery, operated by Isaiah West Taber, who was “one of the most prominent and ambitious west coast photographers of the last third of the nineteenth century.”[4] Husher went on to become a photographer of some note in his own right, being described in 1887 as “one of the best photographers in the United States.”[5] Husher was a prominent member of the Olympic Club and was also a member of the California Camera Club.[6]

 

Husher is credited with taking the first aerial pictures in California when he ascended in a hot air balloon over the city of San Francisco on April 15, 1887. The first photo was taken from an altitude of 2,000 feet, with the flight eventually reaching the height of 7,200 feet. Below is a description of that first aerial photo in California.

 

“The first photograph was taken at a reasonable distance from the earth; in consulting the barometer, that faithful instrument registered an altitude of 2,000 feet. The city was no far away. There was just enough distance to lend enchantment to the view; the white breakers broken on the ocean beach, and the beautiful bay lay spread out before the view. We could hear the sounds of the people below, we could even hear the bell of the Market street cars, which looked toy-like as they crept down the long narrow track. As for the city itself, it looked like a ward and precinct map laid out in regular squares, and showing strange gaps among the crowded blocks. The City Hall was plainly discernible, and looked quite finished; such is the illusion of the skies. The Palace Hotel was strongly reminiscent of a child’s wooden house. Tall square buildings had the advantage over those which were turreted and spired. The churches were flattened out, and nothing of the Nob Hill residences were to be seen. Indeed, so small a hill as Nob Hill has no standing in high altitudes.”[7]

 

The resulting photos were published to much acclaim in the San Francisco Daily Examiner.

 

“Although the scheme of photographing San Francisco from the heavens had been conceived by the EXAMINER, the entire success of the experiment was largely owing to the courage and skill of young photographer, Mr. E. H. Husher, who risked his life for the purpose of adding something more to the knowledge of his fellow men; and the readers of the EXAMINER are very much indebted to him for their idea of the appearance of San Francisco a mile away from earth.”[8]  

 

W. K. Burton wrote in The Photographic News issue of July 8, 1887 about the technical aspects of Husher’s pioneering aerial work at San Francisco.

 

“The camera used was 10 x 8 size, and it was fixed on a swivel arrangement, over the edge of the car, which enabled it to be directed at any angle with the perpendicular. Twelve plates of American make were taken, a No. 3 euroscope lens was used – precise focus not known to me, but long for a 10 by 8 plate – and the exposures were made by the aid of a rapid double action shutter.

 

From the twelve plates, six good negatives resulted. Husher noted what has, I believe, been observed by all who have made attempt at balloon photography, that there is great difficulty in getting contrast in the negative. This is due probably to lack of any deep shadows (the under sides of all objects being of course hid from view, and every point seen being illuminated at least by the whole sky), and also to somewhat of land mist.”[9]

 

Several months later Husher also took the first aerial photos of the city of Los Angeles on June 26, 1887 from a hot-air balloon. The balloon reached heights of 14,400 feet over the city as it floated for nearly several hours. Husher, leaning over the side of the basket, took 13 photographs of scenes that included the city of Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Valley and the San Fernando Valley.

 

“The most curious one [photograph] was that of Santa Monica, taken through an opening in the clouds. A view of this character is believed to be the only one ever secured in the world. Taken all in all the trip will prove to have been one of the most notable balloon voyages in ballooning annals on this coast.”[10]

 

Husher also traveled extensively in his pursuit of photographic beauty. In 1886 he traveled to the Mount St. Elias region of Alaska in the summer of 1886 and to Montana in 1887.

 

In August 1888 through March 1889 Husher worked in the American southwest and in Mexico as a photographer for the Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition. Husher primarily worked from Camp Cibola near Zuni, New Mexico, one of several base camps for the expedition, but also took a trip to central Mexico and Teotihuacan in December 1888. Husher’s involvement with the Hemenway expedition was funded by Isaiah West Taber, his gallery manager at San Francisco, who agreed to pay all of Husher’s expenses in exchange for the right to photograph the expedition and to publish the pictures. According to Taber’s catalog, Husher produced at least 60 photographs of the expedition.[11] Husher left Camp Cibola in mid-March 1889, returning to San Francisco.

 

In 1889 Husher was again on the move, journeying to Alaska on behalf of the Taber gallery. The San Francisco Examiner noted in October 1889 that Husher, during his Alaska trip, was credited with “the first pictures ever taken along the Icy Coast from Mount St. Elias to Yakatat, from Dry Bay to the Great Davidson Glacier.”[12]

 

“Queer sights are to be seen from vicinity of Mount St. Elias at Icy Bay to the Indian village of Yakutat, down to Dry Bay past the Fairweather Range to the Davidson Glacier. When the traveler extends this trip to Disenchantment Bay and the Muir Glacier, and has also visited Sitka, he has made a trip of over 600 miles along a coast and through strange fiords that are new to the explorer.

 

Such a trip was recently made by E. H. Husher, the artist for Taber & Co., this city, who recently narrowly escaped being wrecked in the schooner Alpha. Much of his voyage was, however, made in an Indian canoe. He has succeeded in getting, for the first time in many instances, views of places destined henceforth to be noted in the history of Alaska.”[13]

 

Husher faced extremely challenging conditions at many points during his Alaskan adventure. At one point, he was presumed dead by reports in the local newspapers when the ship he was traveling on disappeared. The San Francisco Examiner in its September 28, 1889 issue even published the last letter that had been received from Husher.[14] Fortunately, Husher and the crew and passengers aboard the schooner Alpha were rescued, as described in The Record-Union of Sacramento.

 

“The steamship Corona arrived here [Port Townsend] this morning from Alaska. Among her passengers was Husher, the artist, who left San Francisco last spring on a trip to Alaska, and who was supposed to have been lost on the schooner Alpha, at Yukutat Bay. Mr. Husher left Sitka on the 4th of August, on the schooner Alpha, as the guest of her owner, Jeff Kuhn, for Yukutat, to procure some views of Mount St. Elias.

 

Returning, the Alpha sailed from Yukutat August 17th, when she encountered terrific southeasterly gales, and was driven back to Yukutat in a disabled condition. The wrecked crew and passenger were contemplating the alternative of passing the winter there or making an overland journey of 250 miles on foot and by canoe to Chilkat. To make this journey it would be necessary to wait until the snow fell and use snow shoes, the moss and undergrowth rendering the country otherwise impassable. Their rations were reduced to half a sack of beans.

 

Upon the arrival of the revenue cutter Rush at Sitka, the officers learning of the fears for the schooner’s safety, proceeded in search at once, and found her after about a thirty-six hour run at Yukutat Bay, and brought the crew and passengers to Sitka, where they were provided and cared for. The prompt action of Captain Shepherd, commander of the Rush, after arriving from a three months’ cruise in Behring Sea, is commended with feelings of gratitude by the rescued parties. The schooner was beached and abandoned at Yukutat Bay. She is a fifteen-ton vessel and was a fur-trader.”[15]

 

After moving circa 1892 to Detroit, Michigan Husher operated his own gallery, a long-standing enterprise that that was previously owned by photographer Frank N. Tomlinson, and before that by photographer Joseph E. Watson.

 

“Since taking possession of this studio he has greatly increased its facilities and developed a large additional and permanent trade. The premises comprise the second and third floors of the building. The second floor is devoted to the reception parlors and toilet rooms, and are elegantly furnished and arranged, while on the third floor are the operating rooms, which are also thoroughly provided, printing rooms and dark and finishing rooms. Mr. Husher executes photography in all its branches, and produces in all his work the best and most beautiful effects. It is perhaps needless to add that his patrons are of the refined and cultivated classes, who appreciate art at its true value.”[16]

 

Husher’s work was published in the 1893 book titled Picturesque Detroit and Environs. The book was published by the Picturesque Publishing Company of Northampton, Massachusetts, the same company that would publish Picturesque Catskills: Greene County in 1894. Husher served as a judge during the 15th Annual Convention of the Photographers’ Association of America that was held in Detroit from August 6 to 9, 1895.[17]

 

Husher’s collection of negatives was added to the inventory of the Photochrom Company when it was founded. The 1900 United States census listed his profession as “superintendent.” Husher would very effectively work as the company manager, helping lead the company to become one of the largest American publishers of the early 20th century.

 

Husher resigned from the Photochrom Company in 1903 and retired to California, where he became a farmer after purchasing an orange grove. The 1910 United States census listed Edwin’s profession as farmer, while the 1920 United States census listed his profession as real estate agent. Edwin Husher passed away from an “aneurism of ascending aorta” in 1923.

 

Rise to Prominence

 

“Photochroms combine photographic exactitude with the charm of a painting, and unite the color beauty of a picture with the advantages of photography.”[18]

 

 

The Photochrom Company was established in 1895 at Detroit, Michigan with the intended “purposes of the corporation are to erect a factory and to manufacture and sell photographs and art goods in colors, by the photochrom process owned by the Photochrom Co., of Switzerland; the operations of the concern to be confined to the United States and Canada.”[19]

 

The company was established with a common stock of $300,000, of which $100,000 was preferred stock. There were 20,000 shares of common stock, which were originally owned by Rudolphe A. Demme, 7,100 shares; Horace W. Avery, 7,000 shares; Edwin H. Husher, 4,800 shares; and Hans Rutishausen, 1,000 shares.

 

Rudolph Demme, one of the first shareholders, was quickly removed from the company for embezzlement, after stealing some of the money that had been raised to build the company’s first manufacturing plant.[20] In 1897 the Photochrom Company filed a lawsuit in the Wayne Circuit Court against Demme for $25,000 in damages. It was claimed that Demme owed over $10,000 to the company due to accounting irregularities. Demme was succeeded as manager of the company by William A. Livingstone.[21]

 

Demme, the son of a prominent physician, had arrived in the United States during the 1890s from Berne, Switzerland. In 1895 he married Flora A. Whitney, daughter of David Whitney, Jr., one of the most prominent citizens of the city of Detroit. In a newspaper description of their wedding, Demme was described as “a young man of brilliant mentality and excellent business qualifications, and a representative of one of the oldest and wealthiest families in Switzerland.”[22] In 1904 Demme and Whitney were divorced upon her claims of his desertion since 1901, during which time Demme had moved to Paris. Whitney then married Edward J. Schmidt, with the marriage only lasting several years and ending in divorce. Whitney, with the encouragement of her young daughter, then remarried Demme in 1910. Whitney passed away in 1915.

 

Horace W. Avery (1858-1932), another of the first shareholders, was born at Port Huron, son of Newell Avery (1817-1877), a prominent Michigan lumber baron and one of the founders of the Republican party at Jackson, Michigan in 1854. He went to school at Port Huron and at Detroit, graduating from Chester (PA) Military Academy. In addition to his early interests in the Photochrom Company, Avery served as secretary and treasurer of the Detroit, Belle Isle & Windsor Ferry Company. He was a charter member of the Detroit Athletic Club and played pitcher on the club’s first baseball team. Avery left Detroit around 1912, spending several years cruising the Mississippi River on his yacht with his family, eventually moving to New Orleans. With the death of his wife Avery moved in the home of his son at Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. He passed away at Swarthmore in 1932 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.

 

The photochrom technique, “considered to constitute a significant achievement in printing technology,”[23] was invented in the 1880s by Hans Jakob Schmid (1856-1924). Schmid worked for the Swiss graphic arts publishing firm Orell Füssli, a printing firm whose history began in the 16th century. Schmid, from the Swiss town of Nurensdorf, was the son of a carpenter, but was orphaned at the young age of eleven. Having lost his father, he therefore had to grow up quickly, and therefore began his apprenticeship in 1868 with August Wilhelm Fehrenbach, a lithographer and stencil manufacturer. By 1875 or 1876 he was working as a machinist in Geneva, before joining the Orell Fussli company in November 1876. He first worked as a lithographer and then as a machinist.

 

After several years of detailed experimentation, the photochrom process was patented in Austria-Hungary on January 4, 1888. It was vaguely described by Orell Fussli as “a process for direct photographic transfer of the original for litho and chromographic printing plates by means of a single negative.”[24] The images were marketed as “nature color photographs.”

 

With the commercial promise of the invention Heinrich Wild-Wirth (1840-1896), a partner in the Orell Fussli company, established the Photochrom & Co. Zurich company in 1889. With its merger with Schroder & Co. in 1895 the company changed names to Photoglob & Co. Zurich, and since 1974 the company has been known as Photoglob AG. After its founding an extensive sales network was organized, including agencies in many major cities. The photochrom process was also licensed out beyond continental Europe to companies like the Photochrom Company Ltd. in London, England and the Photochrom Company (later the Detroit Publishing Company) in the United States.

 

The Photochrom Company at Detroit obtained the exclusive American rights to use the “photochrom” process from the Photoglob Company of Zurich, Switzerland. This revolutionary new process allowed for the conversion of black-and-white photographs into color images and for the mass production of prints, postcards, and albums. At the time color photography as we know it did not exist, therefore the exclusive rights to the “photochrom” process provided the Photochrom Company at Detroit a significant competitive advantage throughout the United States. From 1907 the company also used “Phostint” as a trade name for the improved photochrom process.

 

Once the Photochrom Company at Detroit had acquired the process rights, they recruited Albert Schuler and a small team of workers to move from Zurich to Detroit. Schuler was born in 1874 in Zurich, and “was known by his adopted name Albert Vollenwider during his youth. At the age of 14, he began his apprenticeship with Orell Fussly and, at the age of 19, he was commissioned to travel throughout the Middle East from 1893 to 1897. These travels produced the photographs that now belong to the University of Pennsylvania Museum.”[25]

 

Schuler immigrated to the United States in 1897, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1905. Having worked for Orell Fussli for many years, Schuler was an expert with the photochrom process, and would become foreman for manufacturing production at the Photochrom Company, a position that he held for the next 25 years.

 

After the Detroit Publishing Company went bankrupt in 1924 “Schuler set out to innovate the photomechanical and colorization processes, searching ‘for ways to produce color prints at only half the former price.’ Schuler’s innovation was a success – particularly for the advertisement industry. The ‘Schuler process’ spread throughout the United States, increasing the production of color advertisements. Schuler established ‘a plant of his own to exploit his invention profitably,’ but was unable to turn his technical success into financial success. After the venture failed, Schuler, along with his wife and daughters, moved to Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit, where he lived until he died at the age of 80 years old.”[26]

 

Technically speaking, the “photochrom” process allowed for the production of colorized images from a single black-and-white photographic negative via the direct photographic transfer of the negative onto lithographic printing plates. The process is a photographic variant of chromolithography (color lithography). Because no color information was preserved in the photographic process, the photographer would make detailed notes on the colors within the scene and use the notes to hand paint the negative before transferring the image through colored gels onto the printing plates.

 

Mr. Norris C. Baker of the Orell Fussli Arts Graphiques Sa Zurich company described the “photochrom” process in a letter to Jeff R. Burdick, author of the 1954 The Handbook of Detroit Publishing Co. Postcards.

 

“Photochrom is a lithographic process based on photographic halftone copies on stone. It is characterized by the fact that it works without any screen. The stone is sensitized by Syrian asphalt and the negative has to be copied on as many stones as colors are needed. Then the copies are developed and retouched by specialists who also make the color-separation. The stones can be used either for direct lithographic printing or for offset (flat offset or normal offset by transfers). Although runs of 30,000-40,000 can be made from the same plate, photochrom is especially suitable for smaller runs of several thousand copies, for which it is generally cheaper than a reproduction by screen-photolith.”[27]

 

From the inception of the Photochrom Company at Detroit reviews of its new color photographs were very positive. The Detroit Free Press wrote in August, 1895 about the company’s display of work at the local art museum.

 

“At the entrance to the east and west wings of the addition, the Photochrom Co. has an excellent exhibit of photochroms, or views in color photography. For many years science has occupied itself with the solution of the color photography problem, and there are perhaps 500 craftsmen in the world engaged on the problem at the present time. A partial success has been achieved in producing natural colors by photographic process, but the difficulty has been to hold the colors. The Photochrom Co. claims that it has succeeded in effecting a faithful photographic reproduction of the colors a few subjects on a mat surface that run to a brown tone. The subjects are happily chosen and faultlessly executed, displaying the sympathy of the artist. The old man saying grace over a frugal meal is perhaps the most pathetic, and one of the most striking pictures in the collection. The expression of the old weather-beaten, time-worn features, the surroundings are all true to nature. An harmonious effect is produced by the mounting of those pictures on natural finished oak.[28]

 

10124_Boulder Rock and Hotel Kaaterskill, Catskill Mountains10124_Boulder Rock and Hotel Kaaterskill, Catskill Mountains

10124_Boulder Rock and Hotel Kaaterskill, Catskill Mountains. Author's collection.

 

The company, in 1896, first established its operations at Wyandotte, Michigan, located just south of Detroit. The cost of constructing the plant was $50,000. It was estimated that the plant would first be staffed by 12 operators, although there was room to grow to 50 operators.

 

“As soon as the weather permits ground will be broken for the buildings, the plans for which will be a modification of those used in the erection of the plant of the Photoglobe Co., at Zurich, Switzerland. These plans call for a three-story brick building, 160x120, including wings. Besides this main building there will be several other smaller structures for various purposes. The building will be erected in the center of a three-acre lot, so as to obtain an unobstructed north and south exposure. Other buildings that may go up on adjoining property can therefore not obstruct the light. The second and third floor will be devoted exclusively to the photochrom process proper. There will be a very large skylight to the north on the third floor for the purpose of reproducing oil paintings, etc. The printing of photochroms will be done on the roof.”[29]

 

The company plant would later move to several other locations in Detroit, including 8 Witherall Street, the corner of 13th Street and Linden Street, a retail store at 281 Woodward Avenue, the corner of Vermont Avenue and Alexdrine Avenue, a retail store at 235 Woodward Avenue and 2373 17th Street.

 

In 1897 the Photochrom Company held an exhibition of its pictures at Leonard’s Furniture Store at 230 Woodward Avenue. The exhibition of photochrom pictures received very high praise.

 

The exhibition “is well worth the visit of all lovers of art and the curious. In the collection are 1,000 pictures, the first output of the Photochrom Co., of this city. This company bought from the Swiss company, which originated the process, the exclusive right to North and South America and Canada. Since July the Detroit concern has built at Thirteenth and Linden streets a large plant, which is now in full operation. The views on exhibition are reproductions from nature, in colors as nearly representing the natural hues as man can do it, of landscapes, scenic views, etc., the most striking of which is a reproduction of Niagara Falls in winter, as seen from Goat Island. The green water, the piles of ice and snow, rainbow effects in the spray and fall of water, are vividly brought out.

 

The company has 11,000 negatives from which to draw, representing scenes and types of people caught in Europe, from the north to the south, and from Liverpool to the east. By January 1 the company will have ready for exhibition a series of views of Belle Isle park, and, later, a series representing Yellowstone Park in all its beauty will be shown. The company will in time send expert photographers to all parts of the United States. City, country, mountain, river, hill, meadow, lake, coast – nothing likely to arouse human interest will be passed over in the search for subjects. And when this country is exhausted there are Canada and Central and South America to furnish an almost inexhaustible supply of material.

 

The pictures are made on plates, specially prepared for that purpose, and the highest type of photographic skill must be employed in order that reflection, refraction, the handling of the camera and the selection of the most fitting subjects, from the most advantageous positions, may be achieved.”[30]

 

As the company grew the Detroit Photographic Company, as it now called itself, increased its collection of photographs through the employment of its own photographers and by purchasing the collections of other photographers. Noteworthy photographers for the company included Lycurgus S. Glover (1858-1935), Henry Greenwood Peabody (1855-1951), John S. Johnston (c.1839-1899), Herbert R. Fitch (1868-1968), Clarence S. Jackson (1876-1961), Almon J. Tripp (c.1882-1962) and Edward H. Hart.

 

However, perhaps the most notable photographer to join the Detroit Photographic Company was William Henry Jackson (1843-1942). Jackson, a Civil War veteran, painter, and explorer, made a name for himself through his photography of the American West, including his work for the U.S. Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories. He was the first person to photograph the scenes of what would become Yellowstone National Park, with his photographs playing an instrumental role in persuading Congress to establish Yellowstone as the country’s first national park.

 

In 1897 Jackson, facing mounting financial challenges, joined the Detroit firm as a partner, bringing with him his entire stock of glass plate negatives that then formed the core of the company’s visual offerings.

 

“During my few hours in New York I had run into an old acquaintance of mine, E. H. Husher, a well-known photographer of California scenes, who had recently returned from Switzerland, where he had been sent by a group of Detroit men to study a new photo-lithographic process for reproducing pictures in color. He told me that American rights to the process had been bought by his associates and that the Photochrom Company had been organized to exploit it. Most important (at least from my point of view), Husher, as superintendent, had recommended to his superior, William A. Livingstone, that the new company absorb the W. H. Jackson Company in order to acquire a stock of negatives. Furthermore, Husher had urged Mr. Livingstone to offer me a suitable position with the company.”[31]

 

For joining the company Jackson was offered $30,000, which included $5,000 in cash and $25,000 in company stock. Upon joining the company Jackson at first continued as a photographer, but eventually he and his family moved to Detroit, where he became the plant manager and company president. By 1903, at the age of 60, and with Husher’s retirement, Jackson had ended his work in the field to primarily focus on the plant operations, where he played an increasingly important role. He left the company when it went into receivership in 1924.

 

In 1905 the Detroit Photographic Company changed its name to the Detroit Publishing Company as it expanded its business beyond the publication of photographs, to include publishing catalogs, sales and promotional materials.

 

Throughout its history the Detroit Publishing Company sought opportunity to expand its business, often in reaction to public sentiment. In 1898, with the beginning of the Spanish-American War, there was huge public interest in the company’s photographs of Cuba and war-related scenes. There was also great interest in photographs of warships.

 

In the early 1900s the company signed a lucrative contract with the “Harvey House” chain of souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels to produce postcards to be sold at all their locations. The Harvey House chain of businesses operated alongside several busy railroads in the western United States. The postcards were used to promote the southwest as a travel destination, and to promote the Harvey businesses themselves.

 

In 1910 the Detroit Publishing Company expanded its line of images to include photographic replicas of artwork. This proved to be very popular, with the images being marketed as an educational tool, and being utilized as moderately priced home décor. Exhibits of the reproductions, with most of the public likely not ever being able to view the originals, were held throughout the country.

 

“Thistle Publications are the very beautiful reproductions of old and modern masters which are made by the Detroit Publishing Company of Detroit, Mich. These pictures are not only beautiful, they are almost perfect reproductions of their originals. Such critical artists as Winslow Homer, Henry W. Ranger and Gari Melchers have expressed their satisfaction in what this company has done with their pictures.”[32]

 

Starting in 1912 the company issued edited sets of 40 picture postcards titled Little “Phostint” Journeys, each set representing a specific region or subject. The 1912 Phostint catalog stated of the sets: “Tours through the Wonder Places of America illustrated in high grade Phostint post cards executed in nature’s coloring.” Advertisements stated that the sets were appropriate “for tourists, educators, fireside travelers, and users of projection lanterns.” There were 41 known volumes of Little “Phostint” Journeys, with some of the popular series including Historic Boston and Vicinity, New York City, The Quaker City (Philadelphia), Old Charleston, The Great Lakes, The Land of Sunshine, Yosemite and the Big Trees, Down the Mississippi, Missions of the Southwest and many more. Each journey was sold either in the form of a book with leather backs and titles in gold, advertised as “suitable for best library shelves,” or in cartons.

 

On the breadth of subjects published by the Detroit Publishing Company noted postcard historian Dorothy Ryan, in Picture Postcards in the United States: 1893-1918, wrote:

 

“One firm, the Detroit Publishing Company, a part of the Detroit Photographic Company, covered the length and breadth of America shortly after the turn of the century and chronicled as no other publisher attempted the diversity of people, activity, and industry found in the United States.

 

The hustle of large cities, the languor of small towns, farming and light industry, steel and other heavy manufacturing, harbors and shipping, the mansions of the wealthy and the tenements and ghettos of the poor, the varied social minorities; taken as a whole, a Detroit collection forms a rich and varied tapestry of what might be termed the “The American Scene.”[33]

 

At its height the Detroit Publishing Company had approximately 40,000 negatives in its inventory, from which it produced approximately seven million prints annually, and employed 40 artists and 12 traveling salesmen. The company maintained retail outlets in Detroit, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, London and Zurich, and controlled a worldwide distribution system that included mail-order and sales at prominent resorts and tourist attractions.

 

[1] “Agent Livingstone Resigns.” The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan). July 29, 1897.

[2] “Editor’s Table.” The Philadelphia Photographer. Vol. 16, No. 185. May 1879. p. 159.

[3] “Indiana.” Fort Wayne Daily Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana). April 11, 1879.

[4] Palmquist, Peter E.; Thomas R. Kailbourn. Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary 1840-1865. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2000. p. 538.

[5] “Mr. Husher, Who Goes Up.” Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, California). June 23, 1887.

[6] The American Amateur Photographer. Vol. 2, No. 5. May 1890.

[7] “Sky-High.” The Daily Examiner (San Francisco, California). April 17, 1887.

[8] “Sky-High.” The Daily Examiner (San Francisco, California). April 17, 1887.

[9] Burton, W. K. “Notes on Photography at San Francisco.” The Photographic News. Vol. 31, No. 1505. July 8, 1887.

[10] “Above the Clouds.” The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California). June 28, 1887.

[11] Husher, E. H. “The Hemenway Photography of E. H. Husher, 1888-1889: Three Images.” Journal of the Southwest 37, no. 4 (1995): 701-9. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40169951.

[12] “The Camera in Alaska.” The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California). October 20, 1889.

[13] “The Camera in Alaska.” The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California). October 20, 1889.

[14] “Lost in Wild Waters.” The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California). September 28, 1889.

[15] “Rescued by the Rush.” The Record-Union (Sacramento, California). October 3, 1889.

[16] Detroit of To-day, The City of the Strait. Detroit: Phoenix Publishing Co., 1893. p. 153.

[17] “Fifteenth Annual Convention, Photographers’ Association of America.” American Journal of Photography. Vol. 16, No. 190. October, 1895. p. 476.

[18] “The Photochrom Company.” The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan). December 30, 1896.

[19] “Photochrom Co. Incorporated.” The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan). December 13, 1895.

[20] Marks, Ben. “In Living Color: The Forgotten 19th-Century Photo Technology that Romanticized America.” Collectors Weekly. May 23, 2014.

[21] “News of the Courts.” The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan). August 11, 1897.

[22] “Demme-Whitney Wedding.” Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan.) June 26, 1895.

[23] Hannavy, John. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. New York: Routledge, 2008. p. 1079.

[24] “Patents.” Photographic Correspondence. No. 330. 1888. p. 135.

[25] Kadish, Josh. “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Albert Schuler’s “Jaffa Gate” and the History of Holy Land Photography.” Kedma: Penn’s Journal on Jewish Thought, Jewish Culture, and Israel. Vol. 2, No. 5 Spring & Summer 2020.

[26] Kadish, Josh. “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Albert Schuler’s “Jaffa Gate” and the History of Holy Land Photography.” Kedma: Penn’s Journal on Jewish Thought, Jewish Culture, and Israel. Vol. 2, No. 5 Spring & Summer 2020.

[27] Burdick, Jefferson R. The Handbook of Detroit Publishing Co. Postcards. Essingston, PA: Hobby Publications, 1954. p. 54.

[28] “Preservative of Art.” The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan). August 8, 1895.

[29] “Located at Wyandotte.” The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan). December 18, 1895.

[30] “Photochrom Exhibition.” The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan). December 19, 1897.

[31] Jackson, William Henry. Time Exposure: The Autobiography of William Henry Jackson. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1940. p. 321.

[32] Zug, George B. “Among the Art Galleries.” The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois). May 18, 1913.

[33] Ryan, Dorothy B. Picture Postcards in the United States 1893-1918. 1982. p. 149.

 


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