Charles Carman was a popular photographer who operated a gallery at the village of Andes for over 30 years from around 1875 to 1908. He took a countless number of portraits of village residents and is believed to have taken some of the earliest photographs of the village of Andes.
Andes, New York. Main Street, from High Street to Delaware Avenue. Italiante style buildings built sometime after June 1878 fire which had destroyed entire block. Original buildings were Greek Revival structures. Photo by Andes photographer, Charles Carman. (Circa 1880). Author’s collection.
Charles Carman was born on September 15, 1832 at Bovina, son of Joshua Carman (1787-1840) and Priscilla (Scutt) Carman (~1791-1876). Both Joshua and Priscilla are buried at Valley View Cemetery. Charles spent his boyhood days at Bovina. After being educated in the district schools, he became a teacher.
The 1855 New York State census lists Carman, age 23, as residing with his mother Priscilla in the town of Bovina and working as a farmer. Also in the household were his brothers John, Orrin and William, all listed with an occupation of farmer. His sister Emily was working as a teacher and his sister Caroline had no profession listed.
In 1858 he moved to the village of Downsville and opened a general store. An 1859 business directory for the village of Downsville printed in the local newspaper listed the firm of Dean & Carman as operating a Dry Goods and Groceries store. Phineas Dean was listed as Carman’s partner.
Map of Downsville in 1856, two years before the arrival of Charles Carman.
Source: Gould, Jay. Map of Delaware Co., New York. Philadelphia: Published by Collins G. Keeney, 1856. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2012593655/>.
By December 1859 Carman had entered into a partnership at Downsville with Edward O’Conner. The following advertisement for the partnership was placed in the local newspaper.
“NEW CASH STORE. The subscribers, having located themselves in the Store lately occupies by Messrs. Dean & Carman in Downsville, would respectfully solicit from the citizens and vicinity, a share of their patronage. Their stock of Goods is entirely new, having been lately purchased in New York at the present unprecedented low prices, consisting in part of Broadcloths, Cassimeres, Satinets, Vestings, Cotton, Linen and Silk Warp, Alpaccas, French Tibet and striped Maddena; SHAWLS, and the largest and cheapest assortment of PRINTS ever offered for sale in Downsville. A splendid assortment of the newest patterns of
CROCKERY & GLASS WARE!
And a choice selection of the best Family Groceries. Believing that “a nimble sixpence is better than a slow shilling,” their Goods will be sold for ready pay only.
All kinds of country product taken in exchange for Goods. Bring your produce or money, and you shall have a good bargain.
O’CONNER & CARMAN.
Downsville, Dec. 21, 1859.”
Carman’s partnership with Edward O’Conner did not last long, being dissolved in July 16, 1860. The following notice was placed in the local newspaper.
“DISSOLUTION – The partnership heretofore existing between O’Conner & Carman is this day dissolved by mutual consent. All those indebted to the above firm will please call and settle. The books will be left in the hands of O’Conner. O’CONNER & CARMAN. Downsville, July 16, 1860.
Business will be continued by E. O’Conner at the old stand of O’Conner and Carman. Reduced prices – cash or short credit. We take this opportunity to return our thanks for past patronage. EDWARD O’CONNER. Downsville, July 16, 1860.”
In addition to operating the general store at Downsville, Carman was also offering his photographic services to the public. The local newspaper carried the following advertisement from Carman in 1858; and the 1859 business directory for the village of Downsville printed in the local newspaper listed Carman as selling “Ambrotypes.”
“Great Flood in Downsville. The rain having subsided, the subscriber is ready to furnish the people of Downsville and vicinity with superior SPHEROTYPES, AMBROTYPES, and MELAINOTYPES.
Those wishing true likenesses will do well to call immediately, as I intend to remain but a few days.
Superior likenesses at reduced prices – satisfaction warranted.
The public are respectfully invited to call, whether wanting pictures or not.
Downsville, July 19, 1858.
Carman married Helen Johnson, of Downsville, on June 6, 1860. Together they had three children, including two daughters, Lulia (1861-1932) and Evelyn (1867-1934), and one son, Ward (1870-1938). Ward would follow in his father’s footsteps in becoming a photographer and operating his own gallery. Evelyn would marry Harvey Kinch (1868-1959), who with his brother Edgar Kinch (1877-1939), operated a successful photo studio at Walton and Hancock for over 40 years.
The 1860 United States census showed 28-year-old Charles living in the town of Colchester with his 18-year-old wife Helen. He was listed with a profession of “Merchant,” while she was listed as a “Lady of Leisure.”
During the Civil War Carman served as a recruiting officer. The 1865 New York State census lists Carman as residing in the first election district of Colchester with a profession as “Artist.” He may have reached a certain level of success by this point as there was 17-year-old from Germany, named Carrie Minor, who was residing in the household as a servant.
Carman moved to the village of Andes around 1867 where he operated a mercantile business with his brother for about two or three years. In June of 1867 the County Board of Excise approved a store license for the firm of “Carman and Brother.” The 1869 map of Andes published by F. W. Beers shows Carman operating along Main Street as a “Dealer in General Merchandise.” His building was located on the north side of Main Street, next to the Tremper Kill. The 1870 United States census lists Carman as living in the town of Andes with a profession of “Retail Grocer.” In addition to Carman, his wife and three children in the household, there was also Anna Bays, a 17-year-old “domestic servant.”
Map of the village of Andes in 1869, including the Charles Carman general merchandise business.
Source: "Andes [Village]; Union Grove [Village]; Andes [Township]; Andes Business Directory." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1869. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-67c0-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
After several years residing at Andes, Carman began a photography business, about 1875, which he operated continuously for the next 33 years. He operated a popular portrait gallery and is believed to have taken some of the earliest stereoviews of the village of Andes. It is also believed that Carman published scarce views of the Catskill Mountains, the Grand Hotel and Pine Hill. The 1875 United States census listed his profession as “Artist.”
The village of Andes of today is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “an embodiment of nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural styles as interpreted in a rural upstate New York community.” The historic district is comprised of 84 properties and 129 contributing structures. Some of the still standing structures of today can be seen in the photographs taken by Carman over 130 years ago.
In 1879 Carman occupied the upper floor of a new two-story building constructed by David Hyser. The building replaced a prior one that had burned in June, 1878 during a tragic event in which much of the business district of the village of Andes was destroyed, including fifteen buildings on the north side of Main Street between Delaware Avenue and High Street. The 1880 United States census, the 1892 New York State census and the 1900 United States census all listed Carman as residing in the village of Andes with a profession of “Photographer.” Carman’s home and studio were located at 62 Main Street.
Carman opened a branch photography office in June 1889 at Margaretville, approximately 16 miles southeast from Andes. Ward, Carman’s son, at first operated the branch on behalf of his father, but eventually took over to manage it by himself. Ward operated the business for 49 years until his passing in 1938, doing business at the same location the entire time. It was noted that “this is an unusual record. There is no other firm in town with half that record of years.”
“The business has seen great changes in that time, as has the village. The taking of pictures in the studio was the important part of the business at its inception. In later years the amateur camera came into vogue and the finishing of the film for the public was more remunerative than the posing of the professional photographs.
Ward Carman has been a popular and successful member of the business community for all the years that mount up to the 49. He was of a genial nature, always a smile for everyone, attended strictly to his own affairs. While his business was not one of large volume in dollars he amassed a competence and his advice in financial matters was sought. He was of the old-fashioned school of honesty and integrity – exemplifying what America needs today – good citizens.”
Ethel H. Bussy in her 1960 book titled History and Stories of Margaretville and Surrounding Area wrote of the Ward Carman gallery.
“The photography shop, or "Gallery" as it was called, was on Main Street in the building now remodeled and occupied by Mr. Shafer as a jewelry store. The Gallery was always run by the late Ward Carman as photographer and Miss Carrie Osborne as photo finisher and helper. A large glass enclosed case was on the front of the Gallery and the pictures of the best looking people displayed there. It was similar to a beauty contest of the present day. Everyone was interested to see if their picture made the glass case.”
Upon Ward’s passing in July 1938, the business continued operating for a brief time under the ownership of Carrie Osborn, Ward’s sister-in-law. Carrie had worked at the business for over 40 years. Upon closing in December 1938 Carrie talked to the local newspaper about the history of the business.
“Talking about the closing yesterday Miss Osborn recited many interesting events that have taken place in the half century. The first activity was the taking of “cabinet” photographs. These cost $3.00 per dozen 50 years ago. The photographic business ran through many cycles. Amateur work came many years after the opening. It brought rich contacts. A quarter of a century or more ago there were a large number of artists scattered through this section of the mountains. Most of them knew the photographer and firm friendships were formed. Mr. Carman photographed various folks of world renown and lesser fame. When the old negatives were carted to the village dump last week there were many instances of four generations of negatives, cataloged one against the other in the boxes of glass. During the war 20 years ago the glass was valuable and some of the useless negatives were sold for a fair price.
In the flush days of amateur work the studio did a rushing business. Mr. Carman and Miss Osborn often developed and printed 100 rolls of films per day during these times.
It was hard work, they who performed it knew how their money was obtained. A competence was saved and will take care of Mrs. Carman and Miss Osborn in the cottage on the hillside for those days of retirement so many look forward to and miss when they seem about to enter the threshold.”
In addition to his business enterprises Charles Carman also faithfully served his community for many years. He served as Justice of the Peace for about 35 years and as the census marshal in 1870. He served as justice of sessions for one year. He also served as Overseer of the Poor for the town of Andes for several years.
Carman retired from the photography business in 1908. The 1910 United States census listed Carman as retired with a profession of “Own Income.”
In 2006 the Andes Society for History and Culture held an exhibit featuring the photographic works of Charles Carman. The Andes Society wrote a brochure for the event that included his biography and the history of the buildings photographed by Carman.
Charles Carman was one of the oldest residents of Andes village when he passed away at his home on Main Street on January 3, 1911. The cause of death was a growth on his head that “caused him much suffering and he had been unable to lay down with it all winter. Complications hastened the end.”
His funeral was held at his residence with Reverend E. A. Bookout officiating. Carman was survived by his wife and three children, including Ward Carman, a photographer in Margaretville; Mrs. Harvey J. Kinch, of Walton; and Mrs. William D. Hilton, of Chicago. He is buried at the Andes Cemetery in Andes, New York.
Helen Carman, wife of Charles Carman, passed away a few years later in 1914. She died at Delhi, New York while residing with her daughter Evelyn. She is also buried at the Andes Cemetery.
Ward W. Carman, son of Charles Carman, passed away at the family home in Margaretville on July 6, 1938. He had been sick for about two weeks with liver trouble. He is buried at the Margaretville Cemetery.
 “New Cash Store.” Bloomville Mirror (Bloomville, New York). December 27, 1859.
 “Dissolution.” Bloomville Mirror (Bloomville, New York). 1860.
 “W. W. Carman Dies, 49 Years In Local Business.” Catskill Mountain News (Margaretville, New York). July 8, 1938.
 “Aged Nearly 50, Carman Studio Closes Doors.” Catskill Mountain News (Margaretville, New York). December 16, 1938.