James V. Brandow – Windham, New York Photographer

June 24, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Introduction

 

James V. Brandow was a prominent photographer in the northern Catskills from the late 1800s to the 1930s. He was perhaps most associated with his work at the village of Windham, but at various times he also had galleries at Catskill, Prattsville, Stamford, Gilboa and Ellenville. He also operated a winter-time gallery in the city of Miami, Florida for many years.

 

Country House, by James V. Brandow, Windham, New YorkCountry House, by James V. Brandow, Windham, New York Country House. Author's collection.

 

Biography

 

James Vernon Brandow was born on February 16, 1861 at the hamlet of Hensonville, Greene County in the northern Catskills. He was the son of Henry Brandow (1824-1887) and Julia (Stone) Brandow (1863-1905). Henry and Julia had eight children including seven sons (Charles, George H., Frank, I. Wheeler, Julian J., James and William) and one daughter (Hattie).

 

Henry, the father, most often worked as a painter or carriage painter, but was listed in the 1855 New York State census with an occupation of tailor. The Windham Journal carried an advertisement for Henry Brandow’s tailoring business in 1857.

 

“New Tailoring Establishment. The subscriber would respectfully inform his friends and citizens of Windham that he has removed from the shop adjoining R. P. Gorshine’s Store, to the rooms over W. F. Spencer’s Jewelry Store, where he will be pleased to see all who will favor him with a call. He will warrant garments made by him to a perfect fit. Cutting done at short notice. HENRY BRANDOW. Windham, April 1st, 1857.”

 

Henry passed away on August 6, 1887 in the village of Catskill. Both Henry and Julia are buried at Catskill Village Cemetery in Catskill, New York.

 

The 1865 New York State census listed 4-year-old James residing in the town of Windham in the household of his parents. His father Henry was listed with an occupation of painter. In 1865, likely sometime after the census, Henry, “one of the old residents of Hensonville,” moved to the village of Catskill to work for Mr. Dunham in the painting business.

 

The 1870 United States census listed 9-year-old James residing in the town of Catskill in the household of his parents. His father Henry was listed with an occupation of carriage painter. Two brothers, 19-year-old Charles and 18-year-old George, were listed with an occupation of painter. His 15-year-old brother I. Wheeler was listed with an occupation of clerk in a meat market. Also in the household were his sister Hattie and his brother William.

 

The 1875 United States census listed 14-year-old James living in the town of Catskill in the household of Henry Brandow, his father. Henry was listed with an occupation of painter. Julia Brandow, James’ mother, had passed away in 1871. Also in the household were James’ siblings Harriet and William, and a housekeeper by the name of Elizabeth Chichester.

 

Before beginning his photography career, Brandow operated a store selling sewing machines at the village of Windham. The store was located at O. R. Coe’s Hotel, and could later be found at the Journal Building in Windham.

 

“BUY YOUR SEWING MACHINES OF J. V. BRANDOW, Windham, N.Y., who keeps always on hand a large stock and can furnish any machine in the market. Sewing Machines sold on monthly payments to parties who are not able to pay cash. OLD MACHINES taken in exchange. Attachments, needles, and all parts supplied. All Kinds of Machines Repaired. Office at O. R. Coe’s Hotel.”[1]

 

In 1885, The Windham Journal published another advertisement for Brandow’s sewing machine business at Windham.

 

“Only $20. This Style SINGER, with full Set of Attachments, on two weeks trial. We do not ask you to pay one cent until you use the machine in your own home for two weeks. Warranted for 3 years. Circulars and testimonials free. J. V. Brandow, Windham, N.Y.”

 

Buy Your Sewing Machines of J. V. Brandow, Windham, N.Y.Buy Your Sewing Machines of J. V. Brandow, Windham, N.Y.The Windham Journal, September 13, 1883.

 

Brandow, in partnership with W. A. Jenne, in 1885 opened a skating rink on Mill Street, in Osborn’s “new building.” The rink was 24 x 40, and “was big enough for a town of Windham’s size. About all the young folks in town are learning the art.” By September the rink was “well patronized” and “having a success.”

 

In 1890 there was some controversy around the use of tariffs in the United States, particularly since the Tariff Act of 1890 was signed into law that year. The Catskill Recorder wrote in October of 1890 about the direct impact of the tariffs on Brandow’s photography business through higher supply costs.

 

“A tariff object lesson: The Windham Journal says that “the new tariff hit James Brandow of this village. He wanted some usual supplies in his photograph business; sent for them, when, lo! the new tariff had increased the cost 15 per cent. Did ‘the foreigner’ pay it? Oh, no! Mr. Brandow paid it, and will have to get it out of the consumer, or lose so much of his already small profits.” The tariff is a tax, gentlemen; you can’t wriggle around the fact. And “foreigners” are not paying our taxes.”

 

At some point in the early 1890s Brandow established a partnership with W. A. Jenne. The partnership operated with the names The Photo Company or Jenne & Brandow. This partnership did not last long, as a notice of dissolution was published in The Windham Journal in October 1891.

 

“NOTICE OF DISSOLUTION. Notice is hereby given that the co-partnership heretofore existing between the undersigned, under the names of The Photo Company, and Jenne & Brandow, is hereby dissolved by mutual consent. All the liabilities of said firms are assumed by, and all accounts due said firms are payable to W. A. Jenne. W. A. JENNE, J. V. BRANDOW.”

 

In July 1892, The Catskill Recorder reported that Brandow was opening a photograph gallery at the village of Stamford, New York.

 

In 1892, Brandow also began serving as an agent for the Ocean Steamship Company operating between New York and the southern states. The following advertisement for the service was carried in The Windham Journal.

 

“Where the balmy breezes blow, where there’s neither ice nor snow, where the orange blossoms bloom, where old “Sol” is always shining at noon, is reached by the Ocean Steamship Co. J. V. Brandow, Agt. See W. A. Jenne for days of sailing, etc.”

 

In July 1893, The Windham Journal reported that Brandow was operating a photography business at East Windham.

 

In October 1893, The Windham Journal reported that photographers Brandow and W. A. Jenne were at the village of Saugerties taking views of the Fireman’s parade. That same month The Catskill Recorder reported that the partnership of Jenne & Brandow had rented from C. L. Van Valkenburgh the entire second floor of his building on Bridge Street in the village of Catskill. The lease was to begin December 1, and was for a term of five years.

 

Brandow & Jenne advertised their new partnership in the local newspapers.

 

“New studio, new furniture, new accessories, new backgrounds; everything the latest; only one short flight of stairs; extra large skylight; can photograph a group of fifty. BRANDOW & JENNE, Bridge Street, Catskill.” – The Catskill Recorder, December 15, 1893.

 

“Babies’ photos, quicker than a wink, at Brandow & Jenne’s, Bridge st.” – The Catskill Recorder, December 15, 1893.

 

“Brandow & Jenne have opened their new studio on Bridge st. and are prepared to do all kinds of photographic work. Photographing children a specialty.” – The Catskill Recorder, December 22, 1893.

 

“Four new styles in portraits, the latest and cutest, at Brandow & Jenne’s, Bridge st.” – The Catskill Recorder, December 22, 1893.

 

“Crayons, pastels and photo enlargements; the best grades only; prices the lowest for good work; satisfaction guaranteed, at Brandow & Jenne’s, Bridge st., Catskill.” – The Catskill Recorder, December 29, 1893.

 

“Everything pertaining to photography; a special department for landscapes and views, at Brandow & Jenne’s, Bridge st., Catskill.” – The Catskill Recorder, January 5, 1894.

 

The partnership of Brandow & Jenne lasted only a few months, with The Catskill Recorder reporting in January 1894 that the partnership had been dissolved. W. A. Jenne was going to continue with the business. By October 1895 Jenne had disposed of his business at Catskill and was reportedly moving to Thomasville, Georgia.

 

James married Cora Woodvine at Troy, New York on May 22, 1894. The ceremony was officiated by Reverend Hines. She was the daughter of William and Sarah Woodvine. Cora passed away in 1905 in Miami, Florida. She had suffered for several years with pulmonary afflictions, which in part had prompted her and James to spend the winters at Miami. Her body was taken to Windham and buried at Windham Cemetery. Upon her passing it was written that “she was a devout Christian, a patient and loving wife and was generally admired and reverenced by those of her acquaintances.”[2]

 

In July 1894, Brandow was at the town of Windham taking pictures of popular views and private residences in the region. He took photos of T. W. Jernalds’ residence at the hamlet of Ashland. In September 1894 Brandow erected a portable studio at Windham. The scheduled opening was about September 20th.

 

In October 1894 Brandow visited the village of Hudson where he photographed the Tri-County Fireman’s Parade. He also photographed the fire companies of Hudson. Later in October Brandow visited Coxsackie to photograph the teachers taking part in the Teachers’ Institute.

 

In November 1894, Brandow temporarily operated his portable photographic studio at the hamlet of Prattsville. The studio was located near the Fowler House.

 

By December 1894, Brandow had returned to the village of Windham “with his new portable studio, prepared to make the best photo ever made in this section. One dozen finest finish, aristo cabinet photographs, a life size crayon portrait, and an elegant frame, for $4. Call and see samples.” He operated this Windham studio until January 10th of 1895, after which, he and his wife traveled to Florida for the remainder of the winter. They returned to Windham in late May 1895, and Brandow reopened his studio on June 10th, occupying the rooms formerly occupied by W. A. Jenne.

 

In October 1895, The Windham Journal reported that Brandow had again temporarily located at the hamlet of Prattsville.

 

In June 1897, Brandow opened a picture gallery at the village of Stamford. M. H. West was doing much of the carpentry work for Brandow in order to prepare the gallery. The following advertisement for Brandow was published in the Stamford Recorder.

 

“Coupon. J. V. Brandow, Photo Artist, Stamford. The holder of this Coupon is entitled to ONE DOZEN of my best IVORYETTE FINISH CABINET PHOTOS FOR $2.00. Good until August 30, 1897. Regular Price of Photo, $3.00.”

 

J. V. Brandow, Photo Artist, StamfordJ. V. Brandow, Photo Artist, StamfordStamford Recorder, August 28, 1897.

 

In October 1897, The Windham Journal reported that Brandow had purchased the Behm photograph gallery on Bridge Street in the village of Catskill, and would move from Stamford to that location.

 

The Windham Journal reported in September 1898 that Brandow had sold his photograph gallery at the village of Catskill to J. B. O’Henans.

 

The 1900 United States census listed 39-year-old Brandow as residing with his wife in Windham Township in the household of William and Sarah Woodvine, his parents-in-law. He was listed with the occupation of photographer.

 

In March 1900, The Windham Journal noted “a fine picture” taken by Brandow that included 78 people, representing four generations of the Osborn-Bump family. The photo was taken at the home of Alice R. Cole & Son during a family reunion.

 

“It was a wonderful gathering, nearly all of whom are residents of this vicinity. The faces are all clearly distinct, and the picture will prove a valuable keep-sake of those present, never to be obtained again elsewhere.  How many families can number so large a company? Aunt Huldah Osborn, over 82 years old; Elbert Osborn, son; Geo. W. Osborn, grandson; Hilda Osborn, great-granddaughter. So, too, was it with Aunt Huldah Osborn, Alice R. Cole, Osborn A. Cole and little Estelle Cole. Then there was the family of Oscar Bronson; also, the late Barney Fuller descendants; those of Nelson Bump, Ephriam Bump; also L. S. Graham, S. L. Munson and A. H. Chittenden. This vicinity is indebted much to those people for what Windham has been and now is, in every sense going to promote morals and prosperity. The picture is a big one, and only 50 cents gets one of Brandow.”[3]

 

The Windham Journal reported in September 1903 that Brandow “had his tin-type tent at the Cooksburg Farmers’ Picnic last week. He will also be at the Prattsville Fair next week.”

 

In September 1904, The Gilboa Monitor reported that Brandow had opened a branch studio at the village of Gilboa, opposite the O’Brien House. Brandow had employed E. Van Dyke, of Catskill, to work as operator and manager of the location.

 

In July 1905, as reported by The Windham Journal, Brandow “did a rushing business at Griffin Corners July 4th, with his tin-type gallery.”

 

In November 1905, the same year that he lost his wife Julia, The Windham Journal wrote that “J. V. Brandow had taken down his photograph building which for the past dozen years has been erected across the stream from Mott’s drug store. Mr. Brandow will again return to Miami, Fla., where he has wintered for several years. We regret to lose Mr. Brandow, because he has been a useful, helpful citizen, and one who made a success of his profession. He is a good artist, and Windham will miss him, but the death of Mrs. Brando last year severed many ties here, and better business opportunities call him South. We wish him full success in his southern home.”

 

Brandow, in July 1906, erected his photographic studio at the village of Windham on the premises of Charles Jennings, on the creek side of the blacksmith shop.

 

In October 1908 Brandow advertised that “Now is the time to have your PHOTOS TAKEN BY BRANDOW, The Leading Photographer of Greene County. First-class photos from $1 per dozen up. A Life Size Crayon Portrait or a Beautiful Gold-Plated Brooch Given Free With Every Dozen. Open Every Week Day Till Nov. 7th. Brandow’s Studio, Windham, N.Y.”[4]

 

Photos Taken by BrandowPhotos Taken by BrandowThe Windham Journal, October 8, 1908.

 

Brandow, in May 1909, was “quite busy these days getting ready for his summer trade. However, he is not too busy to take your picture just now if you want it. If you want a picture of your premises or a landscape view taken, call on him. He will do you an O.K. job.”[5]

 

In July 1909, The Windham Journal wrote of an interesting photograph taken by Brandow at the village of Hensonville.

 

“Did You See the Ark? – It took three big truck horses and the largest truck of the company to convey over the mountain from Cairo the big order for “Jacobs’ Sparkling Soda Water” to local dealers in Hensonville and Windham, on Saturday. The approach of the big “ark” attracted much attention as it entered the village of Hensonville with its enormous cargo of cases of “the sparkling” piled high above the racks. There were 150 cases aboard. Before unloading, Photographer J. V. Brandow of this village, was called and took a picture of the turnout, including the driver, Manly Brainerd, with reins in hand. This picture is 8x10 inches, and is an artistic piece of work, which may be seen by calling at Mr. Brandow’s Studio. The Jacobs concern has a large patronage here, and the scene of last Saturday, is the introductory load for the summer trade, about equally divided between the eastern and western villages of our town. Mr. Jacobs is making a special drive on his mineral waters this season.”

 

Business must have been good for Brandow in the summer of 1909, as seen in his setup for his photography business.

 

“EQUAL TO THE EMERGENCY. – J. V. Brandow, ever alert to the growing demands of his business (photography), now has an up to date photograph wagon, equipped with everything necessary to do business with, including a dark room, where he can develop the old-time tin-type or the modern photograph. The wagon was designed by Mr. Brandow, is easily drawn by one horse, and is O.K. in every particular. Its extreme length is nine feet and has proportionate width and height. Mr. Brando has neatly applied the brush, and it shows up nicely in its finish of red and lemon, with trimmings of black. Other ornamentation and lettering will be added as time permits. The initial trip with the wagon was at the Cooksburg picnic, and “Jim” says it is the right thing in the right place. He is at Prattsville Fair with it this week, and is ready for picnics and the like at short notice.”[6]

 

Miller Brothers Clothiers, by James V. Brandow, Windham, NYMiller Brothers Clothiers, by James V. Brandow, Windham, NY Miller Brothers Clothiers. Author's collection.

 

Even as late as around 1910, Brandow was still taking old-fashioned tin-type pictures. In September of that year, he was at the Firemen’s Convention at Tannersville taking the tin-type photographs. Later in September Brandow had his tin-type tent at the Farmers’ Picnic at Union Society, a popular event that attracted at least 2,000 people.

 

In the 1910s Brandow operated a souvenir store and ice cream parlor at the village of Windham. In 1914, The Windham Journal reported that “J. V. Brandow, bound to be up to date at his studio and ice cream parlor, has installed an acetylene gas lighting plant in the building. A new awning has also been placed in front of the porch.” In May 1918, The Windham Journal wrote that “J. V. Brandow has purchased the goods in Mrs. J. H. Wood’s Bazaar and rented the premises. He will continue the business, confining his former business place to the sale of ice cream and confectionary.” In 1924 Brandow likely sold the store to his former worker Frances M. Post and her soon-to-be husband Clyde R. Adams. After their wedding, Post and Adams were to take possession of the business at the J. V. and H. A. Brandow store on November 1, 1924.

 

In June 1922 Brandow suffered a significant blow to his health when he was struck with apoplectic shock. He had been at Hough’s Garage in Hensonville, New York looking after his branch operations, when the partial paralysis struck. The stroke caused his whole right side to be helpless. He was quickly taken to his home at Windham, where he was attended to by Dr. Mulbury. At the time, the “latest reports in his case are not altogether assuring.”[7] He would live another 16 years.

 

In 1923 Brandow’s film developing business was thriving at the village of Windham. It was reported that he had developed approximately 25,000 kodak pictures during the summer months that year.

 

In 1925, The Windham Journal published a small advertisement stating that “J. V. Brandow will take your picture any time, day or night, at his Home Studio, Windham.” Raymond Moseman began to work for Brandow in 1927.

 

Even as the Black Monday stock market crash neared that fall, and the Great Depression loomed, business at the Brandow gallery was going strong in the summer of 1929. Brandow reported that he was employing five men at his studio, and was hoping to add a sixth.

 

The 1930 United States census listed Brandow as residing in Windham Township. He was listed with an occupation of photographer, with his own studio.

 

In September 1932, The Windham Journal wrote that “Ransom McConnell has recently leased the J. V. Brandow studio, upper Main Street, where he is ready for business at any time in his line – photography. He and Mrs. McConnell are housekeeping in rooms in Mr. Brandow’s residence.”

 

In July 1933, The Windham Journal reported that Brandow, in addition to his business at Windham, had taken over an established business at the village of Ellenville. Work commenced around July 13, 1933.

 

By 1936, in the depths of the Great Depression, Brandow had seemingly fallen on hard financial times. On August 7, 1936 a foreclosure sale was held at the Court House in Catskill, New York for Brandow’s property at Windham.

 

Florida

 

For many years Brandow would travel from his home in Windham to Miami, Florida for the winter, where he would operate a photograph gallery aimed at the tourist industry. The early Brandow operation at Miami was typically located at the corner of Avenue D and Fourteenth Street. In 1905 Brandow was unable to secure his usual studio location, and therefore decided to operate in tents located across the street from his previous location.

 

Brandow would later operate a popular gallery at Miami known as the Royal Palm Studio at the Hotel Royal Palm and casino. He took the operation over from J. N. Chamberlain, who had run the studio for many years. Brandow also established a branch studio at Elser Pier, located at 12th Street and boulevard. George H. Brandow, James’ brother, was a partner in the Miami operation for many years. George, like James, would return to the Catskills each summer, with his residence at the hamlet of Purling, New York. Hattie Brandow, James’ sister, would also accompany him from Windham to Miami for the winter and would work at the gallery.

 

In 1908 Brandow advertised his Miami studio in the local newspaper. “24 Ping-Pong Photos for 25c in Six Different Positions. Have your Post Cards taken with our Big Alligator, or in the Automobile. Kodak developing and printing. At Brandow Studio Tent. Cor. 14th Street and Ave. D.”[8] In 1917 Brandow took “several panoramic views of the bay and the race course for publicity purposes.” In 1918 Brandow took photographs at the Miami Beach casino for the Miami Chamber of Commerce to use in their annual 1918-1919 booklets.

 

Brandow Studio TentBrandow Studio TentMiami Morning News Record, January 19, 1908.

Royal Palm Studio, J. V. BrandowRoyal Palm Studio, J. V. BrandowThe Miami Herald, January 24, 1911.

 

Brandow would sometimes travel to other locations in the Miami region. In April 1906 he visited the town of Dania, Florida “to take some pictures of that live little town.” In May 1906 Brandow went to Fort Lauderdale “to take some pictures of the dredge ‘Everglades.’”

 

Painting

 

In addition to his photography business, Brandow also followed in the footsteps of his father in the painting industry. In addition, James’ brothers George and Charles were also house, sign and carriage painters. Through the years the local newspapers noted the various painting work completed by James Brandow. In one interesting story, in 1915 Brandow repainted the office sign at The Windham Journal, the local newspaper, with the sign having been originally painted by his father Henry 30 years prior. The Windham Journal wrote on November 18, 1915 that “The lettering was in gold leaf, of old English design, and was then considered one of the most artistic signs in Greene County. As was his father, so is James V., an artist with the brush.”

 

As just a few examples of his work, Brandow painted the 24-foot Miller Bros. sign at Roxbury in 1897, the G. W. Potter Company sign in 1900 and the Newell & Brockett “Furniture” and “Undertaking” signs in 1900. Brandow painted the Elgin Creamery sign in 1905, the Davis bowling alley in 1906 and the steel ceiling and woodwork of the M. E. Church in 1906. He painted the wagons in Cole’s livery in 1907, the auto trucks of Barker & Woodworth in 1914 and finished the steel ceiling at the new Masonic Hall building in 1915.

 

Legacy

 

James V. Brandow was a well-respected citizen of Greene County, New York for his entire life. He passed away at 77 years of age on June 29, 1938. His death was attributed to the effects of a fall, after which he was immediately taken to Memorial Hospital. He died without regaining consciousness. He had also been in a weakened physical condition for several years due to paralytic strokes.

 

Upon his passing it was written that “before illness incapacitated him [Brandow] anyone would have to be more than a genius in that art [photography] to outdo him either in knowledge, speed, or ability.” He is buried next to his wife Cora at Windham Cemetery in Windham, New York. 

 

[1] The Windham Journal. April 19, 1883.

[2] “Death of Mrs. Cora Brandow.” The Miami News (Miami, Florida). January 6, 1905.

[3] The Windham Journal. March 15, 1900.

[4] The Windham Journal. October 8, 1908.

[5] The Windham Journal. May 27, 1909.

[6] The Windham Journal. August 26, 1909.

[7] “Hensonville.” Catskill Recorder. June 30, 1922.

[8] Miami Morning News-Record (Miami, Florida). January 19, 1908.

 


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