Albert V. Porter – Ellenville, NY Photographer

July 01, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Introduction

 

Albert V. Porter was a popular portrait and landscape photographer at the village of Ellenville in Ulster County, New York. He took over the studio of W. S. Davis in the early 1900s and successfully served the Ellenville community for nearly 20 years. By late 1918 Porter faced a significant health challenge in losing his eyesight, and therefore retired from the photography business and sold his studio to Casper Cosenza.

 

Red Mill, Ellenville, N.Y.Red Mill, Ellenville, N.Y. Red Mill, Ellenville, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

Biography

 

Albert V. Porter was born at Ellenville, New York in October 1856. He was the son of Jonathan Porter and Sarah (Van Dover) Porter.

 

Jonathan Porter, Albert’s father, was born in March 1821 (or 1822, depending on the source) in New Bedford in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. When he was eight years old his family moved to Lumberland, Pennsylvania, “where he grew to manhood, his ancestors owning at one time a large tract of land where the city of Kingston, PA now stands.” At the age of 18 Jonathan moved to the village of Ellenville, where he remained for the rest of his life. For several years he worked in the old lead mine, which at the time was one of the village’s most important industries. He also worked as a tanner, a teamster, a farm laborer and a day laborer.

 

Jonathan married Sarah Van Dover, daughter of Albert Van Dover and Eliza (Carpenter) Van Dover, on April 19, 1846 in a ceremony conducted by Reverend S. B. Ayres of the Reformed Church. Together Jonathan and Sarah had ten children. She had been a devoted member of the Methodist Church. Sarah passed away at 86 years old on April 29, 1914 at Albert’s home in Ellenville. Jonathan and Sarah were together for “a long and happy married life of 68 years.” They “had lived together in loving devotion for 68 years. They were doubtless the oldest married couple in Ulster County.”[1]

 

Upon Jonathan’s passing four years later on January 19, 1918 at the age of 95, he was described as “one of the aged and highly respected residents of this village” and as “the oldest member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and a man who always had a kind word for every one with whom he came in contact, making many friends during his long life.” His obituary demonstrated the great respect with which he was held in the Ellenville community.

 

“At the time of her [Sarah] death and since Mr. Porter has resided with his son and family, who have been devoted in the care of this venerable father – a long life ended. Up until a year or two deceased was able to go out upon the street and exchange friendly greetings with friends. He was active in the early history of the village and was a man of bright intellect, well read in history not confined alone to state but national affairs, a man devoted to home and family, a kind neighbor and a good friend, and has been kept in mind by many to whom he and his good wife were so kind in sickness and sorrow, cheering many aching hearts. He lived a good life and has gone to meet its reward.”

 

Jonathan’s funeral was held at Albert’s house in Ellenville in a service conducted by Reverend Joseph E. Appley, of the M. E. Church. Attending the funeral were his four surviving sons, including Albert, John and Richard of Ellenville, and Saul Porter, of Syracuse, and his “devoted granddaughter, Miss Sadie E. Porter, of Brooklyn.” He is buried in the family plot at the Old Ellenville Cemetery.

 

The 1860 United States census listed 4-year-old Albert residing in the household of his parents Jonathan and Sarah in the town of Wawarsing, Ulster County, New York. The household included Albert’s siblings, including 8-year-old Ida and 1-year-old John, as well as a farm laborer named John Vanduzen and a domestic servant named Mary Riley. Jonathan was listed with an occupation of farm laborer.

 

The 1870 United States census listed 17-year-old Albert as residing in the household of his father and mother in Wawarsing, Ulster County, New York. Also in the household were Albert’s siblings, including 19-year-old Ida, 11-year-old John, 9-year-old Sarah and 6-year-old Richard. Both Albert and his father were listed with an occupation of laborer.

 

The 1880 United States census listed 23-year-old Albert residing with his parents Jonathan and Sarah in the village of Ellenville in Ulster County, New York. Also in the household were Albert’s siblings Ida, John, Saul, and Richard. Jonathan was listed with an occupation of “laboring in mine” while Albert was listed with an occupation of “knife maker.” Albert was also listed as being unemployed for three months of the year, due to “steel in eye.”

 

On September 12, 1883 Albert married Jessie Moffat Hanmore, daughter of Charles Hanmore and Elsie (Decker) Hanmore of Newburgh, New York. She was the descendent of old Ulster County families, including Jacob J. Decker and Lucretia Pameron. Charles, Jessie’s father, worked as a captain of the ferry boat between Newburgh and Fishkill for many years. “Only a few years after his [Charles] marriage, while attempting to rescue his younger brother, Moses Hanmore, he was injured by smoke and fumes in the boiler room of the ferryboat and never regained his health. An accident to the machinery and boiler caused Moses Hanmore, the engineer, to lose his life by drawing the fire box as the boat was in mid-river, and many lives were in danger.”[2]

 

Albert and Jessie had four children, two of which reached adulthood, including Sadie (b. January, 1886) and Helen (b. March, 1896). Sadie for many years worked in the photography industry at Waterbury, Connecticut; Kingston, New York; and New York City. Helen married William C. Matthews, of Passaic New Jersey, who was for many years associated with the Automatic Fire Alarm Company of Brooklyn. Jessie was a devoted member of the Methodist Church. She passed away at her home in Passaic, New Jersey on October 5, 1926.

 

In 1895 Nellie D. Porter, the youngest daughter of Albert and Jessie Porter, died after a nine-day battle with diphtheria.

 

“Nellie, the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. V. Porter, was taken sick the early part of last week, and on Tuesday Dr. Hanker, the attending physician, pronounced it a case of diphtheria, and on the following day, Dr. Eastgate, the health physician, quarantined the house. Mr. and Mrs. Porter were the only occupants except an aged lady who occupied the lower part of the house. After a week of anxious watching and attendance upon the little one, she passed away about 10 o’clock Tuesday morning.

 

About 8 o’clock in the evening of the same day a “carry-all,” with two seats, drove up to the door and the heart-broken father and mother, with the remains of their daughter were taken in, and conveyed to the cemetery for burial, the Rev. Mr. Jones accompanying them in a separate wagon. Neighbors and friends of the family showed their respect in the only way possible – by sending floral contributions – which they did in large numbers.

 

The deceased was a bright, intelligent child, and was a favorite with her playmates. During the afternoon, another daughter, Sadie May, aged about 9 years, in company with other near relatives, were permitted to stand in an adjoining yard and view the remains of her sister, while she was held by the window in the upper story of the house. It was sad indeed.”[3]

 

The 1900 United States census listed 43-year Albert living with his 39-year-old wife Jessie and their two children, 14-year-old Sadie and 4-year-old Helen. Albert and Jessie were listed as having had four children, of which two were alive. Albert was listed with an occupation of knife worker.

 

During the Ulster County Fair held in the year 1900 Porter was described by the local newspaper as a promising amateur photographer.

 

“In amateur photography the exhibit was small. Mr. Porter sent a collection which was greatly appreciated. His excellence in that branch of art is so well known it is not necessary for me to add my encomiums. By the way, why do not our two score or more amateur photographers band together for the purpose of higher attainment in their art, and give us a display of their talent next fall in the art department of the Fair? From personal observation covering many years I find the photo exhibit, whether large or small, one of the most attractive in our department; and while some like this and others that, all are pleased with photography. Why not give them variety of talent and a larger range of subjects.”[4]

 

In the early 1900s Albert began his career as a professional photographer, taking over ownership of the Davis Studio from well-known photographer Winfield S. Davis. While trying to sell his gallery, Davis described it in an advertisement published in early 1900.

 

“FOR SALE. – One of the best equipped galleries in New York State; only gallery; town 4,000; fully stocked; small branch gallery 16 miles distant; established 18 years; 15 years present owner. W. S. Davis, Ellenville, N.Y.”[5]

 

The following advertisement was published by Porter in the Ellenville Journal in December 1902.

 

“Photographs for Christmas. Leave your order early. Cabinets from $1 to $7.00. Fine Gems – 50c. per doz. Copying, Enlarging in Crayon, Oil, Pastel, Sepia and India Ink a specialty. Orders for Framing of all kinds promptly filled. VIEWS in great variety. Satisfaction guaranteed. Formerly Davis Studio. Albert V. Porter, Proprietor, 129 Canal St., Ellenville. A Fine Line of Calendars 1903.”

 

Porter quickly established a solid reputation as a photographer, winning an award at the 1903 Ellenville Fair for his photographic views. That same year he was advertising his studio as offering “the highest grade of work.”[6] For his landscape work Porter made views of the mountain resorts, illustrated for the Mohonk, Winnewaska Lakes and the boarding houses of the Shawangunk Mountains.

 

Stratton's Mill, Greenfield, N.Y.Stratton's Mill, Greenfield, N.Y. Stratton's Mill, Greenfield, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

Tannery Dam and Bridge, Grahamsville, N.Y.Tannery Dam and Bridge, Grahamsville, N.Y. Tannery Dam and Bridge, Grahamsville, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

In 1906 The Tri-States Union newspaper of Port Jervis, New York wrote about a unique photo taken by Porter.

 

“Picture of the Late Solar Halo. A. V. Porter, of Ellenville, succeeded in getting a fine photograph of the solar halo which occurred last week, and which excited so much comment. He was on the roof of a house and lay there nearly a half hour to get a proper focus. The pictures are probably the only ones of the kind in existence.”

 

The 1910 United States census listed 54-year-old Albert, his 50-year-old wife Jessie and their 14-year-old daughter Helen living in the 2nd Election District in the village of Ellenville, Wawarsing Township, Ulster County, New York. Albert was listed with an occupation of photographer.

 

On March 8, 1910 The Kingston Daily Freeman wrote that “Albert Porter has on display twenty-five pictures of different basketball teams that have visited Ellenville in the last three years.”

 

The Kingston Daily Freeman issue of January 26, 1912 wrote that “Albert V. Porter has presented two large pictures 18x22 of Ward Post members, also of the graduating class of 1911 to the post and high school. The pictures are from Mr. Porter’s studio and show the skill and fine work done there.”

 

Over the years Porter employed various photographic assistants at his gallery. In 1909 Harvey J. Osterhoudt, of Kingston, and John Joseph Young, of Leurenkill, worked at the gallery. Osterhoudt would leave the Porter gallery that same year for “an excellent position” with the Baumann studio at Westfield, New Jersey. In 1911 Waldmere L. Andre assisted at the Porter gallery, after which he returned to him in Denmark. In the summer of 1915 Porter employed operators Harry Parth, Charles M. DeBevoise and Casper S. Cosenza of New York.

 

For several years, during the 1900s, Porter employed Alfred Wurts Tice (1829-1909) as an assistant. Tice had been a longtime photographer at Ellenville in the 1860s to the early 1880s, but had moved to Corry, Pennsylvania where he had established a gallery. Tice moved back to Ellenville in the mid 1890s.

 

In 1915 Porter was hard at work photographing the local schools. “John M. Schoonmaker, school supervisor of Accord, and Albert V. Porter, the local photographer, are on a trip this week through the district to secure pictures of the school houses for a special work.”[7]

 

Hanging Rock Falls, Ellenville, N.Y. (3)Hanging Rock Falls, Ellenville, N.Y. (3) Hanging Rock Falls, Ellenville, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

Fantinekill Falls, Ellenville, N.Y.Fantinekill Falls, Ellenville, N.Y. Fantinekill Falls, Ellenville, N.Y. Author's collection.

 

In 1917 “Albert V. Porter, local photographer, has received a large order of pictures taken by Casper Cosenza of the Porter Studio of the Tyler lawn at Lackawack. It is understood the pictures are to be used for a big publicity campaign throughout the country in connection with Mrs. G. Vere Tyler and the conspicuous names of the motion picture industry.”[8]

 

In September 1918 Porter was recognized in the local newspaper for one of his portrait photographs.

 

“A very fine portrait of the late John R. Hunt has just been finished and framed in a chestnut brown frame to correspond with the woodwork in the lobby of Hunt Memorial Hall, where it is to occupy a prominent place on the walls of this room. Mr. Hunt, the donor o the beautiful building, the gift to the local Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the ladies of this union had the picture made through our local photographer, Albert V. Porter, and it has been on exhibition for a few days in the large window Ostrander’s furniture store and much admired. 

 

In September 1918 Porter made “pictures of many of the boys from the town going int the U.S. service during the past year and many of the boys sending back to the home folks pictures taken in their uniforms, so Mr. Porter has completed a fine piece of work. It is a large picture which has for its center the picture of the Rev. Joseph E. Appley, who left a few weeks ago for work in France, and surrounding this picture many pictures of the boys, so as completed and framed is a fine piece of work and will be greatly appreciated for all to go and look upon the faces of loved ones who have entered the U. S. service and look upon the face of George D. Cook, who gave his life for his country, and look upon the face of Melvin Schoonmaker of Wawarsing, who is reported missing in action in the service in France.”[9]  

 

By late 1918 Porter had to close his studio at Ellenville due to the loss his eyesight from chemical poisoning. In 1919 Albert and Jessie Porter moved from Ellenville to Passaic, New Jersey.

 

The Porter Studio was sold in March 1920 to Casper Cosenza, who had previously worked there as an assistant during the summer months. Cosenza changed the name of the business to the Shadowland Studio, and reopened on May 1, 1920.

 

Porter was very active in the Ellenville community throughout his life. He was a longtime member of the M. E. Church and was always active in the church’s work. He taught the church Sunday School for 41 years. It was noted in the local newspaper that five members of just one Sunday School class had entered the ministry, a testament to Porter’s teaching. During World War I, 12 former members of his classes were serving their country, two of whom “paid the supreme sacrifice.”

 

Porter was the local acting secretary of the Y. M. C. A. and “always found time when young men were leaving the home town to interest himself in their welfare, and a letter would go to the Y. M. C. A. secretary introducing them to the association.”[10] He was also, for several years, the superintendent of the floral department of the Ulster County Agricultural Society.

 

The 1920 United States census listed Albert and his wife Jessie residing in Passaic County, New Jersey in the household of their daughter Helen and son-in-law William Matthews. Albert was not listed with a profession.

 

After moving to Passaic, Porter apparently regained his eyesight as he worked at several local florist companies. He was employed as manager at the retail department of Moles and Gillen at 184 Main Avenue, and also worked for Gruber Florists and the Variety Florist. Albert was active in the church, and was a member of the Men’s Bible Class at the Passaic Methodist Church. He was a member of the Y. M. C. A. and president of the Floral Society.

 

The 1930 United States census listed the now widowed Albert living in Passaic County, New Jersey with his daughter Sadie, his daughter Helen and his son-in-law William. Albert was listed with an occupation of “retired” while Sadie was working as a retoucher in a photographic studio. William was working as a clerk in the fire equipment industry.

 

Legacy

 

Albert V. Porter published a large number of portrait photographs of the residents of the Ellenville community throughout his approximately 20 years in business. In addition, he photographed and published a wide range of scenic postcards from Ellenville and much of the surrounding countryside. Both his portrait and landscape photographs provide a nostalgic look back at the Ellenville region during the first two decades of the 20th century.

 

Albert V. Porter passed away at his home in Passaic Park, New Jersey at the age of 80 on January 10, 1937. Albert had suffered a stroke the week before his death. Funeral services were held at his home, with the Reverend A. L. Fretz officiating. Porter was buried at Ridgelawn Cemetery. He was survived by his two daughters, Sadie Mae Porter and Mrs. William C. Matthews, both of 16 Rutgers Place, Passaic; and three brothers, Saul T. Porter, of Syracuse, New York; and John M. Porter and Richard F. Porter, both of Ellenville.

 

[1] The Independent Republican. May 8, 1914.

[2] The Goshen Democrat. October 15, 1926.

[3] Middletown Daily Press. October 9, 1895.

[4] Ellenville Journal. September 14, 1900.

[5] The St. Lous and Canadian Photographer. Vol. 24, No. 1. January, 1900.

[6] Ellenville Journal. February 13, 1903.

[7] The Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, New York). May 8, 1915.

[8] The Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, New York). August 15, 1917.

[9] The Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, New York). October 1, 1918.

[10] The Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, New York). November 8, 1919.

 


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