Harry C. Earl – Sidney, New York Photographer

August 19, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Harry C. Earl – Sidney, New York Photographer




Harry C. Earl was a popular photographer at the village of Sidney in Delaware County, New York. He worked as a portrait photographer from 1921 to 1937 and then worked on the photographic staff of the Scintilla Magneto Division from 1937 until his retirement in 1954.


Portrait, Well Dressed Woman, by Harry C. EarlPortrait, Well Dressed Woman, by Harry C. Earl

Portrait, Well Dressed Woman, by H. C. Earl. Author's collection.




Harry Charles Earl was born in Sidney on March 8, 1889, the son of Frederick and Josephine (Palmer) Earl.


Moses Earl, Frederick’s grandfather, and Harry’s great-grandfather, is the ancestor of many of the Earl families in the Sidney – Unadilla section. Moses was born in Connecticut in 1795 and made his way to the region as a young man. He operated a tollgate on the Catskill Turnpike near East Sidney for many years. He was married to Lucy Weed, and together they were parents of eight children.  Moses Earl passed away in 1849 and is buried at the East Sidney Cemetery.


Charles Earl, Frederick’s father, and Harry’s grandfather, was born on March 10, 1828, the son of Moses Earl and Lucy Weed. He was married to Harriet Sisson, who passed away on November 17, 1891. Charles was a “lifelong and highly respected resident of Wells Bridge . . . [and] was real active for one of his age and with a great many friends.” Charles passed away in February 1916 at the home of his youngest son, Arthur Earl, about 1 1/2 miles from Wells Bridge, New York. Funeral services were held on February 19, 1916, officiated by Reverend Harwood, pastor of the Wells Bridge Baptist Church. Charles is buried at the family plot at Sand Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


Frederick Charles Earl, Harry’s father, was born on Sand Hill on March 17, 1862, the son of Charles H. Earl and Harriet (Sisson) Earl. Frederick worked as a house painter and decorator for many years, and in his later years he conducted a farm on which he had lived for 54 years. Fred C. Earl, at the age of 85, passed away in May 1947 after a short illness at his home at Sand Hill. The funeral service was conducted at his home, with Reverend Clayton Hoag officiating. He is buried at Sand Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


Josephine, Harry’s mother, was born in Laurens, New York on January 18, 1861, the daughter of John Palmer and Melinda (Reynolds) Palmer. Josephine and Fred were married on November 22, 1882, and resided at Sand Hill, New York for 42 years until her passing. Josephine was an active member of the Sand Hill Methodist Church. She passed away on April 14, 1937 after several months of heart trouble and illness. Upon her passing it was written that she was “devoted to her home, she was a kind wife and mother, and much respected in her community.”[1] The funeral service was held at her home, officiated by Reverend Robert Wood, pastor of the Wells Bridge Methodist Church. She is buried at Sand Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


Frederick and Josephine had five children together, including three sons, Lavern, Lynn and Harry, and two daughters, Hazel and Iva.


Lynn P. Earl, Harry’s brother, was an influential member of the community. He was a veteran of World War I. He was the president of the Favorite Printing Company of Sidney, New York and was the owner and publisher of The Unadilla Times and the Catskill Examiner-Recorder at Catskill, New York. He was a former director of the Unadilla National Bank. Lynn was a charter member of the Joyce-Bell Post 578 of the American Legion at Unadilla and a 50-year member of the Freedom Lodge 324 of the Free and Accepted Masons. He was member of the board of managers at The Hospital at Sidney and was a director of the Afton Fair Association. Lynn P. Earl passed away in 1974 and is buried at Evergreen Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


Lavern T. Earl, Harry’s brother, “was held in high esteem by many friends in this vicinity. He has often visited his brother in Sidney and at times has assisted him in his photographic studio, and has many friends in town who learn of his death with regret, and who extend their sympathy to the family. Mr. Earl has considerable ability as a cartoonist and had worked on several newspapers in this capacity, his last position being with the Binghamton Press.”[2] Lavern passed away from tuberculosis on May 10, 1925 at the home of his parents, Fred and Josephine Earl, at Sand Hill, New York. He is buried at Sand Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


Hazel Earl, Harry’s sister, was born on August 30, 1888 in the town of Unadilla. She married Truair Halbert (1887-1955). They had nine children together, one of whom, Truair, who was killed in battle during World War II. The Halbert’s had lived at Sidney for the 26 years prior to their passing in 1955, and had previously resided at Gilbertsville, Mount Upton and Wells Bridge. She was a member of the Sidney Methodist Church. Hazel passed away after an illness of several years at the age of 67 on October 16, 1955 and is buried at Sand Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


Iva E. Earl, Harry’s sister, was born on August 15, 1899 at Sand Hill, New York. She married William Springsteen (1891-1975), of Sand Hill, in 1918 at Wells Bridge, New York. William was the son of Maurice and Jennie (Branning) Springsteen). William worked as a self-employed cabinet maker and home decorator. Iva passed away on November 23, 1970 and is buried at Sand Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


The 1900 United States census listed 11-year-old Harry living with his parents Fred and Josephine in the town of Unadilla, Otsego County, New York. Also living in the household were Harry’s four siblings, including two brothers, Lynn and Lavern, and two sisters, Hazel and Iva. Fred was listed with an occupation of house painter.


The 1910 United States census listed 21-year-old Harry living with his parents Fred and Josephine in the village of Otego, Otsego County, New York. Also living in the household were siblings Lavern, Lynn and Iva. Fred and Lavern were listed with an occupation of house painter, while Josephine was working as a sales lady, and Harry was listed as working in a chair factory.


Harry learned the photographic industry via an apprenticeship at Oneonta, New York. Following his apprenticeship he worked as a photographer at Buffalo, New York and at Toledo, Ohio. Earl then worked for well-known photographer H. F. Smith at Syracuse, New York for seven years from around 1914 to 1920.


While living at Syracuse, on February 10, 1914, Earl married Ada May Bannister, in a ceremony officiated by Reverend Dawley. Ada was the daughter of William and Hannah (Gray) Bannister. Ada was born at Watertown, New York on October 11, 1895. During her 64 years of living at the village of Sidney, Ada was very active in the community. She was member of the Sidney United Methodist Church and the United Methodist Women. She was also a 40-year member of the Sidney Monday Club, and was a State honorary Monday Club member. She was a member of the Sidney Senior Citizens and the Sidney Historical Society. Ada Earl passed away at her home in Sidney on April 9, 1985. Her funeral was conducted on April 12 at the Sidney United Methodist Church in a service officiated by the Reverend Dwight E. Giles Sr. Along with her husband, she is buried at Sand Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


Harry and Ada had a daughter, Phyllis, who tragically died in 1920 at the age of four. “Automobiles have played a tragic part in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Earl. Shortly before they came to Sidney from Syracuse, a little daughter about three years of age was killed by an automobile. They were out driving and had stopped at the side of the road and alighted from the car. The little one ran across the road to pick some flowers. She had started to return when an automobile approached at a high speed. Mr. and Mrs. Earl shouted a warning to the little girl, but it was too late, and before they could make a move to rescue her, they saw their daughter struck and killed before their horrified eyes.”[3]


Earl moved to his hometown at the village of Sidney in 1921 to establish his own studio. With his arrival the Sidney Record wrote that “Mr. Earl has had considerable experience in his profession, and comes to Sidney with an enviable reputation as an expert in his line of work. Sidney has been without a photographer for some time, in fact since Charles Phelps’ studio was destroyed by fire some months ago, so our people will again have an opportunity of “sitting up and looking pleasant” without having to go to some neighboring village.”[4]


Upon his arrival at Sidney the local newspapers regularly carried advertisements for his studio and provided short anecdotes about his various work and activities.


February 25, 1921, The Unadilla Times


“Harry Earl, who has been making his home with his father, Fred Earl, for the winter, will open a photograph studio at Sidney the first of March. Mr. Earl was a successful photographer at Syracuse before he came to live here, and we wish him much success in his new field. Mrs. Earl will accompany her husband, but they will not move their household goods there for the present.”


March 25, 1921, The Unadilla Times


“Having opened a studio, I am now prepared to do all kinds of photographic work. Portraits, Groups, Flashlights, Enlargements, Amateur Finishing, etc. Satisfaction Guaranteed. Harry C. Earl, Main Street, Sidney, N.Y.”


Having Opened a StudioHaving Opened a StudioMarch 25, 1921, The Unadilla Times

“Having opened a studio, I am not prepared to do all kinds of photographic work. Portraits, Groups, Flashlights, Enlargements, Amateur Finishing, etc. Satisfaction Guaranteed. Harry C. Earl, Main Street, Sidney, N.Y.”


March 26, 1921, Sidney Record


“Photographs. I am now ready to do all kinds of Photographic work. Children a Specialty. Satisfaction Guaranteed. H. C. Earl, 47 Main St., Sidney, N.Y.”


March 26, 1921, Sidney Record


“A new photographer has taken the place of the Elite Studio for many years conducted by C. H. Phelps and the place will be found on Main street formerly occupied by the Bassett dental offices. Mr. H. C. Earl has experience in the business entitles him to success. His work is guaranteed and prices moderate.”


November 11, 1921, The Unadilla Times


“Photographs. Special until Nov. 15. With every order of one dozen cabinet pictures, we will make without extra charge one 8x10 enlargement. Open Evenings. Phone 137-w. Harry C. Earl, Main Street, Sidney, N.Y.”


November 12, 1921, Sidney Record


“Thanksgiving Day is the home gathering day of the year. If distance prevents your home going, let your photograph carry your message of love to the old folks back home. Why not make an appointment today? H. C. Earl, 47 Main St., Sidney, N.Y.”


December 7, 1921, Sidney Record


“X-mas Remembrances. A dozen photographs will solve a dozen puzzling gift problems. Telephone 137-W for appointment. No settings made after December 15, for X-mas delivery. H. C. Earl, Phone 137-W. Sidney, New York.”


January 4, 1922, Sidney Enterprise


“Remembrances. Have us take a picture of the young ones. They will bring back pleasant memories of the small tots when they have grown up. Satisfaction guaranteed. H. C. Earl, Phone 137-W. Sidney, N.Y.”


February 11, 1922, Sidney Record


“Bear In Mind. We do picture framing correctly and satisfactory. We have a splendid showing of mouldings and easel frames and our prices are reasonable. H. C. Earl, Portrait Studio. Phone 137-w. 47 Main St., Sidney, N.Y.”


April 15, 1922, Sidney Record


“H. C. Earl. Sidney is fortunate in having a good photographer, the real kind. His first year’s work was completed April 1st, and his work has given excellent satisfaction, exact harmony of tone and at very moderate prices. No better work in leading city studios. Give your home men first choice. H. C. Earl is one of them.”


June 24, 1922, Sidney Record


“H. C. Earl photographic studio on Main street, is prepared to promptly fill all orders for graduation photos, singly or in group. Utmost care employed to give none but high-grade work at moderate prices. Photos by night or day, indoors or outdoors with good results guaranteed.”


On October 18, 1922, two D & H freight trains collided at the railroad crossing in Sidney, New York. Engineer William Toal, of Binghamton, was killed in the wreck. The Sidney Record described the scene.


“. . . dawn revealed a wreck of unusually spectacular features, two of the wrecked cars pyramided 50 feet high, overtopping the signal tower, which tower itself very narrowly escaped total destruction, escaping by a margin of less than two feet . . .


In railroad life there are wrecks, and again there are other wrecks, two kinds, the common every day wreck and the other, the kind of wreck that makes other far away towns sit up and take notice. Wednesday morning’s wreck in Sidney belonged to the take notice classification . . .


Two heavy engines had side-swiped and reduced to total wreckage, while two freight cars were loftily perched 50 feet in the air, high above the signal tower at the junction of the O. & W. and D. & H. railroads. The engines were a mass of twisted, interlocking labyrinth of steel and iron, with hissing steam adding to the terror of the scene.”[5]


Photographer Earl visited the site of the wreck that morning and took pictures of the scene. Some of the pictures were published in the local newspapers. It was later reported that Earl sold over 4,000 photographic views of the disaster.


In January 1923 Earl sold the developing part of his photographic business to C. B. Conrow, who “has had considerable experience in the line of developing photos for amateurs in this section and his work is sure to please. His office will be in his home on Maple avenue.”[6]


October 27, 1923, Sidney Record


“There’s another Sidney business man of three years service in Sidney, who by close attention to work and satisfactory results bids fair to remain many more successful years in this community. We refer to H. C. Earl, Main street artist-photographer. It makes no difference as between night time or day time, his photographic work gives perfect clear and accurate results and at prices within the means of all. Sometimes when too late bitter are the regrets that a photograph was not taken. Don’t get caught that way, leave no regrets in your family but secure the shadow before the substance fades and H. C. Earl is just the man to secure the shadow and send you on your way rejoicing.”


October 27, 1923, Sidney Record


“Photograph Free. Until Nov. 1st we will give a large portrait (8x10 inches) with every order of $5.00 or more. It is none too early to have your Xmas photographs made. For an appointment Phone 137-w. The Early Studio, Sidney, N.Y. Easel Frames, Colored Pictures.”


December 8, 1923, Sidney Record


“Greet Your Friends on Xmas Morning with Your Photograph. Have them made now and avoid the rush. For an appointment Phone 137-w. The Earl Studio, Sidney, N.Y. Easel Frames, Colored Pictures.”


February 2, 1924, Sidney Record


“What is the most interesting age? When the child takes the first step or starts for school? Confirmation or Graduation? To the Mother every stage and age is interesting. Every stage and age in the Child’s Lie may be marked with a Photograph which in after years will prove even more interesting than can now be contemplated. The Earl Studio, Sidney, N.Y. Phone for an Appointment, 137-w.”


March 1, 1924, Sidney Record


“‘Once there was a little boy’ – so the story book reads, and how rapidly he is growing into manhood. Have you had a really good photograph of him taken recently? Your children have a right to a photograph as they are today. Bring the kiddies to our studio. The Earl Studio, Sidney, N.Y.”


May 3, 1925, Sidney Record


“Be Photographed On Your Birthday. Surprise the family and your friends. Your photograph will prove the most welcome of gifts – and the most enduring. Nothing gives such complete satisfaction and lasting happiness as a pleasing portrait. The Earl Studio, Sidney, N.Y.”


May 13, 1924, Sidney Record


“At the H. C. Earl Studio on Main street, may be seen a fine photographic group of the Sidney High School Delta Gamma of 1923, which clearly demonstrates Mr. Earl’s ability as an artist. This framed grouping makes an excellent photographic study, bringing the features of the Delta Gamma Society into clear relief. The framed picture is to be forwarded to the National Historical Department of the D. G. Society.”


September 27, 1924, Sidney Record


“MacDonald Hose Co. No. 2, Thursday evening, 25th, hope to meet as many friends as possible at their company dance and cordially invite all who possibly can come to do so. These occasions are always most enjoyable. Photographer Earl recently took a fine group picture of the thirty members of the company in uniform, the boys make a sturdy looking band of ‘smoke eaters.’”


November 22, 1924, Sidney Record


         “H. C. Earl. Photographer. Photographs made anytime, anyplace. Phone 137-w. Sidney, N.Y.”


February 21, 1925, Sidney Record


         “The Earl Studio. All Kinds of Photographic Work; Picture Framing.”


January 31, 1925, Sidney Record


“Photographer Earl took some fine views of the T. E. on Mt. Moses, very well worth preserving for future reference.”


October 15, 1925, Sidney Enterprise


“Photographer Harry C. Earl has returned from a week spent in New York on business and attending the annual meeting of photographers. Artificial lighting was one of the subjects earnestly considered by the convention. Mr. Earl has his studio artificially lighted by the latest methods and can successfully take a picture at any hour of the day or night, regardless of weather conditions, the old-time bogey of the photograph studio.”


October 31, 1925, Sidney Record


“Your Photograph. The one gift that always pleases. Now is the best time to have your sitting. You are not so busy now and we are not so busy as we will be next month. Better to come in October than to be disappointed in December. A deposit at time of sitting will hold your photograph until Christmas time. Make your appointment today. Phone 137-W. The Earl Studio, Sidney, N.Y.”


April 17, 1926, Sidney Record


“On the occasion of the banquet sponsored by Mr. Edgar A. Gibson, of this village, together with representatives of the Celotex company, at the Hotel De Cumber, 7th inst., a flashlight was taken of those present by photographer H. C. Earl. Mr. Earl gave a fine example of the thing called “Service.” One-half hour after the flash-light was taken Mr. Earl returned with the mounted photograph delivered picture to Celotex representatives, much to their surprise as well as pleasure.”


June 26, 1926, Sidney Record


“The Sidney Fire Department, always attentive to duty, next Monday evening, 28th, will renew its regular fire drills. These drills are highly important to prompt service in case of fire. The Department looks well in the new uniforms, consisting of red shirt, blue caps, white trousers. Last Sunday afternoon photographer Earl on the Riverside ball ground, took several very fine photographs of the firemen, one of which will be presented to the Chenango Firemen’s Association, which held a convention Monday night at Brisben, N.Y.”


In June 1927 Harry Earl suffered severe injuries as the result of a car accident that took place while driving from Sidney to Syracuse. At first it was feared that Harry would not survive the accident, but the quick actions of his wife and a friend, who were also in the car, as well as the fast response from the ambulance, led to his survival and eventual recovery.


“When about two miles out of Syracuse on a road with which Mr. Earl, who was used to driving, was unacquainted, was a sharp turn with a large tree at the side of the road near the center of the curve. Before Mr. Earl could successfully make the turn the car crashed into the tree.


Mrs. Earl and Mr. Steinwinter were catapulted through the top of the car and landed in a garden adjoining the highway. Mr. Earl was not so fortunate. He was pinned between the tree and the badly crushed car.


Mrs. Earl and Mr. Steinwinter were able to lift the car enough to extricate him. It was seen that he was very badly injured and an ambulance was summoned. This quickly arrived, accompanied by a surgeon, and Mr. and Mrs. Earl and Mr. Steinwinter were removed to the Crouse-Irving hospital.


Examination showed that Mr. Earl had received a fractured right arm; the left shoulder blade was broken, his upper jaw bone and nose were fractured and four ribs also broken. He had also sustained a bad cut on one leg, requiring several stitches to close, and his condition was very critical, and but little encouragement as to his recovery has as yet been given by the hospital staff.”[7]


Friends and family visited Earl at Syracuse during his recovery. A testimonial signed by 110 people from Sidney was presented to him at the hospital in Syracuse. Within a month Earl was back at the family home on River Street to continue recuperating, and within a few months he was back at work.


August 13, 1927, Sidney Record


“Photographer H. C. Earl is making gradual but slow recovery from the recent automobile accident in Syracuse but at the same time work continues at the Main street studio with the able assistance of Mrs. Earl and all orders receive immediate attention and friends are urged to reserve their orders for the holidays for the Earl studio and it will be greatly appreciated. Anyone is liable to get a hard rap at any time and nothing helps more than the cheer of friends at such times.”


November 3, 1927, Sidney Enterprise


“The Delta Gamma sorority of the Sidney school initiated the Halloween season with a Kid Party, held at the Community House last Thursday evening. There was a big attendance of the young ladies, who were clothed as young children. They had a very pleasant evening which was concluded by Photographer Harry Earl taking a picture of the party, in their cute little costumes.”


October 16, 1930, Sidney Enterprise


“Free! 1 8x10 Photograph With Every Dozen Pictures Until November 1st. You are not as busy – we are not as busy – as we will be later. STOP in now and make your appointment for a sitting and “Avoid the Holiday Rush.” The Earl Studio, Phone 137-W, Sidney, N.Y.”


November 30, 1933, Sidney Enterprise


“Christmas Special. Six 5x7 Photographs mounted in attractive folders for $5.00. This special is not good after December 9th. Make your appointment early! The Earl Studio, Phone 69-J, Sidney, New York.”


In 1930 Earl attended the prestigious National Photographers School at Winona Lake, Indiana. The school, which had enrolled 85 photographers that year, included students from all over the United States. Operated by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), the officially named Winona International School of Professional Photography held summer classes at Winona Lake each year from 1921 to 1984, when it moved to a new campus at Mount Prospect, Illinois. In 1994 the school moved again, this time to Atlanta, Georgia.


In 1937 Earl sold his portrait studio and equipment to the partnership of Henderson and Young, “two Syracuse men who come to Sidney highly recommended as expert photographers.”[8] Within a year, newspaper advertisements showed the business being operated only by Henderson, under the name of the Henderson Studio.


After selling his studio, Earl went to work as the official photographer for the Scintilla Magneto Division of the Bendix Aviation Corporation. Earl had previous experience with the company, having “made the photographs for the first manual of magnetos in 1925 when Scintilla was still under the ownership of Brown-Boveri Company.”[9]


The Scintilla Division had relocated from New York City to Sidney in the mid-1920s with approximately 15 employees. The company rapidly grew in size, employing over 4,000 people by 1942, and 8,600 people during the boom years of World War II. Today, the company, after many mergers and corporate takeovers, continues to operate at Sidney as the Amphenol Aerospace Company.


As part of the 1939 World’s Fair held at Queens, New York, Delaware County was to be represented in the New York State building through a photo mural exhibit of the region, including exhibits representing the industrial and agricultural life of the county and its historical background. Earl’s photographic work was included among the 26 pictures chosen to represent Delaware County.


While working at the Scintilla Magneto Division, Earl served as the plant photographer for The Scintillator, the company publication. The Scintillator was first published in 1943 and was mailed monthly to the homes of more than 4,600 Scintilla employees. There was also an outside mailing to business people in the community and other industrial manufacturers. In 1953 The Scintillator won a national award as determined by the American Association of Industrial Editors. The focus of the award was to encourage plant publications to promote a register and vote campaign.


Harry C. Earl retired from the Scintilla Magneto Division on September 30, 1954 after 17 1/2 years of service, and after a combined 45 years of working as a portrait and commercial photographer.




Harry C. Earl had a long and distinguished career as a photographer, which included 34 years at the village of Sidney. Through his popular studio, he photographed thousands of residents of the village and the surrounding region between 1921 and 1937. He then worked at a critically important business, the Scintilla Magneto Division, as it supported World War II on the home front through its production of highly regarded aviation and military products.


Harry C. Earl passed away after a long illness at 65 years of age, only months after his retirement. He died at the hospital in Sidney on Monday, November 15, 1954. Funeral services were held on November 18, 1954 at the C. H. Landers Chapel, with Reverend Roger B. Glazier, pastor of the Methodist Church, officiating. Earl, along with his wife, his parents, his grandparents and several other family members, is buried at Sand Hill Cemetery in Unadilla, New York.


[1] “Mrs. Fred Earl.” Sidney Enterprise (Sidney, New York). April 22, 1937.

[2] “Lavern T. Earl.” Sidney Enterprise (Sidney, New York). May 14, 1925.

[3] “Pinned Between Tree and His Badly Smashed Auto.” Sidney Enterprise (Sidney, New York). June 16, 1927.

[4] “New Photographer.” Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). February 23, 1921.

[5] “D. & H. Trains Crash in the Sidney Yard.” Sidney Record (Sidney, New York). October 21, 1922.

[6] “Amateur Work.” Sidney Enterprise (Sidney, New York). January 10, 1923.

[7] “Pinned Between Tree and His Badly Smashed Auto.” Sidney Enterprise (Sidney, New York). June 16, 1927.

[8] “Local Photographer Enters Magneto Plant.” Sidney Enterprise (Sidney, New York). March 4, 1937.

[9] “Funeral Thursday for Harry Earl.” Sidney Record – Enterprise (Sidney, New York). November 18, 1954.



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