Tag Archives: J. Gurney & Sons

In the shadow of giants, or “So you’re the little lady whose book started this big war”

Two new additions to the collection, and what may well be a collecting coup – a potentially previously unknown image of Harriet Beecher Stowe, by Gurney of New York.

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe

For those unfamiliar with who Harriet Beecher Stowe was, she was the daughter of a deeply intellectual preacher and abolitionist, Lyman Beecher. Her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, would become a leading figure in the abolition movement of his own, and a major intellectual light in Victorian-era America.Henry Ward Beecher, from the New York Times

Even though Henry was an oratorical and political powerhouse in his day, famous (or infamous, depending on your Union or Confederate sympathies), Harriet Beecher Stowe eclipsed him in his fame as a result of a book she wrote, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.

It is reported that upon being introduced to Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862, Abraham Lincoln fondly commented she was “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

Although President Lincoln’s comment was certainly made in jest, in truth, Stowe’s novel was indeed instrumental in awakening the abolitionist cause, which was a major factor in turning a nation against itself for four arduous years.

* see linked article below for citation

For an excellent biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe, read Harriet Beecher Stowe biography, Ohio State University History department

Here is a photo of Henry and Harriet together, from Wikipedia-

Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe

This photo of Henry Ward Beecher, my other acquisition in this pair, is one by Mathew Brady, published by E&HT Anthony and as such is a common image in average condition.

Henry Ward Beecher, by Brady
Henry Ward Beecher, by Brady

Acquiring this image of Harriet Beecher Stowe in many ways closes a circle for me as I now have a face to go with the book, of which I own a rather tatty copy of the 1852 first printing of the first British edition of the book.

CDV Versos – the Evolution of the Blind Stamp

We’ll start this one with two of the most famous Victorian era photographers, Alexander Gardner and Mathew Brady. The Gardner blind stamp changes, but the only thing I can say for certain is that the stamp with the US Capitol building on it was during or shortly after the Civil War, as it touts his association with the Union army.

Alex Gardner, Version 1
Alex Gardner, Version 1
Alex Gardner, Version 2
Alex Gardner, Version 2
Alex Gardner, Version 3
Alex Gardner, Version 3
The Brady evolution is more obvious. The simple, plain version is his blind stamp from early in the Civil War period. The more ornate, shield-like design would be the 1870s, and the final version is the large letters.
Mathew Brady, Early
Mathew Brady, Early
Mathew Brady, Middle
Mathew Brady, Middle
Mathew Brady, Late
Mathew Brady, Late
Note the similar evolution in Chas Eisenmann’s blind stamp design. I don’t have a good idea of how long a span of time it took for his design to evolve – it may have been as little as a few years, or it may have been a decade or more separating them. I think though that once he changed it, he stuck with the globetrotter logo for an extended period, perhaps 20 years or more.
Chas Eisenmann, Early
Chas Eisenmann, Early
Chas Eisenmann, Late
Chas Eisenmann, Late
C.D. Fredricks bind stamp. I know I have another one of his that would be the “middle” design, but I haven’t hunted it down in the CDV album I have – it would be the “middle” in that it no longer says, “specialité”, but also lists Paris and Havana as studio locations, but the design is not as fancy as the late one.
CD Fredricks, Early
CD Fredricks, Early
CD Fredricks, Late
CD Fredricks, Late
M.P. Rice. Note the change also includes the addition of (most likely) his son to the masthead of the business. Using the date on the verso, this style had arrived by the late 1870s, so the shield designs would have been late 1860s to early 1870s.
M.P. Rice, Early
M.P. Rice, Early
M.P. Rice, Late
M.P. Rice, Late
Finally some others for which I don’t have early/late pairings. These are just a few of the others I have, but I like looking at them just for the art.
D. Wilkes
D. Wilkes
G.W. Davis
G.W. Davis
Abraham Bogardus
Abraham Bogardus
J. Gurney & Sons
J. Gurney & Sons

J. Gurney & Sons – Midget Actor

This is a cabinet card by J. Gurney & Sons of a midget actor in full theatrical costume. I wish I knew the identity of the actor. He must have been famous in the day, because he had Gurney photograph him. Going to Gurney would be somewhat akin to having Richard Avedon or Annie Liebowitz photograph you today. Well, maybe not Richard Avedon, as he’s dead now. But you get the idea.

Comic Actor by Gurney
Comic Actor by Gurney

J. Gurney & Sons CDV – Arthur Cleveland Coxe

Here is a remarkably well-preserved CDV of Arthur Cleveland Coxe, the second Episcopal bishop of New York. He was also known as a poet, and from the titles and descriptions of the works, he sounds like a typical mid-19th century American author, which is to say long-winded and basically unreadable to today’s audiences. This must have been a well-known image of him; if you go to Wikipedia to read his biography, you’ll see a copy of this same portrait.

Arthur Cleveland Coxe
Arthur Cleveland Coxe