Barnett McFee Clinedinst, Jr. (1862-1953)

This cabinet card photograph of young Peirce Hill Brereton (1894-1963) was taken by the Washington, D.C. studio of Barnett M. Clinedinst (b. abt. 1838, Woodstock, Va.; d. 1904, Washington, DC) and Barnett M. Clinedinst, Jr. The Clinedinsts also had a studio in Baltimore, from 1880 to 1883 at various locations on Lexington Street, and then from 1885 to at least 1891 at various addresses on N. Charles Street.

Born approximately 1838 in Woodstock, Virginia to prosperous carriage-builder John Clinedinst, Barnett Clinedinst Sr.  began his married life as an artist. He turned to photography, and after the Civil War, built up a prosperous studio in Staunton, Virginia. In 1880, he had settled with his wife, Caroline McFee, and their children, in Baltimore, and opened a studio there. In 1883, he purchased David A. Woodward’s Monumental Art Studio.

His son, Barnett M.  Clinedinst, Jr., followed him into the business.  They opened a studio in Washington, D.C. that brought even greater success. Clinedinst Jr.  photographed innumerable notables in government, the military, and society, including Theodore Roosevelt, President Taft, and President Wilson.  He became the official White House photographer for three administrations. Newspapers called him Washington’s “court photographer.” An early advocate for the use of electric lighting in the studio, his photos were published in newspapers throughout the country. He died in St. Petersburg, Florida on 14 March 1953.

Unlike most card photographs, this one is not only identified, but has a traceable sitter. Peirce Hill Brereton was the son of Paterson, New Jersey-born Lt. Percy Hutchinson Brereton of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard) and Mary Averic Heineken Peirce. The Breretons had three children, of whom only Peirce survived to adulthood.

Peirce, born in 1894, was probably about 10 years old when this photograph was taken. The Breretons lived for a period in Washington, D.C., but Peirce probably also spent a good chunk of his childhood in Providence, Rhode Island. Peirce received a law degree from Yale University, and settled in Providence and Kent, Rhode Island to practice law. He married Julia Marion Stockard, and they had two chidren, Marion and Peirce Jr.

Brereton was elected mayor of Kent, Rhode Island on the Republican ticket in 1933, but the stock market crash and ensuing Depression swept Roosevelt Democrats into office all over the country, including Kent. He served only a year in office.

It’s nice to have an approximate date for this photo. As Brereton was born in 1894, the photograph was probably taken around 1904. The card mount, a subdued fawn gray with an restrained studio mark, is congruent with an early 1900s date, as is the more casual pose of the subject, seated on a faux stone wall.


  1. Sally Koch says:

    I have a large photograph of President Theodore Roosevelt on his horse, Bleistein jumping over a fence. It has Theodore’s signature as well as the copyright signature by Clinedinst. May 3, 1902. I just purchased this from an antiue mall near STurgis, Michigan. I would love more information on this.

    1. waldonia says:

      Thanks for reading my blog, Sally. . . Cool find! Everything I know about Barnett McFee Clinedinst is in my blog posts, really . . . If you haven’t already, I’d suggest going to dealer who is an expert in presidential memorabilia to get an idea of its value.

  2. Gerald says:

    Caroline McFee was actually Caroline McFee South (her mother’s maiden name was McFee). Her brother, John M. South, moved to Maryland’s Eastern Shore after the Civil War, where he was also an accomplished photographer. South lived with Clinedinst for a while as a youngster and no doubt learned the craft from the artist. This is a great website. Thanks for your efforts.

    1. waldonia says:

      Thank you so much for the correction and the information about John M. South! After reading your comment, I looked him up in my Kelbaugh “bible,” and he has South listed as working in Crumpton, Queen Anne’s County, and in Chestertown. Does that jibe with what you know? I’d love to see some of his work and will look out for it.

  3. Barbara says:

    I am in possession of a photograph from this studio. The image looks like an older picture of the child. If you could email me, I will send you an attachment of the picture.
    Thank you

    1. waldonia says:

      Cool! Would love to add it to the post and would be happy to give you credit, of course.

  4. Janet says:

    What an adorable child. I love this one. Where did you find it?

    1. waldonia says:

      Ebay is the great source of all (kind of like the Ganges). I would have nothing if it weren’t for ebay.

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