A Jacob Byerly Carte de Visite

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According to published biographical sketches, the Byerlys came from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania to Frederick, Maryland, where in 1842 they opened a daguerreotype studio on Patrick Street, later moving to North Market Street.

From 1842 to 1915, three generations of Byerlys photographed the people and places of the town and its environs: Jacob Byerly (1807-1883), his son John Davis Byerly (1839-1914), and then John’s son Charles Byerly (1874-1944).

Charles took over the business at 29 North Market Street in 1899. In April 1915, the floor above the studio collapsed and destroyed the gallery. Although Charles rebuilt the Byerly Building (still in use at 27-29 North Market Street), he gave up the photography business. The building still bears the family name and the year 1915.

This carte de visite of an unknown young woman was probably taken before 1864, because there is no revenue stamp, and because according to Maryland photography historian Ross Kelbaugh, cartes from ca. 1863-1865 to about 1869, when Jacob retired, bore the name J. Byerly & Son.

Her dress exhibits the more tapered fullness of 1860s skirts, the full “bishop” sleeves, and the narrow, flat, white linen collar that replaced the wide lace collars of the 1850s.  She holds a book in her hands as if just interrupted while browsing, perhaps to indicate that she is educated beyond the norm for girls.

The Historical Society of Frederick County holds a substantial collection of photographs by and of the Byerlys and associated families.

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