Busey Beginning: “Mr. Packard, School Teacher in Liberty Md”

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According to Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers,Virginia-born artist and photogapher Norval Hamilton Busey (1845-1928) opened his first independent gallery and studio in York, Pennsylvania in 1867. York Area Photographers 1840-1997 (spelling his name “Norvel Bushey”) places him in York 1868-1869, after which Busey moved on to Baltimore.

Busey was one of a number of photographers who tenanted the studio in  “Rupp’s Building,” or the Rupp Building, on York’s main square, between 1847 and 1900 (York Area Photographers 1840-1997).

He was the son of a Methodist minister, the Rev. Thomas H. Busey. Rev. Busey died when Norval was about 11, so he was raised by his mother, Sarah Neely McLanahan Busey.

Norval married Miss Emma V. Laley, the daughter of a Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia armory worker,  in 1866, and they had four children: Blanche, Rosamund, Ina, and Norval Hamilton Busey Jr.

Sometime between 1880 and 1900 Busey moved his family to Manhattan, where he returned to his first love, drawing and painting, and opened an art gallery.

This conventional, stiff carte de visite portrait of a gentleman identified as “Mr. Packard, school teacher in Liberty Md.,” is decidedly journeyman’s work. The stereotypical props of 1860s card portraits are all there: the chair and table, drapery, and simple, unembellished background were all standard for the time.

Busey has chosen an awkard pose, not quite bust, not quite full-length, and his use of light and shadow is not as skillful as it would become in his Baltimore work.

The photographer has tried to indicate Packard’s profession by giving him a pen, paper and inkwell, but the subject’s somewhat blank stare robs the pose of naturalness.

So who was “Mr. Packard”? There was a Benjamin F. Packard born 1826 in New York, living in Fredericktown in 1850, occcupation school teacher, who fits the bill. Liberty was in Frederick County.

In 1910, a Benjamin Packard lived with his sister Helen (1829-1908) and brother-in-law, writer, attorney and judge John Gibson (1829-1890). Gibson was the author/editor of an oft-referenced 1886 History of York County, Pennsylvania.

The Gibsons and Benjamin F. Packard (1836-1905) are buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery, York, Penn.

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