Dentists I Have Not Known: John Willis White Lyle

Occasionally I have the good fortune to find a photograph that is so well-identified that I can trace something of the history of the sitter.

On the back of this Richard Walzl cabinet card photograph is written “Uncle Jno. Willie White Lyle-Picture made first year in Baltimore Dental College, Baltimore, Md., 1893.”

Several family historians on Ancestry.com have traced this gentleman’s roots and descendants in census and other records.

John W. W. Lyle (1869-1948) was born in Scott County, Mississippi to wealthy Georgia-born farmer Matthew Lyle (1818-1890) who had served in the Confederate Army with the 5th Mississippi Infantry.

John Lyle received his DDS from the storied Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in March 1895.

After dental training in Baltimore, John returned to his home state and settled in the town of Good Hope, and then Lena, Leake County, with his wife, Ouda White Lyle, to practice dentistry and to farm on Cash Road. They had three children: John Matthew Lyle, Maggie, and Gilbert G. Lyle  (1904-1999).

John W. W. Lyle is buried in Cash Cemetery, Scott County, Mississippi, along with several other family members.

The photographer has improved upon the old style of vignetted busts by using  a soft, cloud-like background that adds texture without distracting from the subject.

William Lincoln Cover

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This cabinet card photograph may be a portrait of Baltimore photographer William Lincoln Cover. The words “Cousin Will Cover” are penciled on the back.

Born 5 Jan 1844, William L. Cover grew up in Frederick County, Maryland. The son of prosperous carpenter Frederick Cover, William attended Emmitsburg Academy. According to a brief biography published in the Baltimore SUN in 1900, Cover set up as a photographer in Baltimore about 1872. The 1870 census for Baltimore city has Cover listed as a photographer, boarding in the home of an elderly lady named Anna Rose.

He ran on the Democratic ticket for the State House of Delegates for the Third District in 1899 and was elected.

I haven’t found a date of death, yet, but letters of administration for the estate of William L. Cover were granted to his wife Susanna Cover in April 1903. Their home was at 304 N. Stricker Street, and his studio was located at 754 W. Baltimore Street.

I have a Cover carte de visite with a different studio address, 560 W. Baltimore Street, whose simple imprint Darrah suggests dates to anywhere from 1868 to 1882; according to Ross Kelbaugh, Cover’s studio was located at 560 W. Baltimore from 1868 to 1886 and 754 W. Baltimore from 1887 to 1903.

He is dressed formally in a Victorian tailcoat and white wingtip shirt. Elaborate advertising graphics on the reverse feature a Greek theme. He may have had this formal portrait taken for his campaign ca. 1899.

Sailor in the Maryland Naval Militia, ca. 1915

This photo by Max J. Reissert was sent to me by my genealogy buddy and shirttail cousin, Janet Canapp. She found it in a family album and has been researching the photograph and uniform to get an idea of who it might be.

The young man is wearing what appears to be a ca. World War I naval uniform, with puttees, maybe made of canvas. Under a microscope, Janet says the initials on his cap are M N G. Maryland had a naval militia as part of its national guard, so our best guess is that the initials stand for “Maryland National Guard.”

The operator chose a rather incongruous garden motif for a background. The young sailor stands tall and smiling, clearly proud of his position. Note the base of the posing stand visible behind his feet.

Reissert’s studio had been occupied by Julius Hebbel ca. 1889-1904. Reissert and his wife are both listed as photographers on N. Gay Street in the 1910 census.

Born about 1867 in Germany, Reissert immigrated to the U.S. in 1897 and was still active as a photographer in 1930.

Inexplicable Woman with Fishing Pole

This cabinet card was taken in the studio of William Ashman, 17 West Lexington Street, Baltimore, between 1889 and 1904. Its white mount, blind embossed studio identification and elaborate sylvan background are consistent with the period.

The woman appears to be wearing some sort of seaside or bathing costume. She holds a fishing pole with one hand, and with her other hand, points to the fish (a prop, I hope) on the pole.

I haven’t been able to locate a similar costume. The 1890s bathing outfits I’ve found all have knee-length openings for the legs. Perhaps it was a stage costume?

According to the individual from whom I acquired this cabinet portrait,  the woman in the photograph probably belonged to two prominent Baltimore and Western Maryland families, the Wardwells and the Brundiges.

This is one of the Wardwell sisters, I believe,” she says. “I own many family photos, and this one came from a group of things from their large house in Baltimore that was torn down in the first decades of the 20th century to make way for row houses.” (private communication, August 2010)

Stripped of its context and without identification, this photo is difficult to interpret. An eccentric on a spree? An unidentified stage actress? Me in the late nineteenth century?

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.

Art Nouveau Verso (A Maryland Volunteer Fireman, Continued)

This is the back of a cabinet card photograph of an unidentified volunteer fireman (see previous post for the front).  Its flowers and vines motifs are typical of Art Nouveau, a style that flourished from 1890 to 1905.

Julius Hebbel, like many other photographers, aspired to practice “artistic photography.” From the very beginning, photographers aspired to equal or even supercede painting and drawing. Others, like David Woodward, inventor of the”solar camera,” the  first widely-used enlarger, championed photography as an aid to painting.

Here, as flowers burst from the inner frame and the painter’s palette leads the eye across a rural bridge and deeper into the drawing,  the riot of the graphic artist’s imagination threatens to overwhelm photography’s claims.

A Turn-of-the Century Volunteer Fireman

This cabinet card photograph by Julius Hebbel was probably taken sometime between 1889 and 1920, when the Hebbel studio was located at 409-411 Gay Street in Baltimore.

The diamond die-cut border, chocolate brown mount, and elaborate, art nouveau flowers-and-vines advertisement on the verso suggest a date of 1890-1905.

The photographer chose a head-and-shoulders pose on a simple cream background, allowing the fireman’s uniform and gilt-trimmed cap to provide the portrait’s only embellishment.

The youthful, unidentified sitter looks off into the distance, as if scanning the horizon for smoke.

The initials on the sitter’s woolen bib-style shirt, E. B. V. F. C., don’t  match the names of any Maryland localities, according to my contact at the Maryland State Firemen’s Association.

“More likely,” he says, “is the probability of a visiting company from another state, most likely attending the Maryland State Firemen’s Association convention, several of which were held in Baltimore.

“It was not uncommon for companies from as far as New Jersey to send apparatus and manpower for these festive occasions. The conventions of old not only held parades, but also firematic contests such as hook up teams, pumping teams, and ladder teams. These contests were a source of great pride and usually attracted companies for 100 miles or more.

“Thus, [the company] most likely was from out of state. It could be East Berlin, PA located in Adams County, PA as I believe that company dates around 1890. They do use the number. one, but actually are incorporated at the Liberty Fire Company.

“It could also be East Brunswick, NJ, founded in 1906 that actually goes by Fire District No. 1. Either of these companies, or a variety of others, could be the mysterious EBVFC.”

If you have an idea which fire company is represented by the sitter’s shirt, please leave a comment.

Norval H. Busey, Photographer and Painter

This cabinet photograph of an unidentified man was taken in the studio of Norval Hamilton Busey (1845-1928) at the corner of Charles and Fayette streets in Baltimore, possibly in the early 1870s.

Bucking the trends of the time toward elaborate backdrops and props, Busey allows the subject’s strong features and clear, direct gaze to confront the viewer without adornment or pretense.

Busey’s only concession to the pressures of professional trends was to use the bold script signature popularized by New York’s phtographer-to-the stars Napoleon Sarony.

Born in Virginia to Methodist clergyman Thomas H. Busey in 1845, Norval Busey settled with his family in Baltimore between 1850 and 1860. According to Maryland historian Ross J. Kelbaugh’s biography of Busey, the young man worked for photographers Stanton & Butler until 1867, when he opened his own studio in York, Pennsylvania.

By 1870, Busey had returned to Baltimore with his wife, Emma, and their three daughters, Blanche, Rosamund, and Emma. In 1900, Busey, now a widower, had relocated to New York city, where he opened a gallery and associated with the artists of the Salmagundi Club.

Busey, who is said to have studied in Paris under Bouguereau, was ultimately more interested in painting than in photography. A number of his portraits of members of the Duke family hang in the Duke University Lilly Library, including Benjamin N. Duke, his wife, Sarah Pearson Duke, and their children, Angier and Mary.

Busey also showed the works of other artists in his photography studio and gallery, including Arthur Quartley’s seascapes.

He died at the Hinsdale, Illinois home of his fourth daughter, Ina Hamilton Butler, second wife of Chicago publisher Burridge Davenal Butler, on May 20th, 1928. He is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Baltimore. Busey’s only son, Norval H. Busey, Jr., became an attorney.

More Babies

Babies were rarely photographed with a parent. This unusually lively portrait of a infant and mother, photographed by George E. Day between 1896 and 1902, captures a mother’s happiness and pride. The baby seems bemused.

Faster exposure techniques developed toward the end of the 19th century enabled photographers to capture more candid expressions and attitudes. Photographers often used the term “instantaneous” to attract mothers.

The oversized mount with its less obtrusive studio advertising also indicates a late-century origin.

Babies, Babies, Babies

While I’ve yet to come across a carte de visite of an infant, the era of the cabinet card photograph brought about an explosion of baby portraits.

For some reason, most babies were photographed solo. The prodigy was usually dressed in an extremely long white garment, probably a christening gown.

Here is a typical cabinet card photograph of a baby by the Julius Hebbel Studio. Hebbel babies were often photographed on one of his elaborate wicker seats.