Ross Kelbaugh

Everything I have learned or will learn about early photography and photographers in Maryland is based on the invaluable work of Ross J. Kelbaugh.

He has been collecting Maryland photographs and researching Maryland photographers for decades. If you want to know anything about early Baltimore and Maryland photographers, if you want to know anything about Maryland photography in the Civil War, or about photography and the Civil War in general, he’s your guy.

I have three of his excellent books so far:

The Civil War in Maryland: An Exhibit of Rare Photographs documents the exhibition Kelbaugh curated at the Maryland Historical Society in 2006.

An Introduction to Civil War Photography is a brief, clearly written, profusely illustrated soft-cover that does exactly what it says.  I’ve read it three times already.

Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900 is the bible for Maryland vintage photo collectors. Kelbaugh painstakingly gathered and collated information about Maryland photographers and studios using a variety of sources. This hard-cover labor of love, which includes reproductions of rare photos from Kelbaugh’s own collection and biographies of some of the most important photographers, is an essential reference work. I read it cover-to-cover as if it were a novel. I refer to it at least once a day.

You can buy Ross Kelbaugh’s books directly from him at his website,

Richard Walzl’s Photographic Emporium

This illustration from Richard Walzl’s journal The Photographer’s Friend, October 1872 depicts Walzl’s establishment at 46 North Charles Street in Baltimore.

Richard Edmund Walzl (1843-1899), a German immigrant, is believed to have opened his first photographic gallery in Baltimore in 1862 and moved to this location in 1872.

Walzl was an energetic entrepreneur. He studied photography under Robert Vinton Lansdale and William H. Weaver. Walzl was not content to sell photographs, however. He sold photographic supplies, published journals and books on photography, and involved himself in Baltimore’s public affairs.

Back Matters

This is the reverse of a Julius Hebbel Studio cabinet card. Studio advertising tended to grow more elaborate toward the end of the nineteenth century.

The front of the card depicts a young, well-dressed matron on a black mount (see previous post).

This card features a cherub with an artist’s palette amid palm fronds. According to William C. Darrah, cherubs were a popular motif in photographers’ advertising ca. 1875-1885, but Hebbel’s studio was located at 409 Gay Street from 1889 to 1904. The art nouveau-influenced typography Hebbel used suggests a date of ca. 1890-1905.

Leftover mounts were often used by photographers, so dating by mount style can be difficult.

Graves of Baltimore Photographers

Part of my preoccupation extends to documenting the lives and deaths of Baltimore’s bygone studio photographers.

My growing virtual cemetery of Baltimore photographers includes obituaries, biographical and genealogical notes, and, slowly, with the kind aid of distant strangers, photographs of grave markers.

This mourning card is a personal family memento.

Portrait of a Young Baltimore Matron

This young woman’s portrait, taken by the Julius Hebbel Studio in the late 19th century, is one of my favorites. Some may think the choice of a black mount and the jet beading on her dress indicate that the photo was a mourning memento.

The photographer has chosen to “vignette” his subject. Vignetting was a printing technique for shading the image gradually into the background. The elaborate embroidery and beading on her dress suggests this woman is from a prosperous family.

The warm ivory tone of the photograph is typical of albumen prints. An extract from hens’ eggs was used in the preparation of the paper.  Older albumen prints exhibit a characteristic crackled surface.

Hebbel Studio Advertisements

Hebbel Studio Advertisement, Baltimore SUN, April 1892

Here is a typical 1890s advertisement for the Julius Hebbel Studio on Gay Street in Baltimore.  Ads like these appeared in the SUN  jumbled together with ads for clothing, canned goods, plays, patent medicines, etc.

Before electric lighting, photography studios had to have large windows and skylights. Producing good results in a variety of lighting situations required some skill.

A good studio practitioner chose backgrounds and props that suited the client. Children were notoriously difficult to photograph without fuss. Studios that advertised “instantaneous portraits” were aiming for anxious mothers.

Julius Hebbel

Julius Hebbel (1853-1905) opened a photography studio in Baltimore in the later 1870s, and the business continued to operate under his name well after his death. I have also found references to Hebbel as a photographer in Westminster, Maryland.

Hebbel was born in Germany and immigrated to Baltimore with his family. His father was a grocer.

Post-1900 card photographs usually have larger, more understated black or gray mounts with a small,unobtrusive studio mark, sometimes embossed, sometimes printed. This toddler’s portrait was taken around 1920.

I have a soft spot for Julius Hebbel because this family photo was the first on which I noticed a photographer’s name.

Hebbel is buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park Cemetery. Even his headstone reflects the flair of his signature mark on the photograph’s mount.

Baltimore Studio Photographers of the 19th Century

These advertisements reflect the heyday of studio card photography in Baltimore. In this ad are a few of the best-known of the city’s late 19th century card photographers: John Weston Perkins, Barnett M. Clinedinst, who also had a studio in Washington, DC, William Getz, Bachrach & Bro., headed by David and Moses Bachrach, Richard Walzl, and William Ashman. The ads here appeared  in the Baltimore Sun just before the 1892 Thanksgiving holiday.