It is always a pleasure to hear from my readers, but it is especially nice when they share something with me. In this particular case, it is a dozen family photographs that a reader of this blog saw no further reason to keep. She had made scans of the images, and no one in the family was interested in having the originals, and they were offered to me.
Oh, my, what a sweet group of photographs it is! One dozen! There are seven tintypes and five cartes de visite – it was like a child’s Christmas morning for me as I opened the package, this gift.
I am especially fond of tintypes, the popular term used for this Americanized photographic process of making photographs on metal. Tintypes were produced well into the twentieth century, by which time poses and production methods became much more casual.
The photograph made via this process was first referred to as a melainotype (from the Greek melaino, as in dark, or black) by its Ohio inventors Hamilton L. Smith and Peter Neff, Jr. who patented their process in February 1856. The term that became more commonly used in the 1860s, ferrotype (from latin ferro, for iron), was the name coined by another Ohio photographer, Victor Moreau Griswold, who patented his processes, which used a thinner metal photographic plate, in July and October 1856.
For more detail on the process, a good history of the tintype, and the patents surrounding it, is The American Tintype by Floyd Rinhart, Marion Rinhart and Robert W. Wagner, with a foreword by our own W. Robert Nix, University of Georgia professor emeritus (The Ohio State University Press, 1999).
This little collection of a dozen photographs do not all carry a photographer’s mark, but those that do were made by three different Savannah, Georgia, photographers – J. F. Coonley, J.U.P. Burnham, and J. N. Wilson. Some of the images have paper pasted to the back, which is explained by what my reader told me:
I don’t even know their provenance, other than the fact that all were once pasted onto a single sheet of lined paper in an old glass-fronted frame.
According to my reader, this particular branch of the Foy family was made up of:
George Foy (1794-1882) and Rebecca Dasher (1805-1869) were both born and lived in Effingham County, Georgia, descendants of early German & Salzburger immigrants who first settled there. They had 15 children: George Washington Foy, Christian Frederick Foy, Ann Elizabeth Foy, John Jackson Foy, Harriet Frances Foy Everett, Henry Lewis Foy, William Howard Foy, Georgia Ann Foy West, James Stewart Foy, Mary Rosanna Foy Trowell, Julia Amelia Foy Stotesbury, Sarah Elizabeth Foy Dutton [Speir], Edward Edwin Foy, Martha Rebecca Foy Griner, and Eugenia Nantallia Foy Dutton.
George was a man of considerable wealth who lived on an 868-acre plantation and owned a large sawmill and planing mill in Egypt, Georgia.
My reader also told me that George Foy was a benefactor to the Elam Egypt Baptist Church where many of the Foy family are buried. The Elam-Egypt Baptist Church Cemetery is also known as Foy Cemetery.
My reader posted a comment to my blog post called A Little R & R, Encounters With Readers and Research, which is how our conversation began. She was adding information to further verify to me that photographer J.F. Coonley, the focus of that post, was working in Savannah, Georgia as early as 1867.
Henry L. Foy was among the POWs surrendered to the Union at Tallahassee [FL] in May 1865 and paroled in Albany, GA that month. I don’t know how he died two and a half years later, and he doesn’t look ill in the photo, so it could have been taken any time between 1865 and 1867.
Because J.F. Coonley only began working in Savannah sometime in 1867, and was gone by May 1869, we can assume this carte de visite of Henry Lewis Foy, who died December 20, 1867, was made in Coonley’s studio earlier in 1867.
The beautiful little girl in the full-length, Bon Ton size tintype above, at the head of this post, is Henry’s daughter Alice, born 1859. Although her homespun dress may suggest an earlier date, I believe this image was made about 1868 because Alice looks to be about nine or ten years old. It is possible this tintype was taken on the same day as her father’s carte-de-visite in Coonley’s studio, but I think not. The paper sleeve is unmarked and the photographer is unknown.
A photographer named J. U. P. [John Usher Parsons] Burnham was a Maine photographer working in Savannah in 1870 and 1871. Burnham normally attached his advertisement to his tintypes.
Several women in the Foy family were photographed in the “large gem” ferrotype format by Burnham in about 1871. These images were put into carte de visits-size decorative paper sleeves so the two could be put into the same album.
Sisters Annie (1828-1880), Lizzie (1840-1919; whose dress suggests she may have been pregnant), Martha (1843-1922) and Georgia Ann (1847-1907), may have gone into Savannah together to visit the ferrotype gallery. A brother or other male relative likely went with them.
The tintype of Alice Foy, at the beginning of his post, and other unmarked Foy family carte de visites, may have been made by photographer J. N. Wilson, who opened a studio in Savannah in 1865. Wilson remained a photographer in Savannah until his death in 1897, and he made photographs in the carte de visite format of some of the Foy brothers in about 1870, for certain those of George Washington Foy (1825-1897) and Edward E. Foy (1842-1907).
J. N. Wilson produced ferrotypes at one Savannah location (21 Bull St.), and his card photographs at another (143 Broughton St.).
It is possible Wilson made the unmarked carte de visite of Martha Rebecca and of her sister Eugenia, and/or the unmarked ferrotype of their brother William H. Foy (1833-1875). In the two cartes de visite above, the brothers sit in fringed chairs. William also sits in a fringed studio chair similar to his brothers’ although his coat covers part of it. This fringed prop chair could be obtained from Anthony & Co., New York, and was used in many photographer’s studios in the late 1860s, not only in J. N. Wilson’s. We do not know if Wilson made that ferrotype. The image of the unidentified Foy brother below is probably James Stewart Foy (born 1836). It too, may or may not have been made in Savannah by J.N. Wilson.
The other likely photographers of the unmarked Foy images are: D.[Daniel] J. Ryan (1836-1908) who worked in Savannah from 1867 to 1885 (see my post Boys at the Photographer’s Studio); Burnham’s predecessor, J. [James] A.Palmer (1823-1896) who worked in Savannah from sometime in 1866 until January 1870; and if the image was taken even earlier, J. W. [Jabez Whiting] Perkins (ca. 1828-1898), who left Savannah late 1867. See my post Siblings in the Photographer’s Studio for more on Perkins, as well as on Wilson.
On December 20, 1870, J. N. Wilson was mentioned in the “Savannah” section of the (Macon) Georgia Weekly & Telegraph & Georgia Journal & Messenger for taking a photograph of Five Generations:
….the well known photographer has just taken upon one plate the likeness of Mrs. Gilbert Butler, of this city; her mother, Mrs. J.R. Stilwell; her daughter, Mrs. J.V. Carver; her grand daughter, Mrs. F. J. Doolittle; and her great grand daughter, Miss Georgia B. Doolittle. The oldest lady in the group being ninety, and the youngest four years of age.
Having photographs of any, or if you are lucky, many family members is quite a plus in doing family research. I have gotten to know many families not my own in my research into Georgia’s photographers. In truth, I think of them as “mine” (a descendant of one photographer made me his “honorary cousin”), and I find each story surrounding these photographers — and their sitters — fascinating.
I love hearing from readers of this blog and how pleased they are to learn more about the photographers who made their family photographs. Let me hear from you if you have more to add, a comment or correction to make, or another story about photographers and your Georgia photographs.
© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. The piece can be re-blogged, and excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.