Only a year after he began advertising in Macon, Georgia, that he was making daguerreotypes, a young photographer working under the name J. A. Pugh, assured his potential customers that the equipment used in his Gallery was the best to be had because he did everything on the go ahead Young America Plan. His idea of being in the forefront, striving for excellence in his business and his work, and advertising that fact, never wavered throughout his career.
James Adolphus Pugh, born in July 1833, in Randolph County, North Carolina, was one of the twelve children of Jesse E. Pugh (1802-1881), a teacher, and his wife Nancy Reece Pugh (1804-1880). The couple named their fourth son after Jesse’s father, James (1749-1810), but family and friends called him “Dolph.” In 1850, at seventeen, he was living with his family in Randolph County, working as a [textile] factory carder.
Of James’s several siblings, all born in Randolph County, two eventually worked as photographers. Archimedes “Arch” Mayberry Pugh (b. Sept. 8, 1823), James’s older brother and the oldest son in the family, worked for a very short time in James’s Macon photo studio, around 1870, but little more is known of Arch. He was counted with James, in the 1870 federal census as a photographer, as was their younger brother David.
David “Dave” Perry Pugh (1838-1898) was first documented in Macon in the 1860 federal census and he worked with his brother James from about 1857, through the summer of 1873, when he left Macon for Americus, Georgia, to work as a photographer there.
James came to Georgia sometime before 1854, and he was probably not yet twenty when he began working for, or maybe apprenticing with, Macon photographer R. L. (Richard Lay) Wood (ca. 1819-1892). Wood was a daguerreotypist who visited Macon frequently, as early as July 1848, as an itinerant. Although Wood is recorded on the 1850 census in Macon as an Artist, it was in February 1851, that he announced a permanent Macon studio (Georgia Telegraph, Feb. 11, 1851 page 3 column 5). I believe Pugh worked with Wood into 1855.
James “Dolph” Pugh later wrote of his connection since boyhood to “this wonderful art,” in his account of his experiences in Europe in 1867, in his Leaves of a Wanderer; Being Notes and Incidents of Travel in Europe, published for him in Macon by J. W. Burke, 1868.
My own connection with this wonderful art dates from my boyhood; from the first specimen I ever saw produced, I longed to know the secret, and sought the first opportunity to have it imparted unto me. The art was then practiced by but few, and only the daguerreotype known, and the process by which fine specimens were produced held to be a greats secret; but the payment of a few hundred dollars enabled me to secure it from an eminent professor, with apparatus sufficient to make the same…….
Although it could be someone else, the “eminent professor” James Pugh mentions could well be R. L. Wood. Pugh was also known in later years as “the professor.”
An original of this book, which is now available online, belongs to the British Library as part of their History of Travel collection, and it is now the public domain. The British Library can also provide a reproduction of the book as an oversize paperback, which I purchased before it became available in digital form. Originals of Pugh’s book are held in this country by the Library of Congress (where I first saw it), and by Duke University. I will return to a discussion of this book in Part II of this post.
J. A. Pugh was advertising and signing himself as Artist by June 1855. He was “at Cary & Perkins old stand” on Mulberry Street where he did “Beautiful sky light daguerreotypes” (Georgia Citizen 2-23 June, 1855). He advertised himself at that location into January 1856.
On March 18, 1856, Pugh advertised only as “Pugh’s Daguerrean Gallery” on Mulberry Street, stating that “he is now permanently located.” Pugh’s advertisement, giving his prices as “$1.50 upwards,” ran in the Georgia Telegraph through April 29. By May he was making Ambrotypes (Wood had been advertising the ambrotype since December 1855), and an editor at the Telegraph visited both his and Wood’s “establishments,” but spent an hour “at Pugh’s.”
observing the process—-the glass, after being carefully cleaned, is covered by a chemical process with a milky film of cullodion and while wet, is exposed in the Camera. When taken from the Camera, nothing but the film is visible, but by the action of chemical agents the image is made to appear at once, in beautiful distinction, and the solution of Cullodion is at the is same time removed from the surrounding glass. The plate is then dried and covered with a varnish of asphaltum.—Further particulars and beautiful illustrations may be had both at Pugh’s and Wood.
An advertisement Pugh first had published on May 13, 1856, told that he was “now producing Ambrotypes and Stereoscopes which cannot be excelled.” Apparently he was already printing stereo card views on paper, even though the advertisement makes it sound as if he was making the stereoscope, which with they are viewed. It was in this ad he quoted a poem by an unnamed poet:
Surprising art! by which we lend
Our countenance to an absent friend–
Or leave a token for the bower
Where love laments each parting hour.
Where childhood, with a winsome face,
And lovely woman’s queenly grace,
Or lordly man’s imperial frown,
Are each adroitly penciled down
By lively elves, who are slyly lurking
In a tiny box, and nimbly working.
On June 10, 1856, the Telegraph editor called attention to advertisements of both Mssrs. Wood and Pugh, writing that “the latter has shown us some beautiful pictures taken upon thin sheets of Mica, which can be conveniently transmitted by letter — Great invention this of Photographs.” It sounds as if James Pugh was now making the melainotype, also called the ferrotype, but more commonly called the tintype. Named ferrotype for this collodion-on-iron process, it was patented in February 1856. Other than the base used, its creation is similar to that of the ambrotype.
Pugh’s and Wood’s advertisements (Georgia Telegraph, June 10, 1856 page 3) were slightly different, and the older and younger photographers were obviously in competition. “Wood’s Beautiful and Celebrated Ambrotypes Are now all the rage. By a new process he is able to put them up Colored or Plain….”. He noted his eight years establishment, dating his visits to Macon to 1848, though he was not fully resident there until 1851. He said that “thousands” could testify to the “beauty and durability of his pictures.” Finally he noted “Instructions given in the Art.”
Pugh, in a much shorter advertisement just below Wood’s, and signed “Pugh’s Gallery,” titled his ad “Progressive Age,” and he got right to the point. “Ambrotypes beautifully Colored by a new Process, which will be put up in cases to show the Picture on both sides.” He too, noted “Instructions given to operators.”
In July 1856, J. A. Pugh told Macon citizens that his Ambrotype Gallery rooms had
just been refurbished entire. The most improved Apparatus have been purchased, and no expense spared in fitting up his establishment, so as to do everything on the go-ahead Young America plan.
Persons on their way to the [Indian] Springs, who stop in Macon at any time, should not fail to call at Pugh’s Rooms and get one of his beautiful Pictures. His Ambrotypes are pronounced by all who have examined them…..to be the best ever taken in Macon——–Don’t forget the place, on Mulberry Street, over Day’s Jewelry Store (Georgia Telegraph, July 15 – Aug. 5, 1856).
On September 16, 1856, Pugh’s advertisement for “the best pictures for the least money” which had run since mid-August, mentioned he was “going North” in a few weeks, to procure photographic apparatus. He had not yet left town when, on Monday morning September 22, a fire broke out that destroyed his studio, as well as other business places and homes. The fire started on the Brown premises on Mulberry Street opposite the Lanier House (Georgia Telegraph, Sept. 23, 1856, pg.2).
By September 27, Pugh was working at a temporary location at rooms two doors below the Lanier House, over Damour’s Confectionary. In his Pugh’s Daguerrean Gallery advertisement, he offered “his style of Raised Ambrotypes which are indeed beautiful and entirely new.”
Perhaps because of the cost involved with the move and outfitting a new studio as a result of the fire, James Pugh decided to go to Albany, Georgia to do some photographic work. On Oct. 9, 1856, his advertisement for AMBROTYPES ran in the Albany Patriot, citing his location in Albany, and announcing his new Macon location, on the corner of Triangular Block, corner Cotton Avenue, close to Wood’s gallery. There they would “find him with every new theory in the beautiful art of Photography.” The Patriot editor (or Pugh himself) wrote in flowery terms of his work.
We cannot stress too strongly upon our patrons the importance of securing correct and lasting Likenesses of their friends now that the opportunity is offered. When they have gone hence–when the loved features of age are before us on longer–when the welcome presence of our companions is missed from the heart stone– when the sweet silvery accents of infancy is heard making music in our homes no more, then in vain will be the regret that we caught not the shadow ere the substance faded.
In May 1857, Pugh began advertising Stereoscopes (stereo views) and Melainotypes (tintypes) at his “Gallery of Fine Arts and HELIOGRAPHIC PICTURES,” but he primarily advertised his Ambrotypes through the end of the year. His life-size photographs were at that time colored by Mr. Boardly (J. B. Bordly – John Beale Bordly, 1800 -1882) “one of the best painters in the State.” Pugh mentioned he had rented a room next door so that “Ladies are accommodated with a nice room with large mirrors by which to arrange their toilet, before having their image transferred to the immortal plate to remain there forever and tell of their being to future generations” (Georgia Telegraph, May 19, 1857 p3.c4; advertisement appeared to June 16). A few months later, J. A. Pugh had to make changes in his advertising and his studio personnel and arrangements.
The Panic of 1857, an economic downturn which began in late summer and fall of 1857, was the first worldwide economic crisis and the worst the United States had suffered in twenty years. It is reflected in Pugh’s advertisements, beginning with one on October 20, 1857 (Macon Weekly Telegraph, page 3 column 2), which he ran through December.
Money on all the Suspended Banks (Not considered Wild Cat) Taken at par at Pugh’s Gallery for his beautiful Ambrotypes. His rooms are in Triangular Block, at the old Daguerrean stand, with he has fitted up entirely new. Call and exchange your suspended bills for a beautiful likeness of yourself or friend before the Bank fails entirely and you have neither pictures nor money.
Even with an unstable economy, he advertised his “New Gallery Corner Triangular Block, Cotton Avenue,” in late October. By the first of December, 1857, and through January 1858, J. A. Pugh was offering his “Ambrotypes for Only One Dollar in Neat Cases.” A year earlier he had advertised them for “only $1.50.” American banks did not fully recover from this downturn until after the Civil War.
By December 2, 1858, according to The Georgia Telegraph, James Pugh employed “Mr. Freeman from New York” (William R. Freeman, 1822-1903) to color Pugh’s life-size photographs in oil, as well as make “Portraits from Nature.” Freeman’s paintings were exhibited at the Pugh Gallery, and by April 7, 1858, the photographer and the artist were advertising as Pugh & Freeman. That day, The Georgia Telegraph announced (via Mr. Pugh):
“The best we have ever seen in Macon,” is the testimony of all who have ever examined the BEAUTIFUL PICTURES Pugh & Freeman are getting up. The Oil Portraits from nature and Photographs, which Mr. Freeman has colored, have the rich, strong, glowing tints of nature itself transferred to the Immortal Canvas, as large as life, and as natural that you would think the person represented before you. The picture will certainly be appreciated by all the lovers of art, and it will be a treat to any to call at the Gallery of these gentlemen, on Triangular Block, and linger awhile to study the beautiful works of a genuine and accomplished Artist.
If you want a Picture, call and have them take one, and if you are not pleased with it, it shall not cost you a cent.
This advertisement ran in the newspaper only through May 4, 1858, so we can assume the partnership ended, but their association continued at least into September. Freeman stayed in Macon into early December when he left for Augusta to work with photographers Tucker & Perkins.
Pugh continued to try to expand his business. In late summer 1858, he took a trip to New York and brought back a large stock of cases from European and American manufacturers, including “French Oval, Velvet Pearl, Tortoise Shell,” and new patterns of “the universally admired Union Case.” By December his holiday advertisements (Macon Weekly Telegraph, Dec. 14, 1858 p.3) included one noting that he had received “a fine assortment of fancy Cases, —among which are the California Pearl —-.”
From January 17 to March 29, 1859, J. A. Pugh announced via “A Card” in the Weekly Georgia Telegraph, that Mr. [(J. T.] Poindexter (James Thomas, Poindexter, 1832-1891) was the artist who had painted life-size portraits, one on a landscape background, which could be seen in his Gallery. An editor’s note on a visit to “Mr. Pugh’s Gallery” appeared in the same newspaper on April 19th, and in addition to mentioning that “we”
found a good many beautiful pictures in every style of the art Daguerrean. —- Pugh being a Batchelor, in the hey-day of youth and prosperity, it is not surprising if the young ladies should like to be taken by hm, or vice versa, that he should like to take the young ladies.
the editor also noted that
We found in Mr. Poindexter, the Artist of the Establishment, not only a very pleasant gentleman, but we think, also an accomplished limner. The son of a distinguished Southern Artist himself —- .
In a letter to Mr. Clisby, the editor of the Telegraph, on April 26, 1859, J. T. Poindexter made it clear that, although he thanked the editor for mentioning him
I beg leave to correct the above remark. Without any disparagement, whatever, to Mr. Pugh or his gallery, I would stay that I have never had any connection with “the establishment,” further than the accidental contiguity of my studio to his gallery : and that the photographs I have or may color for him, are commissioned, just as my other business in the legitimate exercise of my profession as a portrait painter.
Pugh immediately made sure everyone knew the “life-size Photographic Paintings” [copy photos made into colored life-size paintings] in his studio were made by artists on commission. These portraits continued to one of Pugh’s advertised specialties.
He often used catch phrases in his advertisements, and in mid-June 1859, Pugh told citizens to Give me your Likeness! when they were about to embark on their summer outings to the North, or any other summer retreat, because “they have no assurance that they will return—considering Railroad accidents —– at Pugh’s FINE ART GALLERY, they can obtain a fine likeness of themselves and friends.”
In October 1859, the Fair of the South Central Agricultural Society was held in Atlanta, Georgia, and Macon’s James A. Pugh was an exhibitor in the Fine Art department. Other photographers who exhibited were Atlanta’s William H. DeShong, who exhibited “four-fourth Melainotypes” (tintypes) and C. W. Dill, who “exhibited a number of large plain photographs,” which Pugh said “compared favorably with any I have seen North or South.”
Those two photographers and one other were all mentioned by J. A. Pugh in his November 7, 1859, letter to Humphrey’s Journal regarding the Fair (Humphrey’s Journal 11, November 15, 1859: 214-15) One item Pugh described as “really beautiful” was “a small colored Photograph, which they called an Ivorytype” exhibited by Tucker and Perkins of Augusta.
Always the self-promoter, Pugh did not fail to mention himself in his letter He was particularly proud of his premium award received at the Fair for best photograph, his exhibit of “a pack of Photographic Visiting Cards, as well as a case of original Stereoscopic Views of Georgia Scenes,” and some life-size photographs.
His letter implied that few Georgians had ever seen a stereoscope, “just now becoming popular in Georgia,” and that fair attendees asked him “foolish questions,” about using the viewer, which merged the the two side-by-side images of a stereograph so they appeared to be three dimensional.
If Pugh’s photographic visiting cards are indeed the cartes de visite developed five years earlier in November 1854, by the Frenchman A. A. Disderi, his letter to Humphrey’s Journal is possibly the earliest published mention of the format in the United States.
By November 4, 1859, Pugh advertised in Macon newspapers that he won the Premium “at the late Georgia State Fair, for the best Photographs,” and he offered these “popular Pictures,” meaning the cartes, “either plain or colored” to the public at $3.00 per dozen (Georgia Citizen, Nov. 4, 1859, page 3, col. 4). The advertisement, which also listed his other photographic offerings, was published in that newspaper through March 22, 1860.
By March 27, and at least until April 11, 1860, James Pugh was selling “Photographs in Pastel” and that he had “now an Artist expressly to color” them. By May 18, he was advertising “Baby Pictures” which were taken “instantaneously” at Pugh’s Fine Art Gallery:
We are determined to sustain the reputation we have for producing better Photographs than can be obtained elsewhere in the city, and are willing to let our work speak for itself. We received the premium over all others, at the last annual State Fair, for the best Pictures.
In mid-August 1860, Pugh continued to promote himself and advertised the he had
engaged another First Class Artist to color his life size Photographs, and he is determined to spare no pains or expense in making this department of his business the most extensive of any establishment in the State.
Both James and his brother David were enumerated on the 1860 federal census for Macon, Georgia, as daguerreotypists (James as a Daguerreian Artist), and each one boarded in a different home. James, as of July 15, was living in the household of Henry W. Clark, a merchant, as were the Melcher brothers, Sylvester and James, who had arrived in Georgia only a few weeks before. Sylvester, eight years younger than James Pugh, was also a noted as a Daguerreian Artist, and his brother James as a Carpenter. Sylvester soon left Georgia, as well as photography, to become a carpenter like his father and brother. As of July 27, David and a tinsmith named John H. Johnson lived with Parthenia Corbin, who was probably a widow renting rooms.
Although it was on October 1, 1860, that J. A. Pugh announced that he had taken “as a partner my brother D. P. Pugh, and the firm will hereafter be known as J. A. Pugh & Bro.” (Macon Telegraph, Oct. 8, 1860, page 3), before the close of 1857, David was already working with James as Pugh & Brother.
They worked together in Americus, Georgia, and a December 1857, Sumter Republican editor noted that they were located over Mr. Vogelsang’s Confectionary, opposite the Repulican‘s office (Dec. 17, 1857, page 3, col. 1). They continued to advertise their Macon photography services, particularly their oil and pastel portraits, to the citizens of Americus at least into spring 1861, although they were not actually working in that city. Specimens of their work were to be found at J. Wiley’s Gallery in Americus, where orders could be left, to be processed by them in Macon (Sumter Republican, May 1, 1861, page 1, col. 1).
In November 1860, Pugh & Bro. expanded their Macon gallery on Triangular Block by opening a second location in the new building adjoining Granite Hall, which would be supervised by D. P. Pugh (Macon Daily Telegraph, November 21, 1860, page 1). That month they employed J. N. Arnold, as their “Principal Artist” (Macon Daily Telegraph, November 24, 1860). The Pugh brothers were trying very hard to out perform their colleague R. L. Wood, who also continued to advertise quite heavily.
In the December 20, 1860 Macon Daily Telegraph, the brothers advertised winning prizes again at the recent State Fair, and said of their “photographs colored in oil” which included among ten photographs in oil, a full length portrait in oil of Hon. Howell Cobb (Weekly Georgia Telegraph Dec. 20, 1860 page 3 col. 3):
Notwithstanding the Hard Times, the demand for them is on the increase, and to make it an object for others to obtain them now, we will furnish them at TEN DOLLARS LESS than we received last year. For those who prefer Pastel Coloring, we …….can produce them at a PRICE much lower than they can be obtained at any other place. …..Ambrotypes, Daguerreotypes, etc. at prices so low that every body can affort to have one.
The brothers’ second location was never advertised again, so it looks as if that expansion did not work out for them. The two continued to advertise their various photographic services into late 1861. They did portraits colored in oil, had a new process for enlarging photographs, and employed “two first class Artists.”
They also ran an advertisement in the Macon Daily News from February 25 into April, 1861, proclaimed that “PUGH & BRO.!” were “Still Ahead in all the HIGHEST BRANCHES OF THE Photographic Art,” focusing on the Premium they received for Colored Photographs at the last two state fairs, as well as at the Cotton Planter’s Fair.
As events progressed after Georgia secceeded from the Union in January 1861, the Pughs ran the first of two advertisements mentioning the newly-formed [Confederate] Army. On April 3 and 5, they directed their ad to the attention of the officers and others in the First Regiment, Georgia Volunteers, as well as to others enlisting in the Army in the Macon area, who “desire fine likenesses to leave with their friends.” The soldiers were told they should come to the Pugh Brother’s celebrated Gallery to have “photographs made at one half of their usual price.” Again, the premiums won at the fairs were mentioned (Macon Telegraph, April 3 and 5, 1861, page 1).
On April 12, their advertisement was headlined “PREPARE FOR THE WORST!!” This was told in the style of a “report,” stating that “An Engagement took place at Camp OGLETHORPE,” where “one Regiment and one Battalion Were Taken!” In other words, they (one or both of the brothers) had photographed 1,200 soldiers, and the governor, and other citizens – or so it was stated. The “attack” included photographing the Southern Rights Guards from Houston County. The “results” (portraits) could be seen at Pugh’s Celebrated Gallery and they were for sale at “One Dollar Each!” The premiumns awarded were, of course, mentioned (Macon Telegraph, April 12-23, 1861).
A final promise was made, as per their earlier April advertisement, to take ambrotypes at half-price. R. L. Wood’s ads appeared earlier than the Pugh’s, noting that photographer Wood was already at Camp Ogethorpe taking photographs before the Pugh brothers arrived to make their portraits.
Repeating much of their early April advertisement directed to the 1st Regiment, Pugh & Bro.’s advertisement on May 13, 1861, for “Military Pictures!” was directed to the 5th Regiment Georgia Volunteers. They promised the soldiers that they would pay particular attention to color of uniform and complexion in the studio, but one of the firm would in camp “in the building in the centre of the camp” and could make pictures including the soldiers’ guns, knapsacks, etc., to save them “bringing their things up town.”
The last advertisement for Pugh & Bro. appeared at the end of 1861. On May 3, 1862, David P. Pugh joined Captain Slaton’s Company, the Macon Light Artillery, as a Private. He was about twenty-two, and with some time off in both May and December 1864, he served until, after months of warfare around Petersburg, he was captured at Petersburg (VA) on April 3, 1865. He was held prisoner at Hart’s Island, New York Harbor, and although the last Confederate surrender was on June 23, he was released on June 14, 1865.
James A. Pugh, at about thirty years of age, joined the 17th Battalion, Capt. Jacob McCarty’s Co., Georgia Infantry, known as the State Guards. His date of enlistment was apparently September 12, [1862?] at Alatoona, Georgia, and he was enrolled for a period of six months for the defense of the Etowah Iron Works. He went into and came out of service as a Private, but Pugh was often referred to as “Colonel” in this later years.
Because there is no document on him other than one Muster Roll, we do not know how long he served, but J. A. Pugh, ever the go-ahead young American, was back at work in Macon as a photographer by June 1865. He was then partnered not with his brother, but with another Georgia photographer, J. M. Lunquest. I have written about Lunquest both as a partner to Lee Mallory, and as a jeweler and dentist. I’ll begin with the 1865 Pugh & Lunquest partnership when I continue the story of James A. “Dolph” Pugh again, soon.
© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including her photographs, 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.