Saturday, March 23, 2013

Meet Milford Robinson in this antique F. Gutekunst photo card

This antique photo card, which is roughly the size of a baseball card (after having its edges trimmed), has the name "Milford N. Robinson" written in pencil on the reverse. It's probably safe to say this young man came from a family with money, don't you think?

The back of the card also features this business insignia for Philadelphia photographer F. Gutekunst.

Frederick F. Gutekunst Jr. (1831-1917) was a famous portrait photographer. (His portraits included Ulysses S. Grant.)

Here are some links where you can read more about him:
  • On Gutekunst Genealogy, it is stated that Frederick, who was born in Germantown, "was a favored photographer by the East Coast Elite." Furthermore:
    "Frederick Gutekunst was a daguerreian from 1857-1860 in Philadelphia, Pa. ... Before entering into photography as a full time business, he succeeded in making copper electrotype plates from daguerreotypes. He obtained his first daguerreotype camera by trading an electrical battery to Dr. Isaac Norris for it, and then he got a better lens for the camera from a photographer known as the 'Buckeye Blacksmith' [John W. Bear]."
  • There's an excellent 2008 blog post regarding a Gutekunst photograph of an orphaned girl on Shades of the Departed.1 The post deconstructs the photo and offer a bevy of details on Gutekunst's life, including these two gut-wrenching notes:
    • "[In] January 25, 1886, he suffered losses in the amount of $10,000 in a fire at 715-719 Arch St., Philadelphia. ... The loss of valuable negatives was very large, and while a small fraction of them remain, great numbers have been destroyed."
    • "When Gutekunst died in 1917 ... the executor of his estate ordered [his Arch Street studio] building emptied, in order to see it. According to family lore, a group of college students spent a day tossing the contents of the building into dump trucks, parked below. Wooden box after box packed with glass negatives was heaved from the windows of what was once the city’s most prolific portrait studio."
    Also of note: Gutekunst arrived in Gettysburg 10 days before Mathew Brady and, according to a descendant, "was so sickened at the waste of lives he packed up and returned to Philadelphia."

    There is much more that you should check out in the Shades of the Departed post, which also includes a bibliography.
  • This Corbis gallery features two Gutekunst photos, including one of an elderly Walt Whitman.
  • Here's a very cool stereoview of a Gutekunst exhibit from the Free Library of Philadelphia.
  • Here's another Gutekunst photo on Flickr.
  • Help solve the riddle of this Mystery Gutekunst Photo discovered in Florida.

1. Shades of the Departed, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, is an amazing website that is going right into my blogroll. (It's always a joy to find a history- or ephemera-related blog that I wasn't previously aware of.) With five years of content, there's a ton of great content to explore. One creepy item I stumbled across there was "I Think She's Dead!"

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