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HomeContentsThemes > Mobile studios

Contents

Introduction
827.01   Introduction to mobile studios
Contemporary accounts
827.02   Avery's Portable Daguerreotype Saloon (1847)
827.03   Contemporary account of itinerant photographers in America (1856)
Photographic vans
827.04   Photographs of photographic vans
827.05   Contemporary sources on photographic vans
827.06   Roger Fenton: The artist's van
Railroad photographic cars
827.07   Railroad photograph cars and studios on trains
827.08   Backmarks for railroad photograph cars
827.09   J.B. Silvis: Photograph car
Studios on barges and boats
827.10   Studios on boats and barges
Tent studios
827.11   Studios in tents
827.12   Carleton Watkins: #925 Spring Valley Water Works
Beach photographers
827.13   Beach photographers
This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated. 
  
Status: Collect > Document > Analyse > Improve
 
  
Introduction 
  
827.01   Mobile studios >  Introduction to mobile studios 
  
Through the nineteenth cntury itinerant photographers went from community to community seeking business opportunities like travelling players. With studios in photographic vans, railroad cars and occassionally on barges and boats they carried with them everything necessary for the creation of photographs. They would put up posters, banners and signs to advertise the business and add to this with a notice in a local paper. In the Niagara Chronicle of 10 May 1852 such a notice was published:
"MESSRS GRAVES & PRUDEN[sic][1] would respectfully announce to the citizens of Niagara and vicinity, that they are now in Town with their Mammoth Daguerrean Saloon which they have furnished in the very best possible manner, for the sole purpose of taking the best and most life-like pictures ever taken by this process. They are now ready to receive company and extend a cordial welcome to all who are so disposed to come and examine for themselves.
 
Come One, Come All! Whether you want Pictures or not, you will always find them in good humor and always at home. All Pictures warranted to give good satisfaction or NO PAY. Improve the opportunity, as they will only remain here a short time."[2]
 
  
Contemporary accounts 
  
827.02   Mobile studios >  Avery's Portable Daguerreotype Saloon (1847) 
  
Farmer and Mechanic (New-York) vol. 1, no. 46 (11 November 1847) pp. 541
Mr. Austin Avery, of Norwich, Connecticut, has invented a new process for taking Daguerreotype miniatures, pictures, and landscapes, and which promises great success to the artist in the prosecution of this wonderful science. His invention consists in the erection of what he calls a "Portable Daguerreotype Saloon," which is easily conveyed on wheels from place to place through the country.
 
Our correspondent "Alana," remarks:—"This saloon has all the necessary requisites for the due execution of the most perfect miniature. The great embarrassment that has hitherto attended the artist, in regard to throwing the light in a proper degree, and from a proper source upon the object, is wholly obviated, and these means are attained in a manner which render the miniature striking, and brilliant in the extreme.
 
"But one of the chief advantages derived from this invention consists in its portability. This saves the practitioner the trouble and expense of fitting up new rooms whever he goes, which must necessarily be attended with much trouble and expense, for practitioners of this character are generally wandering artists. It is also peculiarly calculated to take with the public. It creates quite a sensation on entering a village; it published its character; the people flock to it out of curiosity at first. And finally, the great success that has attended its operations justly entitles it a place among the many improvements of the age.
 
Mr. Avery is about to apply for "letters patent" for his improvement."
Farmer and Mechanic (New-York) vol. 1, no. 46 (11 November 1847) pp. 548
We have copied on our first page a daguerreotype drawing of a traveling Daguerreotype Saloon, got up by an enterprising Yankee in the vicinity of Norwich, Ct. It will be seen that this convenience for the practice of the Daguerrean art not only promises patronage to its proprietor from persons who might not feel interested in the subject, unless it were brought literally to their own doors, but it adds greatly to its facilities and adaptation, by enabling the operator to take transcripts of trees, buildings, landscapes and objects of curiousity which he may meet with in the way of his perigrinations; and being enabled to place his saloon in the most favorable positions better and more perfect pictures of natural scenery and objects will be readily obtained.—Should the proprietor push his adventures "all the way to New Hampshire," we hope he may send us a picture of the Monadnoc and the features of the old man of the mountains.
 
  
827.03   Mobile studios >  Contemporary account of itinerant photographers in America (1856) 
  
"American Photography", The Liverpool Photographic Journal (12 January 1856) pp. 1-2.
Another characteristic of the art, in this country, is the great number of establishments on wheels, which may be termed itineraritypes. They generally bear the name of "saloons," and are something of the appearance of the waggons of a menagerie in Britain, but much lighter in the wheels. They are plentiful in the thinly peopled districts, and when every body has been "taken" who are within a convenient distance of the saloon, a team of horses, oxen, or mules is hired, and paid for in pictures, as is nearly all their other expenses of living, &c., and the saloon is moved to another neighbourhood, till all the faces in that are also mapped secundum artem, when another move takes place, and the process is repeated. These perambulators are formed so that portions of the sides fall down to form a floor, in addition to the waggon bottom, and the sides-fitted up with sashes, india-rubber cloth, &c., all of which, with the steps and other "fixings," are packed inside when travelling from one spot to another. As the body is always on springs, it is impossible to stir in one while a face is being mapped; the casual entrance of a visitor at such a time is mentally deprecated, and calls forth sundry efforts of ingenuity to stop the springs by props under the body to bear it off them. Many of these concerns are very profitable indeed, and their cost originally, (the carriage alone), without any stock of plates, &c., is from £75 to £200 sterling. It is not every one who can manage with such customers as are most numerous at such establishments, and a peculiar tact is required to accommodate them. I made a plan for one such saloon which cost the latter sum, and the owners in two years more than paid for it, his assistants, and his own time, having a considerable sum in the bank besides. He has since sold it at a profit, and is now using a swimming Daguerrean saloon on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, on which are several other floating establishments, from the owners of two of which I have an occasional letter. These saloons also migrate like wild fowls, according to the degree of exhaustion of business in any locality, and in several cases receive their pay in any kind of produce they may require for their own use, or can dispose of. From such as these perambulating establishments many fine views might be procured, were they only to turn their attention to the subject: but the prospect of being paid for their trouble being so remote, and withal rather uncertain, they prefer the usual walk of face mapping as being by far the most available.
 
  
Photographic vans 
  
827.04   Mobile studios >  Photographs of photographic vans 
  
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From the earliest days of photography prior to the creation of dry plates it was necessary for photographers working outside the confines of the photographic studio to have a portable dark tent, dark box or a larger horse-drawn photographic van, wagon or car. With plates, paper and glass negatives once the exposure was taken were sensitive to light and required development, fixing and washing as soon as possible.  
  
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Photographers including Josiah Johnson Hawes, who would later work with Albert Sands Southworth,[3] in Boston had a wagon[4] for his photographic work and in the Western USA there was Batchelder's Daguerrian Saloon[5] where in a surviving daguerreotype Batchelder's employee Isaac W. Baker can be seen standing outside. [6] had a traveling daguerreian wagon, the "Mammoth Daguerrean Saloon", measuring 28 feet long, 11 feet wide and nine feet high that traveled in the Lockport area of New York stateand Canada.  
  
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The converted wine merchant's van used by Roger Fenton during the Crimean War (1854-1856) has become so well known a part of photographic history[7] that when the The Hall of Photography[8] opened in 1973 in Washington a relica of the van was included as one of the exhibits.[9]  
  
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We have quite a range of photographs from the American Civil War (1861-1865 taken by photographers who recorded military activities including Alexander Gardner, Timothy H. O'Sullivan, George N. Barnard and Samuel A. Cooley, who was a photographer for the 10th Army Corps of the Union Army.[10] These are perhaps, along with Fenton's, the best known mobile studios but there are many others known from photographs on carte de visites and stereocards and they must have been common for professional photographers working far from a studio.  
  
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We can find photographs of the wagons of Carleton E. Watkins, Charles Roscoe Savage, William Henry Jackson in the USA but we should remember that similar horse drawn vehicles for photography were required worldwide and so we can find other examples such as those of Beaufoy Merlin in Australia, Frank William Micklethwaite possibly in Ireland, Samuel John Govier in England and the van of the Zangaki Brothers beside the Sphinx in Egypt.[11] 
  
827.05   Mobile studios >  Contemporary sources on photographic vans 
  
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827.06   Mobile studios >  Roger Fenton: The artist's van 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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Roger Fenton[12] provided a description of his photographic van[13][14] which...
"...began its career, in the service of a wine merchant at Canterbury [England]."
 
"When it entered into the service of Art, a fresh top was made for it, so as to convert it into a dark room; panes of yellow glass, with shutters, were fixed in the sides; a bed was constructed for it, which folded up into a very small space under the bench at the upper end; round the top were cisterns for distilled and for ordinary water, and a shelf for books. On the sides were places for fixing the gutta-percha baths, glassdippers, knives, forks, and spoons. The kettle and cups hung from the roof. On the floor, under the trough for receiving waste water, was a frame with holes, in which were fitted the heavier bottles. This frame had at night to be lifted up and placed on the working bench with the cameras, to make room for the bed, the furniture of which was, during the day, contained in the box under the driving-seat. In the beginning of the autumn of last year, having hired in York a strong horse, we set forth on the road to Rivaulx Abbey in search of the picturesque."
 
"From the experience obtained in this journey, several modifications were made in the construction of the carriage,and it finally assumed the shape in which it appears in the photograph taken of it on the day on which it traveled down to the ravine called the Valley of the Shadow of Death: a picture due to the precaution of the driver on that day, who suggested that, as there was a possibility of a stop being put in the said valley to the further travels of both the vehicle and its driver, it would be showing a proper consideration for both to take a likeness of them before starting."[15]
 
  
   Roger  Fenton Crimea 
View exhibition 
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Railroad photographic cars 
  
827.07   Mobile studios >  Railroad photograph cars and studios on trains 
  
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Specially fitted-out carriages contained mobile studios that traveled to the railroad towns and communities that were expanding along the lines. Carriages could be unhitched into a siding to carry out their business until it was exhausted and then continue to the next location. Railroad photographers advertised in local papers prior to their arrival and could distribute handbills and put up posters when they arrived. The arrival of the photograph car was a rarity to be remembered:
 
Mrs. Ida Breternizt recalled,
"The great thing we looked forward to...was the photograph car. It...stood on the side tracks where we went to have our pictures taken...I remember so well how we talked of it and planned what we would wear."[16]
In the American West life could be rough and there was an attempted robbery on the railroad car of John B. Silvis where the photographer chased the robbers and "emptied his revolver at them" until his feet became sore running on the rocks.[17] 
  
827.08   Mobile studios >  Backmarks for railroad photograph cars 
  
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827.09   Mobile studios >  J.B. Silvis: Photograph car 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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Photographer J.B. Silvis had a Photograph Car on the Union Pacific Railroad.[18] Examining the stereoview of his "Photograph Car" provides a number of details on the photographs he could provide.
 
Ferrotypes
Porcelains
Gems
 
"Stereoscopic & Landscape Views of Notable Points on Line of Pacific R.R. Always on Hand" 
  
Studios on barges and boats 
  
827.10   Mobile studios >  Studios on boats and barges 
  
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Tent studios 
  
827.11   Mobile studios >  Studios in tents 
  
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827.12   Mobile studios >  Carleton Watkins: #925 Spring Valley Water Works 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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The following comments by Will Dunniway and Robert Szabo, two contemporary wet-plate collodion photographers, explain the significance of this rare yellow-mount stereoview "#925 Spring Valley Water Works" by Carleton E. Watkins:
 
The items inside the tent:
  1. The spigot for his water supply. It is not possible to see what the container was made of, but most likely it would have been copper or brass for weight considerations.
     
  2. Three of the four visible bottles appear to be leather wrapped. This is to prevent the glass from breaking from a rough wagon ride between shoots.
     
  3. There is an open wooden box and it is uncertain what it would have been used for. It was most likely to have been used for transporting chemicals and photographic paraphernalia.
The items outside the tent:
  1. As can be seen here Carleton Watkins used a vertical bath to process his mammoth plates. It has been suggested that he used a tray as his bath to sensitize his plates but this is conclusive. There is a further point about this bath tank. He is said to have NOT used a glass liner to contain his bath. Instead it was believed he asphalt painted the inside, or something along this line. In this image, it appears that there is not a glass liner. To seal this bath for traveling, usually the glass tank will extend above the wooden rim.
     
  2. A mammoth plate storage box.
     
  3. These boxes appear to be the 5x8 inch plate storage boxes for making stereo images. They are about the right size for two rows of plates, with a divider in the middle. They are on top the large mammoth plate boxes not being used at this moment of exposure, thus, these 5x8 plate boxes are sequentially in order.
     
  4. A glass plate cleaning vise.
     
  5. The lid clamp to a silver bath tank. The metal clamp with thumb screws was used for the sealing off this bath tank when traveling. The wooden lid for this huge mammoth plate silver bath tank appears to be with this clamp.
The tent itself:
 
The dark tent is lined with what I think is yellow, or a very warm colored material. As you know, collodion is a blue sensitive emulsion (it is called 'Ordinary'). This being what this is, the blue will NOT be seen, where as the yellow (red or warm tones) would be seen as dark. The outer material seems to be plain white canvas duck. The white outer shell is so the interior of this dark tent would not heat up in direct sun. This color choice was a must on warm days. After about 90oF outside, the inside of the tent would elevate the silver bath to above 80o F in no time at all. At this temperature, silver bath starts to act up, and will produce flawed plates.
 
It is not certain that the person on the left is Carleton E. Watkins and this remains to be confirmed. 
  
   Carleton Eugene  Watkins Spring Valley Water Works 
View exhibition 
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Beach photographers 
  
827.13   Mobile studios >  Beach photographers 
  
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Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ Error in the original notice it should be [Henry] Prudden.
     
    Craig's Daguerrean Camera gives the following information about Edward R. Graves:
     
    From 1844 to 1859, Graves was listed in Lockport, N.Y. Apparently from 1844 until sometime after 1853 he was noted in partnership with Henry Prudden. In 1852 the pair had a traveling daguerreian wagon measuring 28 feet long, 11 feet wide and nine feet high. It traveled in the Lockport area and Canada. In 1853 a second mobile gallery was built, but it was destroyed by a tornado in 1855 in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was reported to have been rebuilt, but not reported on again. In 1857 Graves and Prudden's mobile gallery reappeared in Niagara-on-the-Lake, but Prudden was the sole proprietor. The gallery on wheels continued to operate until 1861. In 1859-1860, Graves was listed alone as a daguerreian at 44 Main Street, Lockport, with his residence at 23 West Genesee. He was also listed in 1859 in Yates, N.Y. 
      
  2. Λ Gary Ewer included this notice in a copy of Dag News
      
  3. Λ Grant B. Romer & Brian Wallis (eds.), 2005, Young America: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, (New York: International Center of Photography; Rochester, NY: George Eastman House; Göttingen, Germany: Steidl); Robert Sobieszek & Odette M. Appel, 1976, The Spirit of Fact: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth and Hawes, 1843–1862, (Boston: David R. Godine) 
      
  4. Λ The photographic wagon of J.J. Hawes, 19 Tremont Row Boston is shown in a stereocard - The Isenburg Collection @ AMC Toronto 
      
  5. Λ For Batchelder's Daguerrian Saloon - Oakland Museum, Gift of an Anonymous Donor, A68.94.8 
      
  6. Λ Craig's Daguerrean Camera gives the following information about Edward R. Graves:
     
    From 1844 to 1859, Graves was listed in Lockport, N.Y. Apparently from 1844 until sometime after 1853 he was noted in partnership with Henry Prudden. In 1852 the pair had a traveling daguerreian wagon measuring 28 feet long, 11 feet wide and nine feet high. It traveled in the Lockport area and Canada. In 1853 a second mobile gallery was built, but it was destroyed by a tornado in 1855 in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was reported to have been rebuilt, but not reported on again. In 1857 Graves and Prudden's mobile gallery reappeared in Niagara-on-the-Lake, but Prudden was the sole proprietor. The gallery on wheels continued to operate until 1861. In 1859-1860, Graves was listed alone as a daguerreian at 44 Main Street, Lockport, with his residence at 23 West Genesee. He was also listed in 1859 in Yates, N.Y. 
      
  7. Λ Roger Fenton described it in - Humphrey's Journal (March 1, 1856) 
      
  8. Λ The Hall of Photography opened in 1973 and closed in 1992. The National Museum of History and Technology became the Museum of American History in 1980. 
      
  9. Λ For a photograph of Roger Fenton's van and the exhibition - National Museum of American History, National Museum of History and Technology, 1973, Negative no. 73-6698 
      
  10. Λ For an imprint on a card de visite for Samuel A. Cooley - New York State Military Museum, Object Id: PA.1999.0014.0498 
      
  11. Λ An albumen print by the Zangaki Brothers, "The Sphinx [Showing one of the Zangaki brothers and their "Dark-Room-Car"]", 1870-1880, Albumen, detail, 10 x 8 ins (approx.) - In April 2006 this image was sold by E-Bay seller "photobazaar" of Austria as reported by Peter Searle. The current whereabouts of this image is not known and I would be most interested to learn further details. (Alan Griffiths, 10 October 2010) 
      
  12. Λ Roger Fenton is the best known of Crimean War photographers and there is a considerable amount written about him - Gordon Baldwin et al., 2004, All the Mighty World: The Photographs of Roger Fenton, 1852–1860, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art); Helmut & Alison Gernsheim, 1954, Roger Fenton: Photographer of the Crimean War, (London: Secker & Warburg); John Hannavy, 1975, Fenton of Crimble Hall, (Boston: David R. Godine); Valerie Lloyd, 1988, Roger Fenton: Photographer of the 1850s, (London: South Bank Board); Richard Pare, 1987, Roger Fenton, (New York: Aperture).
     
    For a rephotographic study - David R. Jones, 2012, In the Footsteps of Roger Fenton, Crimean War Photographer, (www.lulu.com: self-published) 
      
  13. Λ For the famous illustration of the "artist's van" of Roger Fenton - 10 November 1855, The Illustrated London News, vol. XXVII, edition: 769, p. 557 
      
  14. Λ A museum display including "Roger Fenton's photograph van" was shown at National Museum of History and Technology in 1973 and there is a photograph of the display (Negative no. 73-6698).
     
    The Hall of Photography opened in 1973 and closed in 1992. The National Museum of History and Technology became the Museum of American History in 1980 and is a part of the Smithsonian. 
      
  15. Λ March 1, 1856, Humphrey's Journal 
      
  16. Λ "First Girl Born in NP Awaited Photo Car," Telegraph-Bulletin, 17 Sept. 1973. Reprint of a 1939 interview, cited in Barry A. Swackhamer, April 1994, "J. B. Silvis, the Union Pacific‘s Nomadic Photographer", Journal of the West, vol. 33, no. 2 
      
  17. Λ The attempted robbery was reported in the Evanston Chieftan, reprinted in the Waterloo Weekly Gazette (26 August 1881) and cited in Barry A. Swackhamer, April 1994, "J. B. Silvis, the Union Pacific‘s Nomadic Photographer", Journal of the West, vol. 33, no. 2 
      
  18. Λ Barry A. Swackhamer "J. B. Silvis, the Union Pacific‘s Nomadic Photographer" Journal of the West, vol. 33, no. 2; April 1994 
      

alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  
 
  

HomeContentsPhotographers > Photographers worth investigating

 
George N. Barnard  (1819-1902) • H.H. Bennett  (1843-1908) • Samuel A. Cooley • J.P. Doremus  (1827-1890) • Roger Fenton  (1819-1869) • Alexander Gardner  (1821-1882) • Josiah Johnson Hawes  (1808-1901) • F. Jay Haynes  (1853-1921) • Johann Baptist Isenring  (1796-1860) • William Henry Jackson  (1843-1942) • Mathew Brady's Studio • William McFarlane Notman  (1858-1913) • Timothy H. O'Sullivan  (1840-1882) • C.R. Savage  (1832-1909) • Thomas Sutton  (check) • Carleton E. Watkins  (1829-1916) • Zangaki Brothers
HomeThe business of photography > Mobile studios 
 
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Dark tents and dark boxes 
Itinerant photographers 
Photographic vans, wagons and cars 
Wet-plate photography 
 
  

HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Mobile studios

Please submit suggestions for Online Exhibitions that will enhance this theme.
Alan - alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  
Thumbnail19th Century Itinerant Photographers 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Improved (February 18, 2010)
Thumbnail19th Century Photographic Studios: Photographic vans, wagons and cars 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Released (May 9, 2010)
ThumbnailCarleton Watkins - Spring Valley Water Works 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Released (January 29, 2011)
  
 
  

HomeVisual indexes > Mobile studios

Please submit suggestions for Visual Indexes to enhance this theme.
Alan - alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  
   Photographer 
  
ThumbnailA. Nott: Photograph Car 
ThumbnailC.R. Savage: C.R. Savage's photo wagon in the desert, south of St. George Utah 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailGerald Figal: Mobile darkroom (2013) 
ThumbnailJ.B. Silvis: Photograph car 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailJ.N. Choate (Carlisle, PA): Horse drawn photo studio of J.N. Choate ["A Young man fishing in the Spring."] 
ThumbnailJ.N. Choate (Carlisle, PA): Horse drawn photo studio of J.N. Choate ["Left hand side of New Kingston in going to Carlisle."] 
ThumbnailJ.N. Choate (Carlisle, PA): Horse drawn photo studio of J.N. Choate ["The point of rocks and our Fissel sitting at water's edge 1876."] 
ThumbnailJosiah Johnson Hawes: The photographic wagon of J.J. Hawes, 19 Tremont Row Boston 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailM. Nowack: Photographer's dark tent is set-up on the boat 
ThumbnailMathew Brady's Studio: Brady Gallery photographic team for the Civil War, Berlin, Maryland 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailSwaine & Moate (Richmond, Indiana): Swaine & Mote's mobile darkroom 
ThumbnailSwaine & Moate (Richmond, Indiana): Swaine & Mote's Photographic Chariot 
ThumbnailTimothy H. O'Sullivan: The sand dunes of Carson Desert, Nev. 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailTimothy H. O'Sullivan: View of the Gas Work, Petersburg, VA 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailW. Stevens: Tintype tent 
ThumbnailW.H. Pearce: The Algonquin Bon Ton Tent, W.H. Pearce, Prop. 
ThumbnailWilliam Henry Jackson: 104. Rocks near Platte Canyon 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailWilliam Shew: Shew's Daguerreian Saloon, San Francisco 
ThumbnailZangaki Brothers: The Sphinx - with their Dark-Room-Car 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
 
 
  
    
  
ThumbnailMobile studios: Railroad photograph cars and studios on trains 
ThumbnailMobile studios: Studios on boats and barges 
 
  
   Techniques 
  
ThumbnailCarte de visites: Themes: Mobile photographic studios 
ThumbnailStereoviews: Themes: Photographic vans, wagons and cars 
ThumbnailTintypes: Themes: Tents 
 
 
  
   Still thinking about these... 
  
ThumbnailTents 
 
 
  
Refreshed: 17 August 2014, 01:33
 
  
 
  
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