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Edward A. Caner: 1890's Amateur Photographer

datasheet_loginEdward Augustus Caner was born about 1850, in Brooklyn, New York. Edward married Cornelia Tompkins Vermilye on June 14, 1877 in Staten Island, New York. Miss Vermilye, nicknamed Teenie, was a direct descendant of Daniel D. Tompkins, the U.S. Vice President under Monroe.

Edward was employed as an accountant and book keeper and in addition to his photography hobby, where he amassed over 750 images, he was an enthusiastic bicyclist and active in his local Episcopal church. Edward was an avid amateur photographer in New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s where the quality of his work typically equaled or surpassed that of the newly thriving studios. Edward was one of the early pioneering amateurs who benefited with the introduction of the simplified Kodak camera and also with the introduction of dry plates. These advancements armed amateurs with the tools to capture the imagery of those historic times without having to be schooled in the chemical process.


Edward was one of the first to have benefited from the technology advancements for amateurs. He embraced the new capability and excelled in it. Edward's photographs stand out because he had an eye for arrangement, subject, and quality. He explored new areas of imagery beyond standard portraiture. He was fascinated with maritime and recorded numerous images of boats. He photographed the sites of the city and events of his time. He was fortunate to encounter famous people and events in his travels, which he expertly photographed.

Among Edward's possessions was an 1889 string-set Kodak box camera, which came preloaded with film and all he had to do according to the advertisements of the day was "pull the string, turn the key, and push the button". The early Kodak cameras were not equipped with viewfinders but since the images were circular, misalignment's during the exposure were not obvious. However, since most of the 750 plus images in his collection are of glass positives and negatives, the camera he used to produce most of his photographs was probably an 1893 Premo camera made by the Rochester Optical Co , that he purchased new from the The Obrig Camera Co of 163 Broadway, NY.

The Caners had no children of their own, but Theodore Russell Ludlow, shown here about age 5, lived with the Caners, became like a son to them, and was the subject of many of Edward's photographs. Russell grew up to be as active in the local Episcopal Church as Edward was. After high school he went on to Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts and became an Episcopal minister. Russell excelled in the ministry, became a missionary in China, and became a Bishop in New Jersey. Russell was born in Valley Creek, Texas on July 14, 1883 and married Helen Roosevelt Lincoln. Russell died at age 78 in Wareham, Massachusetts.

About 1908 the Caners moved from New York to 47 Spruce Street in Bloomfield, New Jersey and became active in the local Episcopal church. They were instrumental in the effort to build Christ Church located in the adjoining town of Montclair, New Jersey, and a stain glass window in that Church inscribes their name. In 1924 Russell Ludlow officiated at a wedding of family members in Bloomfield, held in the Spruce Street house so that Edward, who was now gravely ill, could watch from his bed.



Edward captured many important images including this one of an unidentified Indian chief believed to be a participant in Buffalo Bills Wild West show. The show featured Sitting Bull and real Indians reenacting Little Big Horn and General Custer's death. The chief is in full dress, with feathered hat, beaded work with detailed moccasins and noisemakers on his pants for dancing. The Indian appears to be holding a peace pipe. The gentleman on the side has a period derby and cane looking directly into the camera. This image is great example of Edward's eye and ability to capture historic imagery.
Another candid shot Edward took is of Major-General James McLeer at the Brooklyn Columbian Celebration on October 21, 1892. Lieutenant Colonel John B. Frothingham is also depicted. The two soldiers fought in the Civil War. Major-General McLeer was born on Dec. 8, 1839. McLeer saw action first at Bull Run, July 21, 1861. Then in battle at Groveton, VA., August 29, 1862, he lost an arm and had a leg shattered. He was discharged for physical disability, July 27, 1863. President Hayes appointed him as Postmaster of Brooklyn in 1877. He was well-liked and respected by the people of Brooklyn.. General McLeer died January 15, 1922, at his home, at the age of 83.

Edward A. Caner is remembered here through his wonderful imagery that he captured during his life as a pioneer in amateur photography. Edward Augustus Caner died on June 25, 1925 and is buried on Staten Island.

Special Thanks to Catharine Ambos for allowing us to document and share her great uncle's cameras and images and to her husband, Robert, for help in organizing the photographs





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2012-09-02 06:41:17
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