Born circa 1825, W. D. Gatchel became involved in the daguerreian trade while still in his early twenties when he entered into a partnership with Henry A. Hyatt. Together they opened a photographic stock dealership in St. Louis, Missouri in 1848. Thirteen years later, Mr. Gatchel met photographer R. P. Appleby, and shortly thereafter became manager of his photographic stock company. In 1863, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to manage the L. B. Darling company, and when Gatchel & Hyatt assumed the corporate reins, a branch was opened in Louisville, Kentucky, under the leadership of Mr. Hyatt.
Mr. Gatchel's photographic empire grew when his firm overtook William H. Tilford's St. Louis company and Mr. Merritt's Louisville, Kentucky business to form the Tri-City Stock House in 1873, which operated until 1881. At this time, Mr. Gatchel bought out Mr. Hyatt's interest in the Louisville company and returned to manage the Cincinnati stock house until selling it to Jordan and Sheen the following year. He and his family established permanent residence in Louisville in 1883, which is where Mr. Gatchel opened W. D. Gatchel & Sons. His great success in the photographic industry was attributed to his uncompromising integrity. Mr. Gatchel painstakingly provided his customers with the best products he could find. He also had a great appreciation for the creative side of portrait photography. Mr. Gatchel advised portrait photographers to study the art of posing so that their subjects would look natural rather than "stiff as a photograph." He emphasized the importance of perspective and of reminding the subject of the significance of a particular pose to the aesthetic appeal of the photograph. Such understanding, according to Mr. Gatchel, focused the subject's attention on the importance of the pose to the overall photograph and away from the focus of the camera lens. This resulted in a more relaxed posed instead of a stiff, statue-like posture that was common in many late nineteenth century photographs.
During the 1890s, Mr. Gatchel's health began to fail, and his sons, Albert and Frank began taking more active roles in the family business. W. D. Gatchel died at his Louisville home on December 29, 1895 at the age of 70. Albert. D. and Frank Edwin Gatchel continued their father's commitment to quality, and were also active and well-respected members of the Louisville community.
On September 11th, after a short illness brought on by overwork, Albert D. Gatchel died.
The Gatchel family continued running the company until it ceased operations in 1990.
1896 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XXVII (New York: E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.), pp. 64-65.
2005 Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide: A Biographical Dictionary, 1839-1865 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 275.
1881 Wilson's Photographics (New York: Edward L. Wilson), p. 54.
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