Henry A. Hyatt was born around 1841. There is little known about his life or how he became involved in the daguerreotype trade. He settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where he and W. D. Gatchel established the Gatchel and Hyatt photographic apparatus company, which lasted from approximately 1848 until 1861. Mr. Hyatt then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to operate another Gatchel and Hyatt facility, which further expanded in 1873 with the purchases of companies owned by Mr. Merritt in Louisville, Kentucky, and St. Louis-based William H. Tilford. However, the merger known as the Tri-City Stock House, only lasted a few years.
When Mr. Hyatt and Mr. Gatchel decided to end their partnership, Mr. Hyatt assumed sole control of the St. Louis facility. Mr. Hyatt was an astute businessman and his company sold an impressive line of photographic equipment and cameras supplied by Rochester Camera and Supply Company. Mr. Hyatt also successfully marketed his camera designs. Despite his reserved demeanor, Mr. Hyatt had a great rapport with his clientele, and prided himself on providing excellent customer satisfaction. In 1887, the Hyatt Company was awarded a patent for a stamp portrait camera with image sizes that ranged from four images on a 4 x 5 inch plate to 25 images on a 5 x 8 inch plate.
With the addition of son Henry Harding "Harry" Hyatt in 1888, the H A. Hyatt Supply Co. continued to grow, and by the 1890s had to move to a larger location at 417 North Broadway Street. The expansion continued when Mr. Hyatt purchased J. C. Somerville Supply Company in 1897, and relocated operations to a four-story, 11,000 square foot building on 410 and 412 North Broadway, the hub of the St. Louis business district.
In May of 1905, Mr. Hyatt named his son Henry vice president and secretary of the H. A. Hyatt Supply Company. Refusing to allow age to slow him down, Mr. Hyatt continued exerting strong corporate leadership over what had become St. Louis's premier photographic equipment supplier and one of the city's most profitable businesses. While traveling with his wife on the morning of November 29, 1905 (some texts report the date as December 6), Mr. Hyatt suddenly became ill with acute indigestion upon arrival at St. Louis's Union Station. His condition deteriorated rapidly, and H. A. Hyatt was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
After Mr. Hyatt's death, his son assumed the presidency of the H. A. Hyatt Supply Company, and proved to be as adept in corporate leadership as his late father was. Harry H. Hyatt also published several highly regarded photographic texts including The Photo-Beacon and The Photo Mirror. The company remained in business until at least 1920, but apparently shifted its emphasis from photographic equipment to gifts ranging from sporting goods to cutlery.
1906 The Book of St. Louisans (St. Louis: The Saint Louis Republic), p. 300.
1906 The Camera (Philadelphia: The Camera Publishing Company), p. 30.
1906 Camera Craft, Vol. XII (San Francisco: Camera Craft Publishing Company), p. 46.
1906 The Photo-Beacon, Vol. XVIII (Chicago: The Photo-Beacon Company), pp. 28-29.
2005 Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide: A Biographical Dictionary, 1839-1865 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 342.
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