Nineteenth-century photographer and esteemed Mormon Elder Charles Roscoe Savage was born in Southampton, England to John and Ann Savage on August 16, 1832. His childhood was characterized by extreme poverty. His genial father was a gardener unable to provide adequately provide for his family. His attempts to produce a blue dahlia for which a generous cash prize was offered fell short. Therefore, his son was forced to work as a laborer at an early age. Young Savage’s life was changed forever when, as a teenager, he heard the Mormon Elder Thomas B. H. Stenhouse speak about The Church Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Deeply moved by Elder Stenhouse’s instruction, Mr. Savage was officially indoctrinated into the Mormon faith and was baptized on May 21, 1848.
After being ordained as a minister, he was sent to Switzerland in 1852 and spent the next three years performing missionary work. It is believed his interest in photography began at this time. When leaving England for the United States in 1855, he noted the costs of photographic equipment in his journal. In December 1856, Mr. Savage left Liverpool aboard the ship John J. Boyd and arrived in New York on February 15, 1857. His first job in America was a two-year stint at the printing office of Samuel Booth. During this time, he met and married London transplant Annie Adkins.
Deciding to pursue photography as a career, Mr. Savage again sought the counsel of Elder Stenhouse, an amateur photographer believed to have brought the first stereoscopic camera to America. After seeking additional instruction from a Broadway photographer, Mr. Savage became proficient enough with this type of camera to make his own photographs. His missionary work sent him to the Nebraska territory in 1859, and he first established a photographic business in the town of Florence. He reunited with his family in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and set up a successful photographic studio there. During the four months he was there, Mr. Savage made $224.75 from his portrait photography and supplemented his income by teaching photography and daguerreotyping.
In 1860, Mr. Savage and his family traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, and he snapped several landscape photographs along the way. After his arrival, he opened another photographic studio, and entered into a gallery partnership with Marsena Cannon. Their gallery offered stereoscopes, leather and cloth photographs, ambrotypes, and melainotypes. After this partnership was dissolved, Mr. Savage partnered with artist George Martin Ottinger, whose specialties were painting miniatures and photograph retouching. The Savage and Ottinger studio offered portraits, melainotypes, ambrotypes, stereographs, and cartes de visite.
During his successful career, Mr. Savage served as official photographer for the Union Pacific and the Oregon Short Line Railway, and his elite clientele included Mormon President Brigham Young. After retiring in 1906, he lived quietly in Salt Lake City, but still occasionally made photographs for his family and friends. Seventy-six-year-old Charles Roscoe Savage died on February 4, 1909.
1919 Utah since statehood- historical and biographical Volume 3 - Page 173.
1920 Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. III (Salt Lake City, UT: Andrew Jenson History Company), pp. 708-711.
1909 Photo-Era Magazine, Vol. XXII (Boston: Wilfred A. French), p. 213.
2005 Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide: A Biographical Dictionary, 1839-1865 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 213.
1919 Utah since Statehood: Historical and Biographical, Vol. III (Salt Lake City, UT: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company), p. 173.
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