Born on May 10, 1853, Charles Wesley Hearn was reared and educated in Portland, Maine. After graduating from Portland High School in 1870, he worked as an apprentice at J. H. Lamson's prosperous photographic studio. The accomplished photographic master took his young protege under his wing and shared with him his artistry and technical precision. Under his tutelage, Mr. Hearn became a talented printer, and briefly worked for Frank Jewell in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
After parting company with Mr. Jewell, the 21-year-old wrote what many considered to be the ultimate textbook on albumen and plain paper printing, The Practical Printer. The first of many editions of this important treatise was published by Edward L. Wilson in 1874, and subsequently translated into several languages. Among the many pearls of wisdom contained is this observation:
A good housewife does not commence at the parlor and furnish down to the kitchen, but she commences first at the culinary department, and after she has furnished that (her work-room), she then commences to furnish her sitting-room, and finally her parlor. This is the way it should be with the photographer; he should look first to the skylight and then to the nicely fitting out of this, the operating-room, which of course includes the cameras, lenses, backgrounds, &c., &c. He then sees to his darkroom, and next, but by no means least, he sees to the printing-room, and then finally and lastly, to his reception-room, which he furnishes as his means will permit.
In the spring of 1874, Mr. Hearn joined Mr. F. Gutekunst's Philadelphia studio. Two years' later, he purchased The Philadelphia Photographer printing company, and during the 1876 Centennial Exposition, he contracted with Edward L. Wilson's Centennial Photograph Company, for which he printed several thousand pictures, using up to two albumen paper reams daily. Capitalizing on the success of The Practical Printer, Mr. Hearn began contributing to major photographic publications, a frequent prize competition exhibitor, and recipient of several national and international awards for printing excellence. Also in 1876, he married the daughter of prominent Philadelphia physician J. F. Bird, and the couple would go on to have two children, daughter Adelaide and son Frank, who would become a photographer based in Washington, D. C.
Mr. Hearn continued his printing studies in 1878, when he learned operations from Chicago-based printer and art photographer Henry Rocher. After returning to Portland the following year, he joined the business of former Portland mayor-turned-photographer M. F. King for a short time before purchasing J. M. Peck’s photographic business, which is where he remained for the next decade. In 1889, Mr. Hearn and his family relocated to Boston, where he opened a business on Boylston Street two years’ later. By 1906, he had outgrown that location and opened a highly successful studio at 164 Tremont Street.
In the early twentieth century, Mr. Hearn became President of the Photographers' Association of New England, and several industry improvements were made under his astute leadership. He moved for the last time in 1917 to an even larger facility at 2832 Washington Street. Sixty-eight-year-old Charles Wesley Hearn died at his home in West Roxbury, Massachusetts on April 3, 1922.
1922 Abel's Photographic Weekly (Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak Company), pp. 478, 480.
1906 Photo Era Magazine, Vol. XVII (Boston: Wilfred A. French), p. 106.
1917 Photo-Era Magazine, Vol. XXXVIII (Boston: Wilfred A. French), p. 48.
1874 The Practical Printer (Philadelphia: Benerman & Wilson), p. 10.
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