Henry William Mathew Meade was born in England to Henry R. and Mary Meade in 1823. His brother and future business partner Charles Richard arrived three years' later. In 1833 (or 1834 according to some published reports), the Meades came to the United States and settled in New York. Both young men became fascinated by French painter Louis-Jacques Mande Daguerre's experiments with light-sensitive chemicals. The resulting daguerreotype made its triumphant debut to enthusiastic Parisian crowds in 1839. The following year, Daguerre wrote and published an instruction manual that was translated into four languages, which forever changed the lives of the Meade Brothers. While both still in their teens, the Meades opened a daguerreotype studio in Albany, where they continued studying Daguerre's process (with some personal tutoring from Mr. Daguerre himself), which they applied to portrait making. They found early success that enabled them to open other studios throughout New York - in Buffalo, Sarasota Springs, and Williamsburg. The Meade Brothers further expanded their business to include camera and equipment manufacturing. In 1848, Charles R. Meade had the privilege of traveling to France to meet and photograph Mr. Daguerre, one of the few extant images of the photographic pioneer.
In mid-1850, the brothers sold their studios and opened a lavish gallery at 233 Broadway they named the American Daguerreotype Depot. It truly became a family enterprise when sister Mary Ann joined her brothers as a camera operator. Their chief gallery operator, Oscar G. Mason, later became a highly successful photographer in his own right. The gallery itself was spectacular, complete with two separate sitting rooms and imposing skylights. Another portion of the building was used for importing photographic supplies worldwide. They made portraits of such illustrious figures of the day as President James Buchanan; statesmen John C. Calhoun, Henry, Clay, and Daniel Webster; operatic soprano Jenny Lind; telegraph inventor Samuel Morse; and Commodore Matthew Perry. They also photographed actor (and later presidential assassin) John Wilkes Booth. The brothers traveled extensively to make impressive panoramic views of San Francisco, Niagara Falls, and such important historical landmarks as the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and William Shakespeare's house at Stratford-on-Avon. Among the many awards they received for improving daguerreotype techniques was a silver medal for excellence at the American Institute.
In 1851, Charles Meade married Marietta Roff, with whom he had a son and a daughter. Two years' later, his older brother married Sarah Meserole and they became the parents of two daughters. Sadly, Marietta Meade died in 1856, which was a tremendous blow to her husband emotionally and physically. After a few years of declining health later attributed to the hazardous chemicals he used in his profession, Charles Meade died in St. Augustine, Florida on March 2, 1858. Brother Henry continued operating his business successfully under the "Meade Brothers" name, but was frequently sidelined by bouts of depression. Henry W. M. Meade used laudanum poison to commit suicide on January 27, 1865. He left behind five letters - to his father, sister, wife, and daughters Sarah and Jessie – and along with his brother a rich photographic legacy that includes more than 2,000 daguerreotypes. An exhibit entitled, "The Meade Brothers: Pioneers in American Photography," can be viewed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC through June 1, 2014.
2013 The Brothers Meade & Their Daguerreotype Tokens (URL: http://www.novanumismatics.com/industry/the-brothers-meade-their-daguerreotype-tokens).
1858 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Vol. V, No. CLI (New York: Frank Leslie) (27 March 1858), pp. 268-269.
1853 Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, Vol. IV, No. VI (Boston: F. Gleason) (5 February 1853), p. 96.
2013 How One New York City Studio and the Brothers Behind It Helped Popularize the Daguerreotype (URL: http://www.airingnews.com/articles/190210/How-One-New-York-City-Studio-and-the-Brothers-Behind-It-Helped-Popularize-the-Daguerreotype).
2007 The J. Paul Getty Museum: Handbook of the Collections (Los Angeles, CA: Getty Publications), p. 284.
1997 Meade, Charles Richard. (URL: http://craigcamera.com/dag/me_table.htm).
1861 The New-York Illustrated News, Vol. III, No. LXVII (New York: 3 February 1861), p. 236.
1865 The New York Times (New York: 28 January 1865) (URL: http://www.nytimes.com/1865/01/28/news/a-sad-mortuary-record-suicide-of-an-eminent-photographer.html).
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