Search Database

Translate this page

  Prescott Adamson

Prescott Adamson was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania to William and Eleanor Francis Prescott Adamson on Christmas Day 1863. Little is known about his childhood or early adulthood until 1897, when he was living in Philadelphia and employed as a business manager. His interest in photography is evident at that time, when he became a member of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia, which exhibited his portraits in its salons from 1899 until 1901. In 1900, Mr. Adamson gave society members a fascinating lecture on the preparation of lantern slides and the applications of platinum toning. His technical knowledge was so revered by industry professionals that excerpts and editorials of them were reprinted in The Photographic Times, the British Journal of Photography, and the American Amateur Photographer. The results of his experiments on preparing plates were delivered to the technical committed of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia in 1901. It stated in part that uniformity could only be assured by using the Seed 26 plate, and that transparency could be achieved within seven minutes.

Mr. Adamson's friendship with Alfred Stieglitz led to his membership into the prestigious Photo-Secession, and his photographs were exhibited in its first show at the National Arts Club in New York in 1902 and in 1904 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. Mr. Adamson's atmospheric photogravures like "A Winter Night" frequently featured snow, buildings, and a haunting mist. The charming scene transports the viewer to a village bridge in the moonlight, and a sense of wonder at where the tracks in the snow might lead. His eye for detail and technical prowess are also evident in a portrait Mr. Adamson lovingly made of his young daughter, which was published in The Photographic Times in 1900.

Charles H. Williamson was born in Scotland in 1826. Little is known about his childhood or when he first arrived in the United States. It is believed he first learned about the photographic industry while serving as an apprentice in Springfield, Massachusetts. He became a daguerreotypist at Marcus Root's renowned Philadelphia gallery in 1849. After a year, Mr. Williamson moved to Brooklyn where he would remain for the rest of his life. He opened his first gallery in 1851, and in 1859, he moved to an adjacent building where he conducted business until his death. An accomplished watercolor painter and sketch artist, Mr. Williamson successfully combined his many talents to his photographic art. He invented a process he dubbed "Cameotype", which was typically a color-tinted daguerreotype of a mother and child or children that was mounted on an ornate or jeweled pendant-like setting. He also developed a drawing technique that enabled novice artists to sketch drawings from a transparent positive.

On the eve of the Civil War, baseball was well on its way to becoming America's pastime, and the most successful teams were located in Brooklyn. In 1859, Mr. Williamson assembled the Knickerbocker and Excelsior Clubs teams for a panoramic image believed to be the first known photograph taken on a baseball diamond. The professional Brooklyn Atlantics baseball team won an impressive series of championships in 1861, 1864, and 1865. Mr. Williamson was commissioned to commemorate the team's success by taking a "Champions of America" photograph. Copies of the photograph were mounted on cards and presented to players, and fans of both the Atlantics and their opponents' supporters. This represents the earliest existing baseball card.

Mr. Williamson was a great perfectionist who constantly strove for artistic excellence. He made sure he personally applied the finishing to every daguerreotype that left his studio. He was also a tireless promoter of photography and its latest techniques. Mr. Williamson was a founding member of the Brooklyn Photographic Art Association, and a frequent contributor to The Photographic Times and other popular photographic journals of the period. He also continued experimenting with new processes, and in 1874 was working on graying photographic backgrounds. In the autumn of 1874, he became ill with what was later diagnosed as cranial congestion. Charles H. Williamson died on October 22, 1874, leaving behind a wife, two children, and many important photographic contributions. An obituary of Mr. Williamson published in The Photography Times stated, in part, "By the death of Charles H. Williamson the photographers of this city and, indeed, of the United States, have lost one of their most able associates in the profession."

2009 Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress (Washington, DC: The Library of Congress), p. 9.
2003 Baseball Legends of Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery (Portsmouth, NH: Arcadia Publishing), pp. 24-25.

1997 Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Washington, DC: The Library of Congress), p. 178.

1869 Oneida County Directory Business Advertisements (URL:

1874 The Photographic Times, Vol. IV (New York: Scovill Manufacturing Company), p. 176.

2013 Williamson Daguerreotype – Mother & Child Brooklyn NY (URL:

# 2626
2013-09-27 21:10:58

Return to Previous Page
Return to the History Librarium

Copyright © 2002 - 2019 Historic Camera