John Moffat was born on August 26, 1819 in Aberdeen, Scotland. His father, a prosperous bookbinder, moved his young family to Edinburgh eight years later, which is where John received his artistic education. In the 1840s, he opened his own artist and engraving shop and married Ellen Notman in 1847. The couple had a daughter two years' later, but apparently were divorced by 1851. That year, Mr. Moffat married Sophia Maria Knott, whose brother was local successful photographer James Brown Knott. At this time, he began exhibiting his own amateur photographs and opened a portrait studio in 1853, likely in partnership with his brother-in-law. In 1854, the Moffats would have the first of seven children, Frank Pelham Moffat.
Mr. Moffat's photography business grew steadily so that by 1857, he opened what would be the first of five studios on Edinburgh's busy Princes Street. The senior Moffat also began selling oil and watercolor portraits The senior Moffat made a rare portrait of photographic pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot. He was an active member of the Photographic Society of Scotland and later the Edinburgh Photographic Society, of which he served as President for several years. After studying photography in France and learning business practices after working for a merchant, the junior Moffat was ready to join the family business in 1875. Like his father, he was an accomplished painter and used to add charcoal and oils to his portraits. Frank P. Moffat married Katherine Rhind on June 19, 1884, but sadly, Katherine Moffat died shortly after giving birth to James Francis Moffat less than two years' later.
John Moffat retired from the studio in 1884, but did not relinquish full control of the business until his death on March 5, 1894. After marrying Mary Irvine Swinton Watt in 1894, with whom he would have two sons and a daughter, Frank Moffat focused his attentions on mastering all aspects of photography. In 1895, He won first prize in the 'Cadett' International Prize Competition for his portrait of his former father-in-law John Rhind entitled, "The Master Hand." Like his father, Mr. Moffat was both artist and innovator. He subscribed to the philosophy, "If you want a thing done well, attend to it yourself." He is believed to be the first practitioner of wet plate photographic processing in Scotland, an early user of electric lamps, and later developed a three-color carbon technique, which he discontinued because of its lack of commercial success. A popular speaker in the international lecture circuit, he enlightened audiences on such topics as gelatine plates, gelatino-chloride printing papers, home portraiture, and color photography. In 1811, he was named President of the Professional Photographers' Association. Frank Pelham Moffat died in Edinburgh following a brief illness in 1914. The Moffat family studio at 125-126 Princes Street remained in business until closing its doors for the last time in 1962.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 935.
2013 Frank Pelham Moffat FRPS (URL: http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/pp_i/pp_moffat_frank_pelham.htm).
1937 Life Magazine (New York: Time, Incorporated), p. 5.
1895 The Photogram, Vol. II (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), p. 211.
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