Born on July 14, 1831 in Andover, Massachusetts Jay Dearborn Moody was the first of four sons born to Edwin and Mahala Sanborn Moody. After the death of Edwin Moody in 1842, young Jay was sent to live with an aunt, at which time his surname was changed to Edwards. By age 17, he was a lecturer on the pseudoscience phrenology, and apparently began his photographic career in St. Louis, where he briefly operated a daguerreian studio at 92-1/2 Fourth Street. A few years later, the couple moved to New Orleans, and Mr. Edwards quickly established himself as a master of stereoscopic urban views. He preferred working outdoors in his "queer-looking wagon," despite the difficulties presented by the intricate wet collodion plate techniques. However, this process enabled Mr. Edwards to promote his business by widely distributing his images throughout New Orleans. Commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1859 to photograph the United States Customs House, he also photographed the Marine Hospital the following year. Because his stereo cards had a post office box number imprinted on the backs, historians have concluded he did not operate his own gallery in New Orleans. However, that changed when he and E. H. Newton Jr. formed a partnership and opened the Gallery of Photographic Art, located at 19 Royal Street. The gallery specialized in "stereoscopic views of any part of the world," with the assistance of professional associations with the New York publisher Edward Anthony and the London Stereoscopic Company. Their diverse inventory included photographs; ambrotypes; melainotypes; portrait enlargements; pastel, oil, and watercolor prints; photographic equipment; and the knowledgeable staff offered artistic instruction.
In 1861, Mr. Edwards was also operating a small studio in Mobile, Alabama, and traveled frequently to Pensacola, Florida for work location assignments. The following month, his photographs of the Fort Barrancas Confederate unit in Pensacola earned him the title "first photographer of the Confederacy". He captured images of Confederate preparations for combat at Fort Pickens, what was forecast to be the next major battle following Fort Sumter. Mr. Edwards' innovative photographic approaches included scaling a 160-foot lighthouse, which provided what are believed to be aerial photographs of the Civil War.
Thirty-nine of Mr. Edwards' photographs were published in New Orleans newspapers on May 14, 1861 under the heading, "THE WAR!" However, they were inexplicably pulled three days' later, and seldom seen for many years. After the war, Mr. Edwards set up shop in Virginia before opening a gallery in Atlanta in 1886 with his son-in-law Lewis K. Dorman.
However, after that partnership ended two years' later, he teamed with his son William, and the gallery became known as 'Edwards & Son'. It specialized in both landscapes and commercial photography. Sixty-eight-year-old Jay Dearborn Edwards died in Atlanta on June 6, 1900, and his many civic and photographic contributions were honored by a 12-block funeral procession. His wartime images are now included in several collections, including the U.S. Military Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania and the Museum of the Confederacy at Richmond, Virginia, and are also featured in the first volume of The Image of War, 1861-1865, edited by William C. Davis (first published by Doubleday in 1981). His later commercial photography is currently featured at the Atlanta History Center (http://album.atlantahistorycenter.com).
2013 1886 Atlanta City Directory ad for the Edwards & Dorman's Gallery of Photographic Art (URL: http://georgiaphotographers.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/edwards-dorman-1886.jpg).
2009 Bird's Eye View of Atlanta (URL: http://album.atlantahistorycenter.com/store/Products/79591-birds-eye-view-of-atlanta.aspx).
2005 The Blue and Gray in Black and White: A History of Civil War Photography by Bob Zeller (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers), pp. 49
2011 1861 Confederate Camp Examination (URL: http://civilwartalk.com/threads/1861-confederate-camp-examination.23877/).
2008 The Historic New Orleans Collection Quarterly, Vol. XXV (New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection), pp. 1-4.
2012 Jay Dearborn Edwards by Richard Anthony Lewis (URL: http://www.knowla.org/entry/1160).
2005 Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide by Peter E. Palmquist (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), pp. 230-231.
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