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  G. Frank E. Pearsall, Photo Artist and Camera Designer

George Frank E. Pearsall was born on November 23, 1841 at Cherry st. in New York City. His father, John Alva Pearsall was a life-boat builder and a man of enterprise, and his mother, Mary Eliza was from a well respected Long Island family of Duryea. His parents died at young ages, his dad at age thirty-three, leaving young G. F. E. Pearsall, his older brother of two years Alva Adee and younger brother of two years Charles H. E., orphans to be raised by an aunt in Saratoga, New York.

In 1852, G. Frank and Alva began to learn the photography business from their uncle, Townsend Duryea, once a photographer of Williamsburg. However, T. Duryea only provided guidance to the two boys for two years before departing for Australia and never returning. This left the family photography studio in the hands of the Aunt and two adopted cousins, which remained open for only a few years. Alva left to explore the west indies, only to return to enlist his brother to do the same and the two brothers spent eight years in Cuba and various towns in the West Indies, Carracas, Venezuela and elsewhere.

In 1862, G. Frank E. Pearsall returned to New York and began employment with Gurney, where he refined his photographic skills. He and worked with Mr. James. L. Forbes, who would later become his business assistant.

IN 1866 of march, G. Frank E. Pearsall married Elizabeth L. Conrow, from Long Island, NY.

In 1870, G. Frank Pearsall established a photographic gallery at the corner of Fulton and Tillary streets Brooklyn for two years, and then moved.

In 1872 George Frank E. Pearsall and his able assistant Mr Forbes opened G. Frank E. Pearsall's new gallery at 298 Fulton Street, on the evening of August 7th to a party of friends. It was a gallery more systematic in its whole design or more elegant in its appointments. He has given much attention to his light which is of grand proportions and partakes of a combination of top and side - the whole being nearly 300 superficial feet. There are very ingenious devices for screening both inside and outside and a very thorough system of ventilation. The offices and reception rooms are elaborately furnished with black walnut and rich carpeting's; chandeliers of choice design and frescoes of superb coloring, give to the whole a more than usually pleasing appearance The third floor is divided into rooms for his printing and artists.

In 1873 Pearsall was written up in the The silver sunbeam by John Towler - Towler describes Pearsall as one of our most successful young photographers, "Mr Frank E Pearsall of Brooklyn who practices a method which is both economical and produces uniform results of positioning the picture for trimming. After his paper is silvered the sheet is folded to a proper size and by means of a drop and punch a large number of pieces of paper of exactly equal size are cut out at one blow. The position of the paper upon the negative is determined by the artist who retouches, and is indicated by a small piece of paper cut with a recess, forming a right angle. The piece of paper to be printed is laid with one corner fitting into this recess. Thus every head is printed in exactly the same position". Pearsall submitted a patent for this process.

In 1879, The Kansas City review of science and industry reported that the daguerrean process had recently been revived in Brooklyn by the skillful operator Frank Pearsall and with very great success. Some of his pictures by this process were exhibited.

In 1880 Pearsall advertised as being the largest photographic establishment in Brooklyn.

In 1883 Pearsall was again in the news for writing a thank you to American Optical for their design of a new 25x30 Camera he wrote: "I Take this opportunity to thank you for the care and skill you have exercised in making the large 25 x 30 American Optical Co.'s Camera. It is a splendid piece of mechanism reflecting credit on the manufacturers, attracts a great deal of attention from observers, and is as fine a piece of workmanship as I have ever seen - - signed G.F.E. PEARSALL".

In 1883, Most significantly, Mr Pearsall developed a historic camera called the Pearsall's Compact Camera. The most striking innovation of all the new features that it possess is that this camera is its own carrying case, which would be copied by all camera manufacturers into the 1920's. The camera is its own "carrying case", containing all the apparatus in one package, including lens, diaphragms, pneumatic shutter, and plate holders. The front of the box turning down at right angles for the bed of the camera. It is the most compact instrument made and the readiest in manipulation and was also convertible to taking stereo photos.

Another important invention was in 1884 was with the new Ruby plate holder. It was one of the best being light tight and very portable.

An 1884 ad claims that Mr Pearsall has made an ingenious adaptation of the same principle (referencing his compact camera) to form a cheap camera for beginners. However no information or more descriptive ads describing this camera can be found.

In 1891 Wilson writes: "Mr Frank Pearsall shows the most tasteful and instructive of all the exhibits. It consists of several large frames of beautiful portraits named Knarfographs (patent) a new style of work which Mr Pearsall has just introduced. A Knarfograph is a photograph of an India ink or sepia black tone trimmed with rough edges and mounted upon a rough paper mount with a fancy seal stamped upon colored wax at one corner. We do not know whether it is the process by which these photographs are made which is patented, or whether it is the style of mounting. The pictures are very effective and should prove a remunerative venture for the photographer. They cannot of course be put into the ordinary albums on account of the wide margin of mount allowed. An account of the production of these photographs from Mr Pearsall would prove interesting. The quality of the work is excellent".

The Photographic Times, 1872, p.106 & p.130
The silver sunbeam, 1873 p.566
The Kansas City review of science and industry, 1879, P.40
Wilson's photographic magazine, 1891
History of the County of Kings and The City of Brooklyn, N.Y., 1884, p.1167

Visit Rob Neiderman's website for information and photos of the rare
Pearsall Compact Camera.

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2019-01-23 17:46:17

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