George R. Angell, son of Israel and Angeline Decker Angell, was born in Rochester, New York on November 28, 1836. At age 14, he became his father's machine shop apprentice, and within three years had achieved journeyman status that allowed him to earn a daily salary of $1. Mr. Angell moved to Detroit shortly thereafter, and spent the next two years as a machinist before returning to Rochester to become his father's business partner.
However, a severe economic depression forced Mr. Angell to reevaluate his career prospects, which were likely dictated more by family loyalty than by choice. He joined the staff of a local newspaper and became a police reporter. When the newspaper ceased operations, Mr. Angell again started at the bottom, earning $3 a week as an errand boy for a photographic supplies merchant. He finally seemed to find his true calling, and two years later, in 1863, he moved back to Detroit intent on establishing his own photographic supplies business. He and business partner Erastus C. Howard opened Howard & Angell and enjoyed immediate success. After buying out Mr. Howard, Mr. Angell continued operating the business as George R. Angell Co., Ltd. Located at 216 Woodward Avenue, it contained the largest fine arts inventory in the state of Michigan at the time, selling ambrotypes, carbon reproductions, etchings, pictures, frames, chemicals, dry plates, films, card mounts, self-toning paper, and cameras (including Adlakes, Cyclones, several types of Eastman-Kodaks, Premos, and Vives). Mr. Angell married Sarah M. Hall on June 4, 1866, with whom he would have five children, only two of whom - George Hall and Mabel - would survive to adulthood.
As Mr. Angell became more prosperous, his civic participation increased. He was named Vice-President of City Savings Bank, and assumed the bank presidency after the retirement of William H. Brace. He also served as President of the Michigan Bankers Association. Mr. Angell's effective banking leadership was attributed to the combination of business acumen, managerial skills, and uncompromising integrity that fueled his own successful business, which was left in the capable hands of George Hall Angell. On April 18, 1900, 63-year-old George R. Angell died suddenly of heart failure at his Detroit home. His son continued operating the business - one of the oldest in the city - until 1912, when it was purchased by the Detroit Photographic Company.
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