Search Database

Translate this page

  Frederick York, Photographer

Frederick Arlington Viler York was born in Bridgwater, Somerset, England, on August 11, 1823. After discovering law was not a satisfying vocation, he became an apprentice for a Bristol chemist at the age of 16, which was also the same year Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the daguerreotype. It is believed Mr. York became acquainted with William Henry Fox Talbot's calotypes during his apprenticeship and experimented with photogenic paper made by artist William West of Bristol's Clifton Down Observatory. After moving to Bath, he met and married Eleanor.

During the winter of 1853, Mr. York became afflicted with a serious lung ailment (a common malady among chemists), and his doctor recommended relocating to a warm climate to regain his health. After advising his photographer friend photographer John Daniel Cogan of his plans, Mr. Cogan suggested he pursue photography as a career, and provided him with instruction as well as the use of his studio. In 1855, Frederick York and his wife left for South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, where he found work as a photographer. Though his studio met with quick success, Mr. York frequently struggled with material shortages that lasted for several months at a time. He was unable to obtain bromide of ammonium or iodide and discovered that Dutch ether turned deep red with the addition of iodides. As for using wine, that had been distilled to the point of rendering it completely ineffective. However, the ever resourceful Mr. York successfully redistilled the ether and wine and successfully transformed Mexican silver dollars into silver nitrate for photographic processing. Mr. York is credited with introducing the collodion technique to South Africa, while supplementing his income as a photographic equipment importer and photography instructor.

Fully recovered, Mr. York moved his family (which now included sons William and Edward) to England in 1861, where he established a studio and publishing house at 10 Lancaster Road (later renumbered as 87 and 67) in the London borough of Notting Hill. He quickly earned a reputation as a formidable outdoor photographer, having taken more than 1,000 views of the London landscape in various sizes. He also produced cabinet, stereoscopic, and large size images of the animals that inhabited London's Zoological Gardens (now known as the London Zoo). He frequently used Ross and Dallmeyer stigmatic lenses.

While traveling through Paris, Mr. York captured stereo views with hand camera, from which he produced glass lantern slides. Their popularity resulted in the lucrative production of lantern slides of his London stereographs. When son William joined his father in his growing business, the company name was changed to York & Son. In 1884, a Bridgwater factory opened at 32 Friarn Street that within the next decade was producing 100,000 glass lantern slides annually. Mr. York was also an active member of several photographic societies, but his growing deafness forced his retirement. Eighty-year-old Frederick York died on December 17, 1903, and his son William continued operating the business. Unfortunately, however, the demand for glass lantern slides decreased significantly, resulting in liquidation and sale to Newton & Company in 1907, although the name York & Son was retained. It finally closed in the late 1940s when Newton & Co. was purchased by AEI. London's National Monuments Records currently has more than 2,400 of York & Son's glass negatives in its inventory, which includes 832 of the famous London stereo views.

1889 The British Journal of Photography, Vol. XXXVI (London: Henry Greenwood & Co.), pp. 232-233.

2009 British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1905 (URL:

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 1520.

2012 Lioness Aroused (URL:

1900 The Photographic Dealer, Vol. VIII (London: Photographic Dealer Ltd.), pp. 54-56.

2009 York & Son (Courtesy of the Magic Lantern Society) (URL:

1999 York, Frederick Arlington Viler (URL:

2015 York & Son: London and Neighbourhood (URL:

# 3195
2015-11-24 06:09:13

Return to Previous Page
Return to the History Librarium

Copyright © 2002 - 2022 Historic Camera