William Howard Tipton was born to Solomon and Elizabeth Kitzmiller Tipton in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on August 5, 1850. As the Civil War entered into its second year, he was a 12-year-old apprentice for photographers Charles and Isaac Tyson, the proprietors of the small farm town's only photographic studio. Little could he have known at the time that in July of 1863, Gettysburg would be transformed into the bloodiest battlefield in U.S. history. Before other photographers like Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner arrived at the gruesome scene, the Tyson brothers and their young apprentice were already documenting the immediate aftermath of the slaughter.
The battle of Gettysburg changed the course of the Civil War and became the defining moment of William Tipton's life. The apprentice emerged from the carnage as a master photographer, and in 1866 purchased Tyson Brothers Gallery on York Street along with colleague Robert A. Myers, necessitating a name change to Tipton & Myers Excelsior Gallery. In 1871, he married Mary Elizabeth Little, and their family would grow to include a son and three daughters. In 1880, Tipton became the sole owner of the successful gallery, now known as W. H. Tipton & Company. By now, chronicling the sites of the Civil War had become a lucrative business, and he established himself as one of the foremost battlefield photographers, not only in his hometown, but on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Mr. Tipton and his camera documented the most famous battlefield sites in Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and Spotsylvania. He also assisted French artist Paul Philippoteaux with his Gettysburg Cyclorama. In 1881, he returned to Gettysburg to photograph several views of the famous Pickett's Charge on Cemetery Ridge. A high wooden platform was erected to capture the panoramic images. By 1888, Mr. Tipton had amassed some 5,000 views of the battlefield and at least 1,000 portraits, more than sufficient to earn the title, "Battlefield Photographer." He also specialized in family and special events portraits.
As his business grew, so too did Mr. Tipton's influence on the Gettysburg community and politics. He lobbied to create Gettysburg Electric Railway's battlefield trolley line and the establishment of Tipton Park, which of course had a tintype studio on the premises. He was one of the first photographers licensed by the Gettysburg National Park Commission (GNPC), and sold his photographs in his studio and in downtown gift shops. In 1894, his Catalogue of Tipton's Photographic Views of the Battlefield of Gettysburg was published. His books, which also included Gettysburg: The Pictures and the Story, became extremely popular among the growing tourist trade. Mr. Tipton was also commissioned by the GNPC to document all of the battlefield's monuments and markers, a huge undertaking that lasted two decades. He was elected to the Gettysburg Town Council and later served in the state legislature. Seventy-nine-year-old William H. Tipton died on September 20, 1929. He was buried in Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery. His family donated much of Mr. Tipton's massive photographic collection to the Gettysburg National Military Park (GNMP). The Gettysburg Cyclorama has been restored and is now on display at the GNMP's Visitor Center. His camera, thousands of photographs, and glass plate negatives are part of the collections of the Adams County Historical Society, Gettysburg College's Musselman Library, and the National Archives in Washington, DC.
2012 The Curious Case of the 27th Connecticut - Part 3 (URL: http://battlefieldbackstories.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html).
2002 Dead at Little Round Top (URL: http://www.geh.org/ne/str109/htmlsrc7/m198185420001_ful.html).
2005 Gettysburg by Dolly Nasby (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing), p. 37.
2015 The Gettysburg Cyclorama by Chris Brenneman and Sue Boardman (El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie LLC), p. 17.
2003 Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and an American Shrine by Jim Weeks (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), p. 71.
2015 The Second Day at Gettysburg by David L. Shultz, Scott L. Mingus Sr. (El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie LLC), p. 462.
2016 W.H. Tipton Gettysburg, PA Cabinet Photo Card of Family and Children (URL: https://www.rubylane.com/item/398016-3240/W-H-Tipton-Gettysburg-PA-Cabinet).
2016 William H. Tipton, and his Work (URL: http://www4.ncsu.edu/~tmdannin/history.htm#WHT).
2011 William H. Tipton Photographer (URL: http://www.evergreencemetery.org/npeople3.htm).
2015 William H. Tipton Photos in the Provincial Archives (URL: https://dcarchives.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/william-h-tipton-photos-in-the-provincial-archives).
2013 William H. Tipton Photo Thread (http://civilwartalk.com/threads/william-h-tipton-photo-thread.25511/page-3).
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