Robert Stewart was born in Elgin, Scotland in 1813. Details of his childhood and education are unknown. A diligent and enterprising worker, he established himself as a successful local bookseller at an early age. His business prospered, but he needed an outlet to satisfy his artistic inclinations. Mr. Stewart became acquainted with the relatively new medium of photography, which had become a favorite hobby of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The inquisitive student did not allow his youth to deter him from quickly transforming himself into a master photographer, which led to a major career change.
Mr. Stewart opened his first photography studio in his hometown of Elgin in 1860. Simplicity best suited the humble Scotsman, and he became known to locals as merely, "Stewart, photographer, Elgin." His modest facility specialized in cartes-des-visite of many sizes and photographic enlargements. Mr. Stewart's portraits and CDVs serve as excellent examples of early portraiture, complete with ornately dressed and stiffly posed subjects on prints rich in sepia tones.
In 1881, the 67-year-old photographer was conducting business at 131 High Street in Elgin. However, a decade later, according to census statistics, the senior "R. Stewart" was located at 31 Lossie Wynd. Although listed by now as being a "retired photographer," Mr. Stewart nevertheless remained active in local industry groups, and was a longstanding member of the National Association of Professional Photographers (N.A.P.P.). His last known Elgin address, according to the 1901 census, was 32 Abbey Street.
By the early 20th century, Mr. Stewart's status as Elgin's elder statesman of photography was secure, having enjoyed a lengthy career that outlasted the reigns of five British monarchs. Hoping to leave a lasting professional legacy, the aging pioneer turned to the next generation. After completing a rigorous apprenticeship under their father's demanding tutelage, three Stewart sons joined the family business. Two of the Stewart sons remained in Elgin, but the third moved his operations to Torquay, England, where he became one the region's foremost experts on natural history. The junior Stewart's flora photographs were featured in his educational volume, Handbook of the Torquay Flora. When nonagenarian Robert Stewart died in 1905, his "R. Stewart" studio continued operating successfully under his sons' leadership for several more years.
1897 British Journal of Photography, Vol. XLIII (London: Henry Greenwood & Co., Ltd.), p. 477.
1905 British Journal of Photography, Vol. LII (London: Henry Greenwood & Co., Ltd.), p. 397.
2017 James Frank Bowie (1851-1930), Scottish Immigrant (URL: https://busybeetraveler.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/james-frank-bowie-1851-1930-scottish-immigrant).
2013 Posts Tagged With: 1870s Photos (URL: https://busybeetraveler.wordpress.com/tag/1870s-photos).
2013 Stewart Photo Elgin N.B. Cabinet Card Abt 1860 (URL: http://flickriver-lb-1710691658.us-east-1.elb.amazonaws.com/photos/60866864@N05/8538176448).
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