Andrew Falkenshield (birth name Anders Falkenskiold) was born to Catharine Hedevig Leth and Major Anders Sehested Falkenskiold in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 1, 1821. A Danish nobleman by birth, Mr. Falkenshield received his higher education at the University of Copenhagen. During the First Schleswig War (also known as the Schleswig-Holstein War) between Denmark and Germany, he served as an assistant surgeon in the Danish army. Afterward, he continued his medical studies at Copenhagen’s the Almindeligt (General) Hospital, receiving his medical degree in 1852.
One year later, Dr. Falkenshield made the bold decision to relocate to the United States, and although the actual reason has never been substantiated, some historians believe it was the young man’s extreme reaction to a broken love affair. He first settled in New York City, where he practiced his profession as a physician and first became interested in painting. Upon moving to Chicago, Dr. Falkenshield indulged in his love for painting by creating miniature portraits for local photographer Alexander Hesler. While at Mr. Hesler’s La Salle Street gallery, he was reportedly introduced to Minnesota photographer Joel Emmons Whitney, who encouraged Dr. Falkenshield to join his St. Paul studio in 1856. The studio – located at Third and Cedar Streets – was then operated by Moses C. (M. C.) Tuttle, who mistakenly advertised that the gallery featured “Life-size photographs taken and colored by an experienced German artist.” Though Mr. Tuttle moved on to open his own studio within a few years, Dr. Falkenshield remained loyal to his mentor, and handled all of the prestigious assignments that included taking portraits of Minnesota public officials and other prominent citizens. He further distinguished himself by using a special plate to produce cartes de visite, which held up to 64 pictures.
By 1863, Dr. Falkenshield felt confident enough to open his own gallery, Falkenshield and Company, at 136 East Third Street, specializing in portraiture, ambrotypes, cartes de visite, copies, retouching (in India ink and watercolors) and enlargements.During this period, he also instructed clergyman and fledgling photographer Elijah E. Edwards on the wet collodion method. Mr. Edwards would later laud his mentor for his uncompromising artistic integrity, but added, “He lacks the boldness and dash necessary to attract the attention of a modern public, and he is too painfully conscientious as to the principles of his art. He will do absolutely nothing in the line of catering to popular applause, which he does not seem to care for in the least.” According to Mr. Edwards, Dr. Falkenshield did not enjoy financial success because of his painstakingly slow output and lack of business acumen. He would eventually exchange his camera for a paintbrush.
In his later years, however, Dr. Falkenshield did return to photography, and for a time produced photographs at the studio of Charles A. Zimmerman. After leaving Mr. Zimmerman’s gallery, he lived and worked at 54 East Third Street. Seventy-four-year-old Andrew Falkenshield died of complications from diabetes on October 28, 1896. Several of his portraits, miniatures, and cartes de visite, once comprising artist John A. Weide’s personal collection, are now housed within the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society.
2019 Directory of Minnesota Photographers – Falkenshield, Andrew (URL: http://www.mnhs.org/people/photographers/F.php).
1981 “His World Was Art” – Dr. Andrew Falkenshield by Helen McCann White (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society), pp. 184-188.
1986 The North American Indians in Early Photographs by Paula Richardson Fleming and Judith Luskey (New York, NY: Harper & Row) p. 236.
2005 Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide: A Biographical Dictionary, 1839-1865 by Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kaibourn (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 247.
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