Moses Chute Tuttle was born to Job and Abigail Chute Tuttle in Rome, Maine on May 14, 1828 (some reports list the birth year as 1830). Very little is known about Mr. Tuttle’s early life or formal education. After learning the daguerreotype trade from a local photographer, he relocated to the Minnesota Territory of St. Anthony in 1853. He likely worked there for a year as a daguerreotypist before moving to St. Paul, where he joined Joel Emmons Whitney’s gallery at the corner of Third and Cedar Streets. It is unknown whether Mr. Tuttle was employed as an operator or was an independent artist who rented rooms within Mr. Whitney’s studio. After being widowed twice, Mr. Tuttle met and married Mary A. Doyn, with whom he would have daughters Ella and Itasca and son William Samuel.
Mr. Tuttle proved to be a master practitioner of the wet-plate collodion process, which involved transferring the negative onto an albumen print coated with silver nitrate. An 1856 directory listing described Mr. Tuttle as a “photographist, ambrotypist, and daguerreotypist.” At the time, he had distinguished himself as Whitney’s most skillful portraitist of Native American chiefs. His rooms at the Whitney gallery also featured works by fledgling Danish daguerreotypist Dr. Andrew Falkenshield. By mid-1857, Mr. Tuttle entered into an ambrotype and daguerreotype partnership with V. H. Pratt, apparently at the same location, the corner of Third and Cedar Streets. However, by 1859, the year Mr. Tuttle was commissioned to photograph Minnesota’s Pioneer Guard (of which he was also a member), his gallery location was listed on Third Street, between Wabasha and St. Peter Streets. The following year, he received a $5 prize for his stereo views of Fort Snelling at the Minnesota State Fair. In June of 1860, Mr. Tuttle made what is perhaps his most famous negative, that of Republican presidential candidate, Illinois Senator Abraham Lincoln. Sadly, the negative, which was supposed to be circulated locally during Senator Lincoln’s campaign, broke in transit. However, Mr. Lincoln, who enjoyed being photographed, agreed to a second sitting, and jokingly added that in the meantime, he had “got a new coat.” Only a few copies of the halftone print remain in existence.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Mr. Tuttle joined the Second Minnesota Volunteer Regiment’s Company D, where he served for one year. After his army discharge, he reopened his St. Paul studio at 181 Third Street, where his photographs continued to receive local awards and critical praise. Sadly, in May of 1867, Mr. Tuttle’s studio was destroyed in a fire. Perhaps unable to afford rebuilding, he retired from photography and became a sewing machine salesman. He briefly returned to photography in 1874, but was unable to duplicate his earlier success. He turned to real estate and after several years as a successful agent, M. C. Tuttle moved to Sacramento, California, where he died on February 9, 1914 at the age of 75. Some of Mr. Tuttle’s cartes de visite of Minnesota Volunteers are currently part of Minnesota Historical Society’s Civil War photographic collection in St. Paul.
1895 The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln by Ida Minerva Tarbell with John McCan Davis (New York, NY: S. S. McClure, Limited), p. 193.
2019 Genealogy Report: Descendants of John Tuttle I (URL: https://www.genealogy.com/ftm/t/u/t/James-E-Tuttle/GENE4-0037.html).
1902 Men of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society), p. 488.
2019 Minnesota CDV Sioux Chief Little Crow Native American Indian by Whitney (URL: https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/minnesota-cdv-sioux-chief-little-crow-1816249731).
2005 Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide: A Biographical Dictionary, 1839-1865 by Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 593.
2019 The Second Minnesota State Fair at Fort Snelling; Cassius M. Clay is Delivering the Address (URL: http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display.php?irn=10616008).
2005 Twin Cities Album: A Visual History by Dave Kenney (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society), p. 32.
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