Born to Henry and Abigail Mann Batchelder in 1826, Benjamin Pierce Batchelder spent his childhood in his birthplace of Salem, Massachusetts. Meanwhile, his older brother Perez Mann Batchelder learned the daguerreotype process and opened a studio in Boston, where his brother joined him as an apprentice. By age 30, Mr. Batchelder was working on his own as a daguerreotypist and ambrotypist. He followed his brother Perez to California, where the siblings mined unsuccessfully for gold. They financed their mining operations by making daguerreotypes via their mobile cart, where they photographed the miners and the views of the foothills that surrounded the Sonoran gold country. It becomes readily apparent that the Batchelder brothers were motivated more by profit than by art, but this does not imply that their daguerreotypes were lacking in aesthetic value.
In 1852, the Batchelders decided to sell their cart (to fellow photographers William Rulofson and John B. Cameron) and opened the P. M. and B. P. Batchelder Gallery in Stockton. According to one of their print advertisements, their studio featured “large sky and side-lights, a full sized German Camera [and]… splendid View Camera, for taking views without reversing.” Within a few years, the senior Batchelder decided to move to Australia, where he opened a studio with another Massachusetts expatriate, Daniel O’Neill. Benjamin Batchelder, along with younger brothers Nathaniel and Freeman, followed shortly thereafter, and sailed from Boston to Melbourne on the Cahota. Rather than joining Batchelder & O’Neill, the younger brothers opened their own gallery in Sydney.
After Nathaniel Batchelder’s death in 1860, Benjamin moved to Sandhurst (now known as Bendigo), where his professional status soon overtook that of the area’s pre-eminent photographer, Alexander Fox. He married Nancy Rehmond, and she often served as her husband’s assistant. Mr. Batchelder received a commission to make a photographic record of local miners for the London International Exhibition of 1862. Meanwhile, his Bendigo studio flourished, initially specializing in cartes-de-visite and portraits, but eventually grew to include accessories (e.g., cases, frames, and lockets), retouching, and engraving. By 1868, the Batchelders were back in Stockton, where they opened their ‘Photographic Art Palace’ at 183 El Dorado Street. During this period, Mr. Batchelder became as well known for his stereographs as for his portraits.
Sixty-four-year-old Benjamin P. Batchelder died in Stockton on November 6, 1891. A brief obituary in Wilson’s Photographic Magazine modestly described Mr. Batchelder as a “steadfast friend—fellow craftsman.” His widow Nancy continued doing business as a “woman artist” until 1914. A collection of Batchelder photographs (which also include Perez Mann Batchelder’s works) can be found at the La Trobe Library in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. His Stockton stereographs are housed at the University of California at Berkeley’s Bancroft Library; and additional photographs are located at the New York Public Library, the California Historical Society, the San Jose Historical Museum, and Stockton’s University of the Pacific’s Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections.
2011 Benjamin Pierce Batchelder (URL: https://www.daao.org.au/bio/benjamin-pierce-batchelder/biography).
2019 California Photographers (URL: http://www.slicesoftime.net/Photographs-Pages/Photo-n/ne/NeedCyru.html).
2019 Images of the Pacific Rim (URL: http://www.esauboeck.com/index/Images_Chapter_1.html).
2019 John M. Benson's Outfit, Elliott (URL: http://digitallibrary.californiahistoricalsociety.org/object/75?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=9855f8e950d43782153c&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=8).
2000 Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 by Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), pp. 99-100.
1891 Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Vol. XXVIII (New York: Edward L. Wilson), p. 735.
2019 Woman in Chains (Stockton, California) (URL: https://cabinetcardgallery.com/category/photographer-batchelder).
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