Perez Mann Batchelder was the first of four sons born to Henry and Abigail Mann Warner Batchelder on December 31, 1818 in Beverly, Massachusetts. Little is known about his early life, but it is believed that he received daguerreotype instruction in Boston in the early 1840s. He relocated to California with his brother Benjamin in 1851, and the duo was operating a mobile daguerreotype cart on Washington Street in Sonora. They discovered this ‘portable studio’ allowed them to photograph the rugged mountain terrain with greater efficiency, as daguerreotypes had to be produced quickly. In the spring of 1852, the brothers sold their cart to William Herman Rulofson and John B. Cameron, and by late summer were operating a new cart in Stockton, which they referred to as a ‘saloon.’ Their advertising emphasized the use of the latest photographic equipment, including skylights and a unique type of view camera that did not require reversing.
By February of 1853, Mr. Batchelder had expanded his business to include P. M. Batchelder and Company, where he trained Isaac Wallace Baker to become his chief operator in a mere two months. That business expanded to include accessories (e.g., gold lockets) and portrait copies. However, by the winter of 1854, the itinerant photographer set his wandering eye on Australia, in hopes of cashing in on the recent Melbourne gold boom. He sailed from San Francisco aboard the Rover’s Bride, and arrived in Sydney on May 23, 1854. Opening a studio in Melbourne’s business district, at 57 Collins Street East, Mr. Batchelder boasted his glass and silver collodion and daguerreotypes were “in the highest perfection of the art” and featured “a style surpassed by none in the colonies.” His professional reputation was further enhanced by his showings at the 1854 Melbourne Exhibition. Brothers Benjamin, Nathaniel, and Freeman soon joined their sibling in his business before venturing out on their own. Within a year, Mr. Batchelder’s studio had grown to require the services of photographer Walter Woodbury, who later achieved some industry notoriety with his Woodburytype invention.
On a visit to Massachusetts in 1858, Mr. Batchelder married Clarissa “Clara” Adams, before returning to Melbourne, where he opened a gallery with fellow Bostonian Daniel O’Neill. However, after a few months, Mr. Batchelder relinquished his share of the studio to his brother Freeman. It continued operating as Batchelder & O’Neill after Freeman’s untimely death until Mr. O’Neill sold the business to Charles E. Johnson. Nevertheless, it retained the Batchelder name in various capacities (Batchelder & Co. and Batchelder’s Portrait Rooms) until it finally ceased operations in 1895.
In 1860, Mr. Batchelder returned to Boston, where he partnered with James Wallace Black, and opened a gallery at 173 Washington Street. The company specialized in portraiture, cartes-de-visite, and stereo views. Mr. Black is believed to have taken the first aerial views of Boston, which were then sold by the studio as cartes-de-visite. Mr. Batchelder handled the in-house portraits, which included the official commissioned portrait of Sir Henry Barkly, the governor of Victoria, Australia. He retired in 1867, and returned to California, settling in San Francisco. Mr. Batchelder spent his last years as a gentleman farmer until his death on January 25, 1873 at the age of 54. The majority of Perez Mann Batchelder’s daguerreotypes are presently stored at Melbourne, Australia’s La Trobe Library, which also includes a sell-portrait of the photographer. Nine of his cartes-de-visite are housed within the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand.
1861 The Boston Directory (Boston, MA: George Adams), p. 54.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 164.
2010 Images of the Pacific Rim: Australia and California, 1850-1935 by Erika Esau (Sydney, Australia: University of Sydney), pp. 43-
2010 One Man’s Treasure (URL: http://junkshopsnapshots.blogspot.com/2010/05/perez-mann-batchelder.html).
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. 100-101.
2019 Portrait of a Gentleman (URL: https://www.joseflebovicgallery.com/pages/books/CL191-11/perez-batchelder-amer-aust/portrait-of-a-gentleman).
2019 Sir Henry Barkly, c. 1863 (URL: https://www.portrait.gov.au/portraits/2010.34/sir-henry-barkly/14074).
1994 Woodbury & Page by Steven Wachlin, Marianne Fluitsma, and G. J. Knaap (Leiden, Netherlands: KITLV Press), p. 10.
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