Born in Oldham, Lancashire, England reportedly on September 17, 1813, Jabez Meal was the son of chemist John Meal and his wife Elizabeth. Details on his early life are few, and it is believed he joined his father in the West Yorkshire linen industry when he was in his twenties. In 1834, he married young Eliza Parkin, daughter of Star Inn proprietor Joseph Parkin. After his father-in-law died, Mr. Meal ran the Star Inn, and took an active interest in his customers, teaching them arithmetic as well as educating them in both English and Latin.
Seeking more lucrative employment in the United States, Mr. Meal, his wife, and their growing family relocated to the United States, settling in Philadelphia in 1842. This is when he became known professionally as John Jabez Edwin Mayall. He became associated with University of Pennsylvania chemist Dr. Paul Beck Goddard, who at the time served as a technical adviser to local photographic pioneer Robert Cornelius and conducting experiments to improve the daguerreotype process. With Dr. Goddard's assistance, Mr. Mayall learned about the science of photography; he experimented with photographic art in the studio he opened at 140 Chestnut Street. During this productive period, he created a series of ten daguerreotypes portraying The Lord's Prayer and detailed illustrations of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Macbeth, and Thomas Campbell's evocative poem, "The Soldier's Dream."
After selling his studio to daguerreotypist and author Marcus Aurelius Root, Mr. Mayall returned to London in 1846, with his first studio (from 1847-1855) located at 433 Strand. He further experimented with daguerreotyping and photographic processes, applying the collodion process to copy and enlarge daguerreotypes. He resisted coloring daguerrotypes out of concern that the necessary chemicals would taint the permanent image. He also became known for his technical innovations, which included a supported disc with a star-shaped hole that revolved between the camera and the object being photographed capable of producing a photographic reproduction of a vignette portrait.
An important turning point in Mr. Mayall's career occurred in May 1851 when the Great Exhibition of the Art and Industry of All Nations opened in London. There, he exhibited several of his daguerreotype illustrations including The Lord's Prayer, and met Prince Albert, who became his most important patron. Despite Albert's encouragement, Mr. Mayall decided to discontinue artistic photography and focus solely upon its commercial aspects. He began producing profitable portrait carte-de-visites of celebrities, and took out a patent in 1855 for "Artificial Ivory for receiving photographic pictures" which he developed. Mr. Mayall also became an active member of the Photographic Society of London, and in addition to photographing the British royal family regularly, he also became photographic advisor to military officials who were assigned to photograph the Crimean War. His expanding business required opening another studio at 224 Regent Street in 1853, which grew to include 226 Regent Street three years' later. He enjoyed publication success as well with Illustrated News of the World in 1858 and the Royal Album compilation of 14 carte-de-visites of Queen Victoria and her family in 1860. His celebrity clientele included statesmen William Ewart Gladstone, Lord Derby, and Lord Brougham.
Mr. Mayall returned to Brighton in 1864, and after becoming widowed, married Celia Victoria Hooper, with whom he had two daughters. He also became active in Bighton politics, serving as councillor (1871), Alderman (1874) and Mayor (1877-1878) respectively. He also received such honors as being named a fellow of the Royal Institution (1864) and of the Chemical Society (1871). The curtain fell an illustrious six-decade career when eighty-seven-year-old John Mayall died on March 6, 1901.
1986 A Concise History of Photography (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada: General Publishing Company, Ltd.), p. 73.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 907-909.
2002 John Jabez Edwin Mayall (1813-1901) (URL: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/DSmayall.htm).
2012 Portraits of Charles Dickens (1812-1870) (URL: http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/DickensCharlesPortraits.htm).
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