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  Pach Brothers

Morris Pach (1837-1914), Gustavus W. Pach (1845-1904), and Gotthelf Pach (1852-1925) were born in Berlin, Germany. Their family moved to New York when they were quite young, and it is believed that their shared interest in photography began during their boyhood. By the 1860s, the trio were capturing images of their neighbors. At the age of 17, Gustavus was working as an apprentice at one of New York's most illustrious photographic studios, Turner & Company. He and Morris received individual listings in the New York City directory of 1866-1867, both working at 260 Bowery. At this time, photography was still very much in its infancy, using wet plate collodion processes such as ambrotype and tintype. Gustavus developed a potentially fatal respiratory condition - a common malady of early photographers because of inhaling the harsh processing chemicals - and moved to Toms River, New Jersey, to regain his health.

In 1868, the Pach brothers made a fateful visit to the summer resort town of Long Branch, New Jersey, where they met the wealthy Philadelphia publishing duo, George William Childs and Anthony J. Drexel. The men, close friends of General Ulysses S. Grant, were impressed with the brothers' photographs, and brought them to the attention of soon-to-be President Grant. With financial assistance from Messrs. Childs, Drexel, and Grant, the brothers opened a Long Branch studio on the property of the United States Hotel. The sign over the studio's front door, 'Stereographs,' was a reference to the popular trend at the time of seeing double images in 3-D when wearing glasses with specially designed lenses. Tiring of the photographic trade, Morris Pach retired to become a cigar maker. Meanwhile, Gustavus returned to New York where he opened a studio at 858 Broadway.

By the 1870s, Pach Brothers studios had established themselves as school and college portrait photographers. They would operate studios seasonally in college towns to take group portraits or sporting events at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Vassar, to name a few. In addition, upon the recommendation of President Grant, they became the official military photographers at West Point, with Gotthelf Pach overseeing those operations. Pach Brothers were also contracted to document the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another Pach brother, Oscar (1850-1903), joined the firm after moving to the United States. The Pach Brothers participated in several important global exhibitions, including Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition in 1876, New Orleans' Cotton Centennial Exposition in 1884, and Chicago's World Columbian Exposition in 1893. On February 16, 1895, a fire broke out on the top floor of the Pach Brothers' buildings located at 935 and 937 Broadway. Fortunately, there was no loss of life, but all of their negatives were destroyed. Nevertheless, the brothers rebuilt and remained at that location for another decade.

As the twentieth century approached, a second generation of Pach brothers joined the family business with the addition of Morris's son Alexander L. Pach (1863-1938). Gotthelf's son Alfred (1884-1965) also worked there, later serving as president of the company. Another of Gotthelf's son's, Walter Pach (1883-1958), who later became a noted art critic, once worked as a colorist at the studio. Gustavus W. Pach, the guiding force of the Pach Brothers photographic empire, died suddenly following an operation on October 10, 1904 at the age of 59. Pach Brothers remained in business for more than a century, finally closing the doors of its Fifth Avenue location in 1994.

2011 Guide to the Pach Brothers Portrait Photograph Collection (URL:

1904 Gustavus W. Pach Dead; Founder of Photographic House Dies After an Operation (URL:

1918 A History of Cleveland and Its Environs, Vol. III (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company), pp. 32-33.

2008 Jersey Shore: Vintage Images of Bygone Days (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press), p. 61.

1897 Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Vol. XXXIV (New York: Edward L. Wilson), pp. 305-310.

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2013-11-16 17:23:10

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