Edward Cary Dana was born in 1852 in Boston, Massachusetts. As the son of a stockbroker, it was initially assumed he would pursue a business career. While working as an administrative clerk, he became interested in photography, a passion that intensified during the Civil War. Mr. Dana was profoundly moved by the images that deeply personalized the pain and suffering of combat. He became the apprentice of Boston ambrotypist James W. Turner. Mr. Dana was committed to showcasing the new art form, and in 1875 moved to Brooklyn, where he opened his first studio and experimented with the latest processing techniques.
Mr. Dana's combination of artistry and business shrewdness made his Brooklyn studio an immediate creative and financial success. He expanded to a more upscale Manhattan gallery location - on the corner of 14th Street and 6th Avenue - and opened a second Brooklyn studio in 1892, complete with specially constructed 19' x 55' skylight with a west of north exposure. Mr. Dana's portraits distinguished themselves by eliminating the painted backgrounds that characterized the pictorial portraits of the period. Along with commercial success came professional accolades for his portraiture, beginning with the first gold medal he was awarded in 1887. He went on to receive the prestigious gold medal at the Photographers' Association of America (PAA) convention (1891), a merit in photography award at the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), and a bronze medal at the 1894 PAA convention.
The photographic entrepreneur with the Midas touch added another gallery to his growing empire at 872 Broadway. Periodical photographic reproductions inspired Mr. Dana to transition from publicly peddling his images to selling them to editors, which was not only lucrative but also gave his portraits much greater public exposure than those of his contemporaries. With a booming business, Mr. Dana redirected his attention to process experimentation, collaborating with printer George A. Connor on half-tone printing. Together, they developed several printing processes including a variation of a carbonette negative (collodion paper on ground glass) and ivorette clear portrait printing on glossy cards. By the mid-1890s, Mr. Dana was busily opening another Broadway studio (on the corner of 28th Street) and a gallery in Pittsburgh, PA. He was also preparing to marry Ada B. Sherman when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in October of 1896. Described vaguely as "kidney trouble," Mr. Dana attempted to continue with his active lifestyle until his rapidly deteriorating physical condition forced him to accept the inevitable. He married Miss Sherman on Christmas Day 1896, and two months later, 44-year-old E. C. Dana died at his New York home with his bride at his bedside. With the foresight of appointing several capable managers, Mr. Dana's studios continued operating successfully for several years after the death of their founder.
1891 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XXII (New York: E & H. T. Anthony & Co.), p. 451.
1892 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XXIII (New York: E & H. T. Anthony & Co.), pp. 240-242.
1897 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XXVIII (New York: E & H. T. Anthony & Co.), p. 127.
2013 Broadway Photographs (URL: http://broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/edward-c-dana).
1898 Munson Phonographic News and Teacher, Vol. XII (New York: Walworth & Co.), p. 16.
Copyright © 2002 - 2019 Historic Camera