William Daniel Edy was born to Daniel and Mary Ann Matthews Edy on February 24, 1832 in Burford, Brant County, Ontario, Canada. After receiving a public and private school education, he became a farmer. He married Melinda Haviland in 1854, and the couple went on to have several children. After several years of farming, he joined his brother James Newbury Edy in his Brantford photography business. The Edy Brothers soon distinguished themselves as being the only firm in Ontario that could retouch negatives. They also successfully created an oil painting from an ivory miniature of the town's namesake, Captain Joseph Brant that was subsequently presented to Queen Victoria's son Prince Arthur. Mr. Edy's wife died in 1873, and two years later he married Mary Howell.
In 1876, Mr. Edy ventured out of his photography studio long enough to help Alexander Graham Bell document his telephone invention. He is credited with creating a photographic record of the original telephone, and the world's first telephone conversation was between Mr. Edy's business and Mr. Bell's farm/laboratory. Despite his success and increasing recognition, Mr. Edy proved himself to be either miserly or a poor businessman. When offered a half share of Bell Telephone for $1,200, he refused. Years' later, when offered a half interest in the fledgling Eastman Kodak for $700, it was promptly rejected. Mr. Edy and his brother moved their studio to London, Ontario in 1879, to 280 Dundas Street and a few years later permanently relocated to 214 Dundas Street. It was here where Mr. Edy made the famous portraits of American poet Walt Whitman, who joked at the time he was being photographed so much, "all the cameras must be tired of him."
After J. N. Newbury's death in 1890, his younger brother was determined to carry on the family business by bringing in his two sons, Frank, and later E. (Eli) Leslie Edy. They were the most commercially and critically successful portraitists in the region, winning top prizes at London, Ontario's prestigious Western and Provincial fairs. As E. Leslie Edy overtook many of the business's daily operations, his father remained a tireless experimenter, receiving patents for, among other inventions, a lubricator, coupling, and compound engine. Eighty-four-year-old William D. Edy died at his son Leslie's Ontario home on August 1, 1916. After Leslie's death three years' later, local photographer Robert Darragh bought the Edy Brothers business, and eventually changed the name to Darragh Photo Studio. It closed in 1925. Currently, there are Edy Brothers studio portraits featured at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC and at the International Center of Photography in New York City.
1920 Abel's Photographic Weekly, Vol. XXV (Cleveland, OH: Abel Publishing Company), p. 375.
1891 The Canadian Album by William Cochrane and John Castell Hopkins (Brantford, Ontario: Bradley, Garretson & Co.), p. 429.
2015 Edy Brothers (URL: http://photographersofontario.ca/index.php?title=Edy_Brothers).
2012 Edy Bros. Studio (URL: http://www.wikitree.com/photo/jpg/Edy-39-4).
2010 Edy Brothers: Walt Whitman, International Center of Photography (URL: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/walt-whitman-london-ontario-canada).
1998 Library of Congress - Historical Collections (American Memory) (URL: https://memory.loc.gov/mss/magbell/270/27000138/27000138.sgm).
2000 Waterfalls by Eugene McNamara (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada: Coteau Books), p. 230.
2012 William D. Edy with Mary Howell, Grand-daughter and Son Leslie (URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mackaycartoons/8403774168/in/photostream).
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