Reportedly born on September 30, 1837, Frank Lawrence became one of New England's earliest photographers and documentarians. No information is presently available regarding his place of birth, family, education, or introduction to photography. Mr. Lawrence married Eliza Duncan, with whom he would have a child who died during infancy. It is believed he began producing daguerreotypes in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1863. Mr. Lawrence operated at various locations on Main Street, specializing in ambrotypes primarily of children and in a unique process known as sphereotype. Patented by Dayton, Ohio daguerreotypist Albert Bisbee in 1856, a sphereotype was a positive collodion image on spherical or curved-shaped glass like a paperweight.
Like many early daguerreotypists, Mr. Lawrence combined drawing and painting with photography, with finely-detailed portraits and landscapes finished in oils, pastels, and India ink. His works reflect the Victorian sensibilities that had taken root in America during the mid-nineteenth century. However, Mr. Lawrence managed to control the sepia tones so they enhanced rather than overwhelmed his images. His balanced portraits were studies in aesthetics, technical expertise, and precision craftsmanship.
In time, Mr. Lawrence became Worcester's unofficial photographer, capturing several images that were published several volumes of The Worcester Directory from 1867 through 1886. He also chronicled various homes and churches throughout Worcester, most notably the Bancroft House that once served as Dr. Aaron Bancroft's church and later the residence of his son, historian George Bancroft; Rev. Edward Everett Hale's Church of the Unity; and the interior of The Central Church. It was also Mr. Lawrence who produced a series of stereographs that gave many residents their first glimpse of Worcester's “great flood” of 1876.
Because there is no record of Frank Lawrence's work after 1886, it is believed that because he had no sons to leave his business to, he closed his studio. After retiring, Mr. Lawrence moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where he died on February 11, 1914 at the age of 76. Fittingly, his final resting place is in his beloved Worcester, in a family plot at Worcester Rural Cemetery. Many of his photographs, including his famous flood stereographs are currently housed in the Worcester Historical Museum.
1914 Bulletin of Photography, Vol. XIV (Philadelphia: Frank V. Chambers), p. 247.
2015 The Cabinet Card Gallery (URL: https://cabinetcardgallery.wordpress.com/tag/frank-lawrence).
1889 Dictionary of Worcester (Massachusetts) and Its Vicinity by Franklin Pierce Rice (Worcester, MA: F. S. Blanchard & Co.), p. 66.
1892 The New England Magazine, Vol. V (Boston: New England Magazine Corporation), p. 820.
2013 Older Gentleman Exhibits True Grit in Worcester, Massachusetts (URL: https://cabinetcardgallery.wordpress.com/category/men/page/2).
2001 Photographs from the 19th Century: A Process Identification Guide by William E. Leyshon (URL: https://history.denverlibrary.org/sites/history/files/Photographs_from_the_19century.pdf), pp. 48, 105.
2017 Stereoview Frank Lawrence Worcester, MASS, Smiths Mill Flood Damage 1876 (URL: http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Stereoview-Frank-Lawrence-Worcester-MASS-Smiths-Mill-Flood-Damage-1876-/282258503385?hash=item41b7eaf6d9%3Ag%3AAJQAAOSw4shX%7EQG4&_trkparms=pageci%253Aabd629f4-1faa-11e7-901a-74dbd180ed94%257Cparentrq%253A6357ddfd15b0a6063607dc1afffd289f%257Ciid%253A16).
1878 The Worcester County Directory (Worcester, MA: Briggs & Company), p. 7.
1866 The Worcester Directory (Worcester, MA: H. J. Howland), p. 5.
1867 The Worcester Directory (Worcester, MA: H. J. Howland), p. 8.
2017 Three Dolls (URL: http://cwfp.biz/cgi-bin/sg_past/tm.pl?itm&ib348&12_Childhood).
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