The First Darkroom Technicians - Part II
by Daniel A. Sheridan
June 28, 2010
As I jot down notes to Timothy O’Sullivan – America’s Forgotten Photographer by James D. Horan, I thought about the early pioneers of photography who lived on Staten Island: John William Draper, Chilton, Mathew Brady, and Tim. I've been reading over this book for many years — since 1989 when studying the History of Photography. Dave Rains lent me his copy in 1993 when I worked as a darkroom technician at The Needham Times. After borrowing this book from the library time and again, I eventually purchased my own copy in 1998, a so-called rare book, available oneline - at a bargain-basement price of just $150.00! I must possess this book. I took the bait. Just recently, I saw the same book listed for $10.08. ;-)
Horan describes a poignant scene: (my off-hand, happenstance-scribbled notes) - One of the first news stories about photography ever published. Draper’s close friend was Chilton, another Staten Islander whose apothecary shop was at the corner of 4th and Wooster near NYU. On September 30, 1839, the Morning Herald reported about the crowd's gathered outside Chilton's shop to look at a daguerreotype on display in his window. Crowds flocked to Chilton’s to see the new marvel - Daguerre's Discovery from Paris - one of the first photographs ever seen on Broadway.
A short sentence by Horan leapt off the page:
"One can picture the country boy as he hurried off the Josephine, the Staten Island ferry boat, up Broadway to Fulton Street."
I thought about the photograph I took early one morning in 1988 of Sean Foy, an Irish immigrant, heading home to Staten Island after a long night of working at a pub in The Village.
One day after class in 1989, the History of Photography, I had an epiphany of sorts as I stood on the corner of Broadway and Tenth, the former location of one of Brady’s Studios. Looking at Grace Church, I thought about O'Sullivan and his photographs. Over to the right, down the street, is The Ritz where I saw The Replacements in 1986 perform songs from their album Tim. I then decided to write a book about O'Sullivan as a young apprentice at Mathew Brady's studio, combined with my experience as a darkroom technician, and the title would be Tim...
Timothy O’Sullivan – America’s Forgotten Photographer
Subtitle – The Life and Work of the Brilliant Photographer whose camera recorded the American Scene from the battlefield of the Civil War to the Frontiers of the West
By James D. Horan
1966 Bonanza Books New York
Staten Island – Brady, Draper and Chilton
Page 20 – Description of Brady’s attire
A deed in 1853 Jeremiah O’Sullivan bought a home in Castleton Corners Staten Island then also known as Grymes Hill, where Brady had a home variously described as a mansion or cottage.
The Staten Island Gazette congratulated Brady on choosing Staten Island for his home. Doggett’s City directory showed that Brady lived there on the Island from 1853 (when O’Sullivan’s father bought his house) to 1861 when Brady and Julia moved to the National Hotel in Washington City.
Page 21 William Page lived on Staten Island 1840-49 then to Europe. It is not unreasonable to assume Brady first came there with him.
See Footnote 16 – Staten Island Historian Apr-June 1946. Dr. John William Draper lived on Cherry Lane now Forrest Avenue- taught chemistry at the University of the City of New York. Draper took one of the first portraits of his sister in 1839. Draper’s close friend was Chilton, another Staten Islander whose apothecary shop – corner of 4th and Wooster near NYU.
Page 22 – morning of September 30, 1839 readers of the Morning Herald – Chilton put a daguerreotype on display in his window. Crowds flocked to Chilton’s to see the new marvel.
Townsend Interview – Prof. Draper counseled me. It was Draper who invented the enameling of a daguerreotype. One can imagine Brady peering through his blue tinted glasses as he explained the camera obscura – like Dad about silverware and the Greeks.
Page 22 O’Sullivan lived with his father Jeremiah his mother Ann. There was a brother and a sister whom we know nothing about. One can picture the country boy as he hurried off the Josephine, the Staten Island ferry boat, up Broadway to Fulton Street.