A Picture is Worth a Gazillion Words

ECHO underway, posted Thursday, February 24, 2011

We’d like to think that the contemplative young lass sitting in the back parlor 137 Washington Street, Hartford, is an anxious as we are to launch ECHO. But the date of this photograph is February 18, 1882, and the city didn’t yet have electricity–that would arrive in 1883, and Hartford would become the first electrically lighted city in Connecticut. No electricity, no Internet access. (How did our ancestors survive?)

Another technology, photography, wasn’t yet fifty yeas old when R. S. DeLamater created this image of the young girl reading. Richard Storm DeLamater was a professional photographer in Hartford. Born in Hudson, New York, in 1833, DeLamater apprenticed as a coachmaker before his interest in photography overtook hum in 1856. He moved to New Haven, but then moved in 1861 to Hartford. According to Men of Progress, an 1898 collection of biographies of “Leaders in Business and Professional Life in and of the State of Connecticut,” DeLamater “has been regarded as the foremost photographer of Hartford; he has kept pace with the latest developments and improvements in his art, and his name is a synonym for skilful [sic] and artistic work. His long residence in the city and steady good results have made his studio one of the business landmarks of the place, and there are few of Hartford’s prominent citizens who have not, at one time or another, patronized DeLamater.”

The lack of electric light in Hartford did not deter DeLamater and his camera. In this image, the couch has been moved to make best use of the natural sunlight streaming through the windows to the sitter’s right. The strange haze above the bookcase behind the sitter may be a reflection, but could also be another window or door opening. The bookcase may have been moved to control lighting by serving as a backdrop.

The ECHO staff has done a little research, and we think the sitter may be Aimee Freeland Corson, born in France in 1871 to Henrietta Cone Corson and her husband, Adam Clark Corson.  Aimee was the granddaughter of William Russell Cone, who is recorded in the 1880 Federal Census as living at 137 Washington Street.  William R. Cone was, at the time this photograph was taken, the president of the Aetna Bank.  His obituary is found at the Connecticut State Library’s website.

To see more of R. S. DeLamater’s camera work in his studios at 285 Main Street and by 1885 at 15 Pratt Street, Hartford, and throughout Connecticut, link to Connecticut History Online.