PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS (AFRICAN AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER)

This cabinet card photograph features a formally dressed young woman. The reverse of the photograph lists her name as “Marie Botana”. The inscription also reveals that the photo was taken in 1899. I have reason to believe that this image is a graduation photo. I hold that hypothesis because I found this cabinet card for sale along with a large group of similar portrait photographs; all featuring other young women. This cabinet card is of great interest because of the man who took the photo. The photograph was taken by Beckford Photo, a studio located in Boston, Massachusetts. David C. Beckford was African American. He received mention in the book, “Boston: Its Commerce, Finance, and Literature”. His studio is described as a leading photo studio in the country. The business was established in around 1872 as the Chickering Photo Company. The proprietor, Walter E. Chickering (not to be confused with Elmer Chickering, a well respected Boston photographer of the era) was a notorious swindler. He was especially known for his dishonesty and blatant resistance to paying his bills. Walter must have been a tough boss to tolerate. Beckford took over the business in 1888. Beckford’s establishment employed four assistants. Beckford was a native of Jamaica. He came to Boston in about 1872 and worked for Chickering for several years. According to one source, Beckford operated a Hardware business in Jamaica, at least part of the time, while he ran his photo studio in Boston. A Massachusetts directory of photographers asserts that Beckford was active as a photographer until 1909. Beckford is cited in an article appearing in the “Southern Workman” (1909). The title of the article was “Improvement in Housing Negroes in the North”. The writer states that Beckford had recently returned from a business trip to Jamaica where he directed the rebuilding of his properties; and reestablished his hardware business which had been destroyed in an earthquake. The “Southern Workman” article was the first reference that I found that indicated that David C. Beckford was a Black man. Examining the 1900 US census data provided confirmation that Beckford was indeed a Black man. Census data conflicted with other legal documents in regard to where Beckford was born. It appears he was born in either England or Jamaica. He was born in 1856 and immigrated to the United States in 1872. He married Elvira P. Gott in 1881. She was a Black woman born in Massachusetts. She was close in age to Beckford. Photographs by Black photographers are not common, making this image a great find. (SOLD)

Published in: on November 13, 2020 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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