JAMES AND MARY PIGGOTT: PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG COUPLE IN SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

sf couple

This cabinet card portrait features a lovely young couple posed for their portrait at Cramer’s California Gallery in San Francisco. The reverse of the photograph has an inscription with the name “James Piggott and wife”. Preliminary research identifies this couple as James K Piggott and his wife Mary A. Piggott. Ironically, the 1940 US census indicates that James Piggott owned a photography studio. The business was managed by his son, Harold B. Piggott. The photographer of this cabinet card was Charles Lake Cramer (1835-1911). In his early career he operated photography studios in the California cities of Santa Barbara (1858), San Andreas (1858), and Suisun City (1860). Cramer ran a humorous ad in 1858 that stated “Good pictures made from hard looking subjects”. In 1863, Cramer worked for photographers Bradley & Rulofson (featured prominently in the Cabinet Card Gallery). Cramer ran his own photographic studio in San Francisco between 1863 and 1906. His studio was called the “California Gallery” during the 1870’s and 1880’s which indicates that this photograph was produced during one of those decades (Most probably the 1880’s).

MASTER WILLIE WAINRIGHT: TWO YEAR-OLD POSES FOR PHOTOGRAPHER IN FRESNO, CALIFORNIA

This cabinet card features a portrait of “Master Willie Wainwright” at two years-old. A dedication on the reverse of the card states “to his friend Mable Ayers”. Master Willie is wearing a straw hat which is covering his long blond locks of hair. The photographer is Edgerton Reyerson Higgins  (1845-1911) of Fresno, California. Higgins was born in Canada. His mother was Canadian and his father was from Connecticut. He attended high school and Business College in San Francisco, California. He helped out at the photographic gallery of his brother, Thomas J. Higgins while attending school. Higgins worked as a photographer in a number of California towns, including Sacromento, Snelling, Stockton, Merced, Hanford, and Fresno. He worked for at least two well known photographic studios, one of which is represented in the Cabinet Card Gallery collection; Bradley and Rulofson. The second famous  photography studio was Thomas Houseworth & Company. Click on the category Photographer: Bradley & Rulofson” to view their photographs. While working in Snelling, Higgins was quoted as saying he took “pretty pictures, even of ugly people”. This cabinet card is from Fresno and it appears that he worked there at two different times. He was there temporarily in 1879. This cabinet card was published during his second stint, which began in 1887. Higgins did much to help his community. In 1889 he was one of the principal founders of the Fresno Volunteer Fire Department, and from about 1889 until the early 1890’s, he served as chief of the department. In 1898 he renamed his gallery the “Rembrandt Studio” and a year later, entered a partnership with a photographer named Howland. The California Historical Society has a small collection of Higgins’s photographs.

BIJOU HERON: BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN STAGE ACTRESS

This Cabinet Card presents the image of American stage actress Bijou Heron (1863-1937). She was the daughter of composer Robert August Stoepel and actress Matilda Heron. She began her career as a child. She married Broadway producer, writer, actor, and director, Henry Miller (1858-1926). Her son, Gilbert Miller became a very successful Broadway producer. The photograph was published for the Union Square Theatre Company. The photographic studio was Bradley & Rulofson in San Francisco, California. The reverse of the card indicates that the studio has the only “Elevator Photography” in the world. Perhaps a visitor to this site can explain the meaning of “Elevator Photography”. Research reveals that in 1872 the partners installed what they claimed to be the first hydraulic elevator ever to be associated with a photographic studio. The elevator cost them four thousand dollars. Henry William Bradley (1813-1891) and his partner William Rulofson (1826-1876) were partners in a photographic studio that photographed many notable Californians. Bradley was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. He opened his San Francisco studio in 1850 and took in his partner in 1860. When he retired in 1878 his studio was considered the best on the west coast and won first prize at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876. Mr Rulofson had quite a controversial and interesting life and associated with many famous people including Ambrose Bierce.  Rulofson died in a fall from the roof of his studio and was heard to say during the descent, “I am killed”. You can view a second cabinet card of an actress by these photographers by clicking on the category “Photographer: Bradley & Rulofson”. Ms. Heron is dressed in costume for this portrait. It is likely that she was appearing in San Francisco with a touring company from the  Union Square Theatre. The costume that she is wearing is one that she wore in the play “The Two Orphans” in which she appeared with actress Maud Harrison circa 1880. This cabinet card indicates that Bijou Heron was a strikingly beautiful woman.