bogardusA nicely groomed gentleman, dressed in formal clothing, poses for his portrait at the Bogardus studio in New York City. The subject has an imposing mustache and a rather austere expression.  Abraham Bogardus (1822-1908) was a descendent of Dutch settlers of New York’s Hudson Vallery. He opened a studio and gallery in New York in 1846. In 1849 he opened a branch gallery in Newark, New Jersey.   His business was very successful. Bogardus was a noted celebrity photographer. In 1868 he was one of the founders of the National Photographic Association and served as the organization’s President for five years. Bogardus was a major witness at the trial of William H. Mumler. Mumler was a “spirit photographer” and he was brought to trial for fraud. Bogardus was hired by P. T. Barnum to fake a photograph of him with the “ghost” of Abraham Lincoln. The image was used as an example of the ease at which a photographer could create fake photographs of ghosts. From 1871 through 1873 Bogardus partnered in owning his studio with Daniel and David Bendann. Bogardus was not a big advocate of extensive retouching. He spoke at national conferences about his belief in minimal intervention. The popular photographers Sarony and Mora did not support the minimalist approach. Mora worked particularly hard to create celebrity portraits with an idealized appearance. Bogardus’s philosophy caused him to be very popular with male portrait sitters. In fact, Cornelius Vanderbilt insisted that Bogardus be the only photographer allowed to sell his portrait. Wishing to retire in 1884, after 38 years of business, he put his studio up for sale and in the advertisement he stated that “The reputation of the gallery is too well known to require one word of comment”. Bogardus’s studio had been located at a number of New York City addresses and the photograph above was taken at his last location. Bogardus was also a talented writer. He published many articles in photography journals and in addition during much of the 1880’s he edited a well respected monthly entitled “The Camera”. The photograph below is a portrait of Abraham Bogardus.




This cabinet card poses an interesting question. My first impression upon looking at the photograph was that it was an example of a “Tom Thumb Wedding Portrait”. What is a “Tom Thumb Wedding” ?  The answer offers an interesting social commentary. A “Tom Thumb Wedding” is a wedding pageant in which the major wedding roles are played by children; usually under ten years old. Not only are the bride and groom portrayed, but so are the best man, maid of honor, groomsmen, bridesmaids and the clergyman. Some of these weddings involved more then twenty children playing costumed parts. Often times, the weddings were fund raising events for charitable causes.  These faux weddings became popular after the wedding of General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) to Lavinia Warren in 1863. Tom Thumb’s wedding was very publicized by the media in America and received the attention across the county. Not having any royal families, Americans had to find celebrities to obsess over. Tom Thumb had a great promoter keeping him in the public’s eye. P. T. Barnum, the circus entrepreneur managed Tom Thumbs career. The previous owner of this cabinet card contends that this image is actually a portrait of a boy and a girl portraying George and Martha Washington. I have to give the last owner’s theory credibility because over the years I have been collecting these photographs, I have seen a number of portraits of children portraying George and Martha. Sometimes the images present them together and sometimes separately. In conclusion, there is no conclusion. What do you think, “Tom Thumb Wedding” or “Portrayal of George and Martha Washington”. The photographer of this image is R. B. Lewis of Hudson, Massachusetts. He is cited in the Photographic Journal of America (1893) for an excellent photograph of a football team. Lewis is also listed in the Hudson city directory as a photographer between at least 1872 and 1909. Click on the category, “Tom Thumb Wedding” to view other examples of  “Tom Thumb Wedding” photographs. To view other photographs by R. B. Lewis, click on the category “Photographer: Lewis”.