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Southworth & Hawes/Biography

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Southworth & Hawes
Key Attributes :   Technique · Significant Marks · Conservation · Subject Series
General Information :   Biography · Provenance and Significant Collections · References and Bibliography

Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes Biography

By Becky Simmons

Southworth and Hawes both learned the daguerreotype process in 1840. Although they did not know each other at the time, each man attended a series of lecture/demonstrations given by François Gouraud, Daguerre's student, in Boston that year. Southworth had established and managed a pharmacy before he learned the daguerreotype process and ventured into his new career. Hawes, who had been working as an itinerant portrait artist and lecturer on electricity, gave up painting and continued his travels using his new skill.

In late 1840, Southworth and Joseph Pennell, a former roommate from school, formed the partnership of Southworth and Pennell, the first of the companies documented in the collection. This initial phase of the business was mainly taken up with long hours of experimentation to reduce exposure time, but from the records it seems probable that the two men also operated a studio and distributed photographic supplies from Cabotville, a small town outside of Boston, before moving to the larger city in 1841. Late in 1842, the studio, now called A.S. Southworth & Co., moved to a suite of rooms on Tremont Row, a center of artistic activity in Boston, where the business remained until 1901.

Pennell left and Hawes brought his technical and artistic skills to the firm in 1843, becoming a full partner that year (the firm was renamed Southworth & Hawes in 1846). From 1843 to 1861 the partners operated the highly successful portrait studio for which they are best known, achieving considerable fame as the most fashionable portrait studio in Boston. But the firm also made income from other endeavors as well. A mainstay of the business was their services to other photographers: they offered instruction on daguerreotyping to many individuals entering the new profession, and they sold complete daguerreotype outfits and other photographic supplies to studio operators as far away as Pennsylvania. Both men experimented continually to improve on apparatus and aspects of the daguerreotype process, and later the wet-collodion process, and these efforts distinguished their products and contributed to the success of the supply business. Two more individuals contributed to the business. It is well known that Southworth's sister Nancy Niles, who later married Hawes, worked in various capacities, and this is documented through personal correspondence in the collection. Albert's brother, Asa Southworth, was also connected with the studio. At one point he managed the waiting area for patrons, and he assisted Hawes during Southworth's gold-mining sojourn to California from 1849 to 1851. However, there exists additional correspondence and financial documents generated by Asa that do not seem to be related to the activities of Albert Southworth and Hawes. These records indicate he may have been involved in keeping financial records for the firm, but the papers need to be examined more carefully to identify his personal business activities and his exact role in the business.

In 1861 Southworth left the partnership to pursue other interests, and the firm continued under the name of J. J. Hawes, the fourth and final company documented in these papers. Hawes remained in the photography business, residing at the same address on Tremont Row until his death in 1901, running a portrait studio and selling reproductions made from the daguerreotypes of famous sitters.