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Southworth and Hawes Manuscript Collection

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Guide to the Southworth and Hawes Manuscript Collection


The papers in this collection document the history of the photographic businesses run by Albert Sands Southworth and/or Josiah Johnson Hawes from 1840 to 1901. The Southworth & Hawes daguerreotype studio, operating from 1846 to 1861, is the most famous of the four companies. However, the papers also document the photographic business Southworth established in 1840, before he knew Hawes, as well as Hawes' activities after 1861, the year that Southworth left the partnership.


Scope of the Collection and Arrangement of Material

With 2,310 individual items, the Southworth and Hawes manuscript collection is one of the most extensive surviving records of an early American photographic business. The collection not only illustrates the history of the Southworth and Hawes daguerreotype business, but also provides valuable insight into nineteenth-century business practices and daily life. The firm's location in Boston, a large commercial hub, combined with Southworth and Hawes' scientific, technical and artistic expertise, put them at the center of the fledgling daguerreotype industry, and consequently these papers offer an unusually detailed picture of the multifaceted nature of the photographic business during this period.

The collection includes: biographical materials; legal documents; business and personal correspondence; financial documents; literary productions (a term applied to published and unpublished material generated by the firm); printed material, such as news clippings and business cards from other companies; memorabilia; and associated papers related to the collection. These categories of materials have been used as the basis for organizing this finding aid, which is in outline form.

Major series of materials have been arranged into sections, and it is important to note even further sub-divisions. For each item or group of items described, a box number and item number(s) can be found in the right-hand column. Information has been added in a notes field when possible, to clarify the context of a particular item or items.

Business correspondence and financial documents, including receipts, account statements, ledgers, and tax records, make up the core of the collection. Records defined as "business" are those that document the various activities of the firm: the day-to-day operation of the studio, the sale and distribution of photographic supplies, the manufacturing of cameras and coating boxes, the continuous experimentation undertaken by Southworth and Hawes and the consequent technical developments and inventions, and instruction to individuals in the daguerreotype process. The business papers span the entire period, from 1840 to 1901, including all four successive companies. However, the bulk of material offering the most detailed record dates from the years 1841 to 1849. Representative materials are present from the 1850's, and documentation from 1861 to 1901, the years after Southworth left the business, is relatively sparse. The ledger recording daily business transactions from 1859 to 1900 (Box 16 Item 7) provides the most thorough look at Hawes' activities during this later period.

A basic chronological arrangement within the financial records was chosen to best demonstrate the evolving nature of the business. Both the series of business correspondence and series of account statements and receipts are filed in chronological order, with a sub-series for undated items. These undated items are arranged first by company name, or, if one of the four company names was not present on the item, by the person (Southworth or Hawes) to whom it was addressed. This information has been incorporated into the finding aid and will be evident to the researcher.

The ledgers and sitters books are more problematic, as individual ledgers contain unrelated sections of information from different time periods. For each one, the various sections of financial data, with dates and additional information when known, have been described in the order they appear in the ledger. The sitters books date from after Southworth’s departure in 1851, and relate to Hawes’ later work.

Provenance of the Collection

The series entitled "Materials Related to the Southworth and Hawes Collection" (in Boxes 18-20) includes correspondence and other documents created in more recent years, and illuminates the history of the entire collection of Southworth and Hawes papers, photographs, and apparatus donated to the museum by the Chicago collector Alden Scott Boyer in 1951.

Included in this section are notebooks that belonged to Boyer. In 1943 he had traveled to Boston and spent two weeks studying the Southworth and Hawes manuscript materials. He filled four small notebooks with information gleaned from the papers, highlighting unusual and interesting fragments of information in the collection. A few letters from various people, including Beaumont Newhall and Ansel Adams, to the descendants of Josiah Hawes, can also be found here. And in this series resides documentation on the Holman Print Shop Exhibition and Sale.

In 1934 a selection of daguerreotypes from the Southworth & Hawes studio, then in the Hawes children's possession, was exhibited by Louis A. Holman, a Boston print dealer. From this exhibition, print dealer and historian I.N. Phelps Stokes purchased a number of Southworth and Hawes daguerreotypes that later went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Stokes and Holman corresponded about the sale of daguerreotypes, and Stokes also wrote to Hawes' children for background information on the photographs. During this brief but intense period of letter writing, Holman and the Hawes children passed on some of their knowledge of the Southworth and Hawes business, as well as considerable information about the contents of the collection.

This correspondence reveals some information on the provenance of the papers. The surviving effects of the business, including thousands of daguerreotypes, glass plate negatives, and business papers, remained in J. J. Hawes' studio on Tremont Row until his death, when they came into the possession of his children. At the time of the Holman Print Shop exhibition in 1934, at least some of the materials inherited by Hawes' children were stored in a building in Boston. During his correspondence with Holman, Stokes inquired about account books, and Holman and the family discovered two boxes of materials in storage. In a letter they described and later sent eight account books to Stokes; the description matches the eight account books now residing in the Menschel Library. During this same visit, they also found a box of receipts and bills. Stokes did not see this material, but Boyer studied it during his visit in the 1940's, and his notes seem to correspond with materials now in the library. From discussion in the Stokes-Holman correspondence and Boyer's notes it appears that even then there was little material documenting the business after 1850.

Holman also mentioned to Stokes that the family was going over Southworth and Hawes' correspondence and would make excerpts for Mr. Stokes to read in order to protect "family gossip." These excerpts, with information about the business and the family, make up a portion of the business and personal correspondence that now resides in the collection.

The Hawes children kept the original letters, and these documents were still in the possession of Hawes' descendants in the early 1970's, when Charles LeRoy Moore was working on his thesis entitled Two Partners in Boston: The Careers and Daguerreian Artistry of Albert Southworth and Josiah Hawes (PhD. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1973). During the course of his research Moore visited and interviewed Edward L. Hawes (a grandson or grandnephew or J.J. Hawes), and saw the Hawes family letters and daguerreotypes that he possessed. In his footnotes, Moore refers to various letters, business and personal, belonging to Edward Hawes, and it is possible that further information contained in these and other letters and documents not referred to in the dissertation would fill in gaps in this collection, especially for the years after 1849. At this time it is not known if further records exist in public or private collections. The papers were organized, and this guide was created, in 1993. The arrangement was done by Linda E. Deeks, a graduate student in archival management at the School of Information and Library Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Linda Deeks worked under the supervision of Becky Simmons, Associate Librarian of the Menschel Library. The introduction to the guide was written by Becky Simmons and edited by Rachel Stuhlman, Librarian of the Menschel Library.

Biographical Material

Legal Documents


Financial Documents

Literary Productions

Printed Materials


Materials Related to the Southworth and Hawes Collection