Monday, May 20, 2024

A Listing of Local Photographers

By Rachel Dworkin, Archivists

There were almost 50 photography studios in operation in Chemung County during the 19th century. For much of that century, there were no amateur photographers. Taking and developing photographs was a difficult process requiring expensive equipment and training, so, until the 1890s, pretty much every photograph taken in the area was done by one of the professional studios.

Each of these photographers and studios had their own makers’ marks. For us here at the Chemung County Historical Society, knowing a photographer’s years of operation is invaluable when it comes to dating their photographs. Below is a handy-dandy list of all know 19th century photographers and studios in Chemung County along with their dates and some additional information.


M.A. Breese, 1889-1890

W.M. Boyd, 1882-1884

J.M. Clark, 1860

C.C. Doty, 1863-1864

E.T. Dunn, 1866-1867

Elmira Portrait Co., 1887-1911

Elmira Portrait Company was a partnership between three artists, Herbert M. Daggett, Samuel C. Woodside, and Allen O. Adams. In addition to doing portrait photography, they also offered portraits in crayon, India ink, and watercolor. 


Elmira Portrait Company letterhead, ca. 1890s

Empire View Co., 1897-1899

Excelsior View Co., 1888-1890

C.J. Sylvester, 1890-1900

 Charles Sylvester ran the Excelsior View Company for two years before deciding to operate the studio under his own name. All our photographs of the Flood of 1889 were taken by Sylvester and have the Excelsior logo.

 C.F. Fudge, 1899-1917

W. Gulick, 1897

J.G. Harrison, 1884-1886

A.P. Hart, 1857-1877, 1880-1893

Hart & Evans, 1878-1879

Abraham P. Hart was born in Goshen, Connecticut in 1816 and came to Elmira in 1837. He was one of the first photographers in the area and certainly one of the longest running. He was still working right up until his death in January 1894.

 T.S. Hathaway, 1857-1859

Hathaway & Letts, 1860

 A.B. House, 1866-1867

J.W. House, 1860

Howe, 1882-1899

Charles Howe came to Elmira from Binghamton in 1882 and bought out the studio of N.D. Luce at 137 East Water Street. In 1899, he purchased an art supply store just down the street and became Howe’s Art Shop, specializing in photography supplies, developing, and framing.

L. Hurley, 1895-1901

Lottie Hurley was Elmira’s first female photographer. She specialized in portraits, mostly of women and children, and also sold wallpaper and did interior decorating. 

Photo of a young woman by Mrs. Lottie Hurley, ca. 1890s


J.E. Kendall, 1861

Kendall was one of the few non-Elmira photographers in Chemung County. He operated in Sullivanville in Erin, N.Y.

W. Knowlton, 1866-1869

F.L. Landon, 1895-1898

J.E. Larkin, 1860-1891

John E. Larkin was born in Rome, N.Y. in 1836. He came to Elmira as a young man in 1858 to open his photography studio. He took some of the best pictures we have of the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp. He retired from photography to become the treasurer of the Elmira Mechanics Society and, later, the director of the Second National Bank of Elmira.

A. Lawhead, 1866-1867

Luce & Silverman, 1876-1877

N.D. Luce, 1878-1882

McFarlin & Speck, 1893-1896

A. McFarlin, 1897-1951

Abram McFarlin came to Elmira from Shellsburg, Pennsylvania. His studio at 158 N. Main Street, which was later demolished to make way for the Mark Twain Hotel, had previously been home to the studios of W.C. Rowley and W.A. Gulick. He specialized in portrait photography, amassing over 50,000 negatives over the course of his career.

W. Mitchell, 1863-1864

W.M. Morgan, 1895-1898

William J. Moulton, 1860-1864

E.L. Mowry, 1884-1888

New York Photo Co., 1897-1898

G. Personius, 1893-1919

Personius Studio, 1920-1945

George Personius began working as an itinerant photographer in northern Pennsylvania before settling down in an apprenticeship with Charles Howe. He eventually established his own studio in Elmira. His health declining, he sold the business to Randall H. Warne in 1945 and the Personius Warne Studio continues to this day.

W.C. Rowley, 1886-1896

H. Sartor, 1893-1910

W. Seeley, 1861-1864

A.L. Snook, 1872-1873

R.F. Snyder, 1891

D. Stamp, 1895-1905

C. Tomlinson, 1874-1891

E.M. Van Aken, 1874-1904

Elisha Van Aken came to Elmira from Lowville, N.Y. in 1874. He was eventually joined in his business by his son, Charles, who took over and re-named the studio following his father’s death. Here at the Historical Society, we have a large collection of his glass plate negatives of area views. Most photos of Mark Twain or his family taken in Elmira were done by Van Aken.

P.J. Ward, 1868-1897

For most of the 19th century, Peter J. Ward was the only photographer in Horseheads. In 1897, he was forced to sell his business to Charles Sylvester due to ill health. 

Back of photograph by P.J. Ward, ca. 1870s


J.H. Whitely, 1863-1871, 1874-1881, 1885-1895

Whitley & Denton, 1872-1873

Whitely & Harrison, 1882-1884

C. Wilbur, 1898-1900

G.H. Wright, 1890-1891

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