John Carbutt’s Photography Studios
Locations: 131 Lake street, corner Lake and Clark streets (1861-1868)
24 Washington street, West of Wabash on Washington Street (1868-1870), next to Mr. Brand’s Temple of Art at 28 Washington Street and Mosher’s Gallery at 30 Washington Street
Chicago Tribune, March 18, 1861
—GARDEN CITY PHOTOGRAPH GALLERY. The old well known Photograph Art Gallery, at 131 Lake street, adjoining the Exchange Bank, has recently been purchased by, Mr. J. Carbutt, who has made important alterations; and re-arranged the whole establishment, especially in the Operating Room, having improved the light, which is the largest in the City, and added suitable accessories, which, judiciously combined, make you feel while sitting for a portrait, as if cozily ensconced in your own easy chair at home; giving to the picture that placid and natural expression so much to be desired and for which his pictures are so justly celebrated. Mr. C. is a practical photographer and understands well the chemistry of his art, which enables him to produce work of the highest merit and durability. He intends making our City his future home, and comes recommended by the best photograph chemists and artists of Cincinnati New York. Citizens and strangers will do well to call at the Garden City Gallery, 131 Lake streeet, when in want of portraits of themselves or friends.
John Carbutt’s First Photography Studio
Photographer: John Carbutt
Location: Looking west from Clark Street on Lake St
Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1865
PHOTO-MINIATURES.—Mr. J. Carbutt, the well-known photographer of 131 Lake street, has recently introduced into this city a new style of portrait on porcelain, called the “Photo Miniature,” which is destined to become very popular. The pictures produced by this new process are among the finest made by the agency of light and chemicals, guided by a thorough knowledge of the art. Mr. Carbutt has devoted a great deal of time and money to bringing this new discovery into practical use, and he now feels confident that he can produce them in a manner not alone durable, but at prices that will place them within reach of all.
Chicago. A Hand Book for Strangers & Tourists to the City of Chicago, 1869
The stranger, in visiting the photograph galleries of Chicago, should take a note of the location of Carbutt’s, No. 24 Washington street. His elegant parlors are adorned with specimens of his art, equal to any that can be produced in the profession any where. His Berlin photographs, from retouched negatives, are most exquisite productions of the highest skill, and present all the beauty of porcelain miniatures. At a recent assembly of the State Microscopical Society in this city, Mr. Carbutt both astonished and delighted the critical audience by an exhibition of many beautiful objects photo-micographed by him with the oxy-hydrogen microscope.
John Carbutt’s Studio
24 Washington Street
Chicago: Wilson & St. Clair, 1868, 6 x 10 inches, 692 pages, 97 photographs
450 copies were produced. Photographs had to be glued in place by hand, as half-tone printing has not been invented yet.1
This is a work which traditionally includes anywhere from 62 to 99 images.
First edition was published in 1868 and a second edition in 1876. However, second edition should be treated as a new work as the changes and additions are so substantial.
For example, the text has been entirely reset and indeed largely re-written with the entries brought up to date (e.g. the 1871 fire is mentioned on numerous occasions) and the number of individual biographies extended from 107 to 187. The only aspect of the first edition which does not appear to have changed is the inclusion of the fine portrait photographs by English-born pioneer photographer John Carbutt. Carbutt mantained a studio in Chicago for most of the 1860s, but sold to Thomas Copelin and moved away. Thomas Copelin, initially operating with a partner as Copelin & Melander, dissolved the partnership in 1871 when he took his son Alexander Copelin into the business. Alexander is the subject of one of the photographs in the present work (see opposite p.246). It is reasonable to assume that the photographs that were not in Carbutt’s original 1868 edition, are in part, if not all, by the photographers of the gallery of Copelin & Son.
Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago, Frontispiece, 1868
About John Carbutt
The best of the pre-Fire photographs (stereoscopes) were taken by John Carbutt, who had a studio at 131 Lake Street from 1861 till June, 1868 and at 24 Washington-street, just west of Wabash, till 1870. It is reasonably sure that Mr. Carbutt sold out his Chicago studio and moved to Philadelphia about October or November of 1870 immediately after a fire destroyed the Drake Block in September. Mr. Carbutt issued a series of 195 Views of Chicago that were taken between 1864 and 1870.It seems that untill now, there has not been a comprehensive registry of these historically important images. Mr. Carbutt issued this set three times, and it is believed that each number he asigned remained with the subject. When known, Carbutt’s number will be indicated.
Mr. Carbutt was born in England in 1832 and emigrated to the States in 1853. From 1853 to 1859 he worked as a photographer during the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway in Canada. He was reported to have been the first photographer in Chicago to take cartes-de-visite portraits. Cartes-de-visite were small visiting card portraits (usually measuring 4½” x 2½”) and were in vogue till about 1860. These were replaced by the larger (6¾” x 4½”) cabinet views which remained popular till the turn of the century. He experimented with dry plates in his Chicago studio as early as 1864, and with magnesium light for flash in 1865. He ultimately introduced the first successful Gelatin-Bromide Dry Plates in 1879; the first Orthochromatic Dry Plates in 1886; first Celluloid Dry plates in 1888; and the first commercial X-Ray plates in 1896. He died in Philadelphia, PA in 1905.
John Carbutt, No. 68
Michigan Avenue, from Adams Street
John Carbutt, No. 176
John Carbutt, No. 17
Just over a year before the Great Fire consumed Chicago, the other Great Fire was that of the September 4, 1870 conflagration that took down the Drake and Farwell Block on Wabash avenue and Washington street. Mr. Carbutt’s studio was located very close to this building and was immediately selling stereoviews of the “Great Fire.” Mr. Carbutt left for Philadelphia immediately after this fire.
1 The first crude attempt of half-tone printing was done in The Canadien Illustrated News, October 30, 1869, with an image of Prince Arthur. However, the it wasn’t until 1881 when the first commercial method was patented by Frederick Ives of Philadelphia.