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Family Stories

Portrait Photography in Family Papers

The G. Burton Pearson, Jr., family papers is but one of many, many archival collections in Special Collections yielding a rich array of portrait photography across generations.  Portraits within many collections, as a comparative group, provide excellent study samples for scholars of photographic history.

Delaware lawyer, judge, and banker Burton Pearson (1905-1999) was born in Middletown, where he lived with his father, G. Burton Pearson, Sr., M.D. (1869-195?), and mother, Estelle Cochran Pearson (1871-1947).  Burton Pearson’s maternal great-grandfather was Robert Thomas Cochran, brother of Delaware Governor John P. Cochran (1875-1879).  Also on the maternal side, Pearson was descended from the Hardcastle family of Middletown.  An only child, Burton Pearson had strong and supportive extended family relationships, especially with the women on the Hardcastle-Cochran side of the family.

G. Burton Pearson, Jr., papers, gift of the Pearson family

      Six portraits of G. Burton Pearson, Jr., 1905-1927

left to right:

1906:  11 months old and 30 pounds
1908:  3 years old with ringlets and Teddy bear, Cummings studio (Wilmington)
1909:  4 years old, wearing patent leather shoes and starched collar at Christmas
1911:  6 years old in sailor suit, Cummings photographic postcard
1915:  Young Burton in houndstooth suit with knickers, photographic postcard
1924:  19 years old in uniform as “Beedle Officer in Middletown,” Cummings
1927:  23 years old with mustache, Cummings wallet-size photograph


 

HARDCASTLE – COCHRAN – PEARSON FAMILY PORTRAITS      

Delaware lawyer, judge, and banker Burton Pearson (1905-1999) was born in Middletown, where he lived with his father, G. Burton Pearson, Sr., M.D. (1869-195?), and mother, Estelle Cochran Pearson (1871-1947).  Burton Pearson’s maternal grandparents were Thomas and Margaret Cochran.  Also on the maternal side, Pearson was descended from the Hardcastle family of Middletown.  An only child, Burton Pearson had strong and supportive extended family relationships, especially with the women on the Hardcastle-Cochran side of the family.

 

Burton Pearson family portraits

guide to Pearson family portraits

1)  Cousin? possibly Margaret Cochran (Cook), Bachrach, 1925

2)  Albumen portrait of Thomas Cochran, circa 1865

3)  Family portrait, circa 1909
top:  Estelle Cochran Pearson, Oka Cochran Warren), George Burton Pearson, Sr.
bottom:  Margaret Cochran (Cook), Preston Hardcastle, George Burton Pearson, Jr., Margaret Hardcastle Cochran

4)  George Burton Pearson, Jr. and parents, Cummings Studio, Wilmington, circa 1920

5)  Estelle Cochran Pearson, Gutekunst, Philadelphia, circa 1930

6)  Margaret Hardcastle Cochran, mother of Estelle and Oka Cochran

7)  Tintype of Sally Hardcastle, circa 1850

8)  Oka Cochran Warren, circa 1890

9)  Mary Estelle Cochran (Pearson) in a natural setting, circa 1890


 

BRINGHURST FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS

Photography is a major part of the historic record found in the Shipley-Bringhurst-Hargraves family papers that document over two hundred years of the generations associated with the Rockwood mansion in north Wilmington.  Centenarian Mary Thomas Bringhurst (1865-1965) continued the meticulous family record-keeping of her father Edward Bringhurst, Jr. (1835-1912), whose life began only four years before the first daguerreotype was announced.  Nearly all of the photographs in the collection are identified and dated by Edward or Mary and her other three siblings.  The extent of this contextual information for historians is extraordinary.

Edward Bringhurst, Jr., married Anna James Webb (1843-1923) in 1862 and most of the images in the case here and the two wall cases above are from the Bringhurst and maternal Webb families.  The daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and album of cartes de visite reflect the social practice of learning family histories by exchanging and treasuring photographs of loved ones.

all items from the Shipley-Bringhurst-Hargraves family papers
gift of New Castle County

Bringhurst family photographs case

1)  Tintype of Lieut. Wheeler, circa 1865-1870
The letter fragment from Ruth Webb references keeping a picture of Lieut. Wheeler, a veteran of the Civil War, for her Album, and returning a second copy through the mail.  Tintypes were cheaper and more durable than other processes at the time.

 

2)  Tintype of H.B.F, circa 1850s
H.B.F. is likely a Ferris relative (Edward’s maternal grandparent line).  Unmounted, this plate clearly shows the “japan black” used to coat the iron surface of the tintype.

3)  Orotype of Nancy Bringhurst Sellers (1898-1972), circa 1922
Using the same process favored by Edward Curtis , an orotype uses a positive silver-gelatin image on glass, backed by a gold or bronze medium, yielding a rich sepia tone.  The process was popular between 1900-1920s.

Nancy Sellers, the favorite niece of Mary T. Bringhurst, married Gordon Hargraves in 1927.  She inherited Rockwood and bequeathed the estate to the people of New Castle County.

4)  Album of cartes de visite of Shipleys, Bringhursts, and friends, circa 1860s
Anna Webb Bringhurst is shown with her firstborn, Elizabeth Shipley Bringhurst (1863-1932).  This image is a colored albumen print in a size that was popular until about 1870, when larger cabinet cards gained prominence.  In addition to family members, this album contains “celebrity” cartes of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston.

5)  Daguerreotype of little Anna James Webb (1843-1923), before 1850

6)  Daguerreotype of Sarah Shipley Bringhurst, circa 1847      and

7)  Likeness painted from the daguerreotype of Sarah Shipley Bringhurst, 1847
Sarah Shipley Bringhurst (1812-1896) was the niece of Joseph Shipley (1795-1867) and mother of Edward Bringhurst, Jr..  She was able to purchase Rockwood from her uncle’s estate in 1890 and helped her son finance purchase of the home in 1891.

8)  Daguerreotype of four Bringhurst cousins taken at Sandy Spring, Maryland, by Isaac Briggs, August 12, 1848.
Taken less than nine years after the invention of the process, this daguerreotype of William and Margaret R. Bringhurst, with their cousins Edward and Ferris Bringhurst, is now—in 2013—165 years old.  “Eddy” Bringhurst (in his “common linen blouse” and reading the Baltimore Clipper) became the owner of the Rockwood mansion and raised his four children there with his wife, Anna James Webb.

Wyncote full plate daguerreotype9)  Daguerreotype of Wyncote, Liverpool, before 1850
This full plate-size daguerreotype is of the Joseph Shipley home in the rural gothic style that was designed by architect George Williams and was the inspiration for Rockwood.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bringhurst and Shipley family members  Bringhurst and Shipley family members case

      top :

 

Detached case cover with embossed velvet lining        

Daguerreotype of cousins Margaret R. Bringhurst with her hair in sausage curls, standing to the left of Ferris Bringhurst (1837-1871), Edward’s brother

 

      bottom, left to right :

Daguerreotype of Elizabeth Jefferis Shipley (1783-1867), Edward’s maternal grandmother, daughter of Captain James Jefferis

Thermoplastic union case enclosing ambrotype of infant Elizabeth Shipley Bringhurst (1863-1932), Edward’s daughter
Created in 1854 by Samuel Peck, “union cases” were so named because of the joining of the case components: shellac, sawdust, other chemicals and dyes were melted and then cast in molds to form hard protective covers for daguerreotypes and ambrotypes.

Ambrotype of Elizabeth M. Peart, Minister of Friends, undated
The Bringhursts and Shipleys were prominent Quaker families.

 

 

Webb and Bringhurst family ambrotypes

       Webb and Bringhurst family ambrotypes casetop, left to right :

Ambrotype of Edward Bringhurst, Jr. (1835-1912) and his brother-in-law Richard H. Webb (1840-1864)

Ambrotype of Anna James Webb, taken December 22, 1867
Age 14 years, 8 months, 21 days

Ambrotype of Anna James Webb, circa 1860
Anna James was the daughter of Francis James, sister of Richard Webb, wife of Edward Bringhurst, Jr., and mother of four children:  Elizabeth Shipley (1863-1932), Mary Thomas (1865-1965), Edith Ferris (1874-1947), and Edward III (1884-1939)

      

 

bottom, left to right :

Ambrotype of Richard H. Webb, circa 1860
Richard Webb was born on the Fourth of July, 1840.  He was killed in battle at Cold Harbor, Virginia, on June 2, 1864, during the American Civil War.

Ambrotype of four young men, circa 1860
Edward Bringhurst, Jr., is seated in the middle.


 

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02/11/13

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