First, let’s talk about the subject of the photograph. He is a broad shouldered man with a handsome face, strong jaw and impressive mustache that turns up on the ends. His hair is neat and tidy. He has a flower in his lapel. He wears a vest under his wide-lapeled coat, a very wide tie and a white shirt. You can even faintly see a white kerchief in his breast pocket. The photo has some damage across what is his left breast and shoulder area, but otherwise it is a beautiful, clean image of a good looking man. This photo is from the Dobb Long Book and suggests to me that this family had means. Not only because they were able to amass 57 cabinet cards of the family, but because of the photographers they used. They patronized the best. They just didn’t identify their photos, boo.
On to the photographer, because that is where the real exciting information lies. This is another probable collodion print, this one made by William Morrison in Chicago. While searching for information on the photographer for date information, I discovered that he was the Annie Liebovitz of his day, photographing celebrities and enjoying some fame for his work. Having his business in the Haymarket Theatre building, he enjoyed close proximity to many stage actresses, both house actors and those with traveling groups. The Haymarket Theatre opened in 1887 with seating for nearly 2500, and had spaces for shops on one side of the building with the theater on the other side. Businesses in the building included dentists, doctors, saloons, jewelers and real estate agents, as well as Mr. Morrison. December 3, 1893 the New York Times carried an article about a fire in the building which completely gutted the offices & shops, but the theater was saved from much damage. The greatest loss was the 37,000 negatives in Mr. Morrison’s photography studio. Assuming they were just the negatives from his time at that location, he made over 9000 photos a year!
The businesses were rebuilt and Morrison continued his career. He was active in Chicago between 1875-1900, with the years 1889-1900 spent in the Haymarket Theatre building. By the mid 1890s, the Haymarket Theatre was a popular vaudeville house, and in the run up to the Great Depression it was known as a burlesque house. It finally was abandoned and was condemned in 1949. Be sure to click through to the Cabinet Card Gallery as they have some really fantastic images of actresses at the time who sat for Morrison.