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Guide to the Lucius H. Cathan Photograph Collection
[1880-1890], undated
  PR 132

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jennifer Lewis

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 03, 2011
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Lucius H. Cathan
Title: Lucius H. Cathan Photograph Collection
Dates [inclusive]: [1880-1890], undated
Abstract: Collection of negatives and photographs taken by Lucius H. Cathan consisting of studio portraits of unidentified individuals, portraits of the Cathan family, and views of the Brattleboro & Whitehall Railroad in Vermont.
Quantity: 2.3 Linear feet (5 boxes)
Location note: Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections
Call Phrase: PR 132

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Biographical Note

Lucius H. Cathan was an early daguerreotypist, innovator, and photographer who worked in both Vermont and Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. Cathan is particularly known for developing a speculum that reversed daguerreotype images.

Cathan was born in the small town of Townshend, Vermont in 1817 to Emery and Mary Hall Cathan. He began creating daguerreotypes a few years after Louis Daguerre introduced the technology in 1839. Cathan first advertised himself as a daguerreotypist in Townshend in 1843; later the same year he advertised his studio in the Byers Building in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1844 he moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he would work until 1851. From 1848-1849, he worked in partnership with photographer Joseph Petee in the firm Pettee & Cathan. In September of 1850 he exhibited in the Sixth Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association at Faneuil and Quincy Halls in Boston. Cathan did not advertise again until 1854, this time in nearby Cambridge, Massachusetts. By 1860, he had moved back to Townshend where he would spend the remainder of his career as a photographer and peddler of photographic equipment. He died circa 1890.

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Scope and Content Note

The Lucius H. Cathan Photograph Collection primarily consists of glass negatives of views of the Brattleboro & Whitehall Railroad in Vermont and portraits of unidentified individuals. Included are views of landscapes, unidentified buildings, and the Cathan family. An ambrotype, a glass positive and a photographic print are also present. During processing, image descriptions were written on negative sleeves; those which have been provided by N-YHS staff have been written in brackets.


The collection is divided into two series based on size:

  1. Series I: Small Format
  2. Series II: Large Format

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Cathan family

Document Type

  • Ambrotypes
  • Glass negatives
  • Photographic prints
  • Portraits

Subject Organizations

  • Brattleboro & Whitehall Railroad

Subject Topics

  • African American women domestics--Pictorial works
  • Covered bridges--Vermont--Pictorial works
  • Portrait photography–Vermont
  • Railroad bridges--Vermont--Pictorial works
  • Railroads–Vermont–Pictorial works

Subject Places

  • Brattleboro (Vt.)
  • Jamaica (Vt.)
  • Townshend (Vt.)
  • Williamsville (Vt.)

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Administrative Information


Gift of Mrs. T. K. Boardman, Jr. on July 7, 1948.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 30 photocopies per day per person. Suitability of the original for photocopying is at the discretion of the staff. Neither blueprints nor tracings can be copied under any circumstances. Duplication of large-format items will be done by the house photographer. See Print Room guidelines for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from

Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
Two West 77th Street
New York, NY 10024

Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282
Fax: (212) 579-8794

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Lucius H. Cathan Photograph Collection, PR 132, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Material at The New-York Historical Society

Numerous daguerreotypes and ambrotypes by Lucius H. Cathan are available in the Cased Photograph File (PR 12).

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Container List

Series I: Small Format

Scope and Contents note

Series I consists of 109 small glass negatives, measuring 3 1/8 x 4 1/8 inches, a glass transparency and an ambrotype. All of the images in this series are portraits of individuals or small groups in a formal studio setting. The variety of individuals and the similarity in formal backgrounds indicate these were professional posed portraits; they are presumed to be Cathan's negatives from his studio work. No dates are available for these images. The images of soldiers numbered 50-52 have some form of identification scratched into the emulsion; these names, as written, are: Lieut. Holton, C.R. Mills, and Albert Mennifield. The remainder of the portraits are of unidentified men, women, children, and soldiers in uniform.

Glass Negatives

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1-4 Children--Boys
Box: 1 Folder : 5-10 Children--Girls
Box: 1 Folder : 11-14 Groups
Box: 1 Folder : 15-19 Men--Portraits, standing
Box: 1 Folder : 20-46 Men--Portraits, seated
Box: 1 Folder : 47-49 Men--Photographs of daguerreotype portraits
Box: 1 Folder : 50 Soldiers in uniform--Lieut. Holton
Box: 1 Folder : 51 Albert Merrifield
Box: 1 Folder : 52 C.R. Mills
Box: 1 Folder : 53-55 Soldiers in Uniform--Unidentified soldiers
Box: 2 Folder : 56-58 Soldiers in Uniform--Unidentified soldiers
Box: 2 Folder : 59-67 Women--Portraits, stanading
Box: 2 Folder : 68-106 Women--Portraits, seated
Box: 2 Folder : 107-108 Women--Photographs of daguerreotype portraits
Box: 2 Folder : 109 Other--Copy negative of engraving of George Washington

Photographic Positives

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 110 Group--2 men, 2 women (ambrotype)
Box: 2 Folder : 111 Man, seated (glass transparency)

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Series II: Large Format

Scope and Contents note

Series II consists of 33 glass negatives measuring either 4 x 7 or 5 x 8 inches, and one photographic print. Most images portray railroad tracks, stations, bridges and trains on the narrow gauge Brattleboro & Whitehall Rail Road which traveled through Cathan's hometown of Townshend, Vermont. The railroad, a 36 mile stretch of track, began in Brattleboro, Vermont and ended in South Londonderry, Vermont; the railroad's name reflects the original intent of extending the line to Whitehall, New York. Identified images include those of the Williamsville and Jamaica Railroad Stations as well as a railroad bridge at Salmon Hole.

The Cathan family photographs are mainly unidentified; there are two photographs of a Cathan child with his or her African-American nurse. Also included in this series are views of unidentified landscapes and buildings.

Glass negatives

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 112-129 Brattleboro & Whitehall Railroad views
Box: 4 Folder : 130-135 Buildings
Box: 4 Folder : 136-141 Cathan Family
Box: 4 Folder : 142-145 Landscapes

Photographic Print

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 146 Brattleboro & Whitehall Railroad

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