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Guide to the Imperial Portrait Photograph File
 PR 210

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

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Sandra Markham

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on December 13, 2011
Description is in English.

Container List

Series IV: Portraits by Jeremiah Gurney

Scope and Contents note

Series IV. Portraits by Jeremiah Gurney holds two photographs, both gifts in 1942 from descendants of the sitters. They are a formal, full-length salted paper portrait of Mr.s William Greene Ward, and a group portrait composed of members of the Parmly and Ward families of New York City.

Emily Graham McNight Ward (ca. 1837-1877) was a Bordentown, New Jersey, native who married banker William Greene Ward (1832-1901) in June 1857, and joined him in New York City where this portrait was taken. The Wards resided on Staten Island.

The group portrait of the Parmly and Ward families came to the Society with a family legend attached. The subjects of the photograph are the friends and family of Julia Parmly (1835-1914) who married lawyer Frederick Billings (1823-1890) in New York on March 31, 1862. Present in the picture are Julia's father, the prominent New York dentist (known as "the father of American dentistry") Dr. Eleazer Parmly (1797-1874), Julia's brother Erick Parmly (1829-1907) and sisters Anna Parmly (incorrectly identified in the inscription as Louisa, who died in 1845) and Mary Parmly Ward (1831-1914), Mary's husband Charles H. Ward (1833-1905), and Charles' mother Abby Hall Ward and brother John Ward (1838-1896). Also present are family friends Gilman Morton and Benjamin Church. The Wards shown in this photograph were the mother and brothers of William Greene Ward. According to a twentieth-century inscription on the verso of the photograph's mount, the group had their picture taken just after they had escorted Julia and Frederick Billings to a dock to board a ship taking them on their wedding trip to California. Robin Winks, in his biography Frederick Billings: A Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), states the chronology thus: the couple took a wedding trip to Philadelphia, then returned to New York to pack, and on April 11, "sailed for California on the  Northern Light, seen off by a tiny band of family and friends." Prior to meeting Julia Parmly in New York and immediately marrying her, Billings was a resident of San Francisco, and the couple traveled there to close out his businesses. The Billings then returned to New York and settled here.

Jeremiah Gurney (1812-1895) was one of New York's finest portrait photographers, and is known primarily for his daguerrean work. His carte de visite and cabinet-format portraits are not uncommon in public and private collections, but his Imperial format portraits are rare. Emily Ward's portrait measures 19 by 16-1/4 inches and is on its original studio mount marked by Gurney in two places: an oval blind stamp in the front lower margin and a paper label on the verso; both give the studio's address as 707 Broadway, the location of Gurney's studio from 1858 through 1868. The group portrait is not marked, but is attributed to Gurney based on the quality of the photograph, and on the distinctive carpet showing in the image, which is also seen in marked Gurney carte de visite photographs (for examples, see album no. 415 in PR 002, the Album File, The House of Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States Photographed from life during the Triennial Convention by J. Gurney & Son (New York: T. Porter Shaw, 1862.) The family inscription on the verso of the mount suggests the photographer was William Kurtz (1834-1904), but he is not listed in the New York City directories until 1865.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 26 Parmly and Ward family members

General note

salted paper photograph, 13 x 14 3/4 in.

[1862 Apr. 11]
Box: Folder : Ward, Emily (ca. 1832-1877)

General note

salted paper photograph, 19 x 16 1/4 in.

General note

See: Oversize folder 28


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