White House History Quarterly 58 - Photographing - Hussey Updated

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Please note that the following is a digitized version of a selected article from White House History Quarterly, Issue 58, originally released in print form in 2020. Single print copies of the full issue can be purchased online at Shop.WhiteHouseHistory.org No part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All photographs contained in this journal unless otherwise noted are copyrighted by the White House Historical Association and may not be reproduced without permission. Requests for reprint permissions should be directed to rights@whha.org. Contact books@whha.org for more information. Š 2020 White House Historical Association. All rights reserved under international copyright conventions.

The White House in 1889: THE DISCOVERY OF Walter Hussey’s Glass-Plate Negatives


r i ch ar d s. h ussey

My grandfather thought of himself as a photographer. Most people thought he was a farmer. —Richard S. Hussey

previous spread

Walter J. Hussey captured his formal self-portrait with the help of a mirror in 1889. He used the camera in the image to photograph the White House on a trip to Washington, D.C. left


(1865–1959) and two daughters, Anna Margaret (1867–1883) and Helen Jane (1868–1956), on the farm. In 1873 Asahel was recorded as a minster in the Society of Friends and thereafter traveled throughout the United States and also abroad to participate in religious services and conventions. When Asahel and Martha permanently moved to Whittier, California, in 1908, Walter remained on the farm, where he and his wife, Bess, who had married in 1898, raised their five children. The Greenwood Farm was in the Hussey family for four generations prior to being sold in 1970. I never knew my grandfather was an exceptional photographer until I came into possession of his glass-plate negatives, since I only knew him to be a farmer when I was growing up. The information I have on Walter’s early life in Mount Pleasant and the development of his interest in photography is very limited, as few records were kept. Walter received most of his education in the Mount Pleasant schools. However, when Walter’s sister, Anna Margaret died of consumption in May 1883, his mother, Martha, took him and his sister Helen out of the Mount Pleasant schools and enrolled them in the fall of 1883 in the Raisin Valley Seminary, a four-year preparatory school

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my grandfather walter john hussey was born on April 6, 1865, on the Hussey Greenwood Farm, adjoining the picturesque village of Mount Pleasant in Jefferson County, in the rolling forested hills of eastern Ohio.1 This historic hilltop village, where I grew up seventy-seven years later, was founded in 1803 in part by North Carolina Quakers (Society of Friends).2 Mount Pleasant is important for its role in the abolitionist movement, as a prominent station on the Underground Railroad, a place of safety west of the Ohio River for runaway slaves making their way north to freedom from the southern states. Also noteworthy, the first Quaker Yearly Meeting House west of the Allegheny Mountains was built in Mount Pleasant in 1814.3 The Ohio Yearly Meeting was held in this enormous historic two-story brick building, capable of seating two thousand people, until 1918. The land for the Hussey Greenwood Farm (109 acres) was purchased in 1847 by Penrose Hussey (1800–1872), Walter’s grandfather. Penrose built a fourteen-room brick house in 1848 and a three-story hand-hewn timber-framed barn in 1853.4 When Penrose died in 1872, the old homestead was purchased by his son, Asahel (1833–1918).5 Asahel and his wife, Martha, married in 1862 and raised Walter

Walter J. Hussey’s portable large format Universal camera features a mahogany box and extra-long leather bellows. He purchased the camera for about $38 in 1893. It descended through his family to the author, his grandson.


Walter Hussey was born in 1865 on the Hussey Greenwood Farm, which was purchased by his grandfather in 1847. The house and barn built by his grandfather can be seen in an 1880 illustration published in the History of Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio. Hussey kept a darkroom in an unfinished portion of the farmhouse.

sponsored by the Society of Friends, near Adrian, Michigan. Walter graduated from the Raisin Valley Seminary in the spring of 1885 and that fall he enrolled in the Society of Friends’ Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. He withdrew from Earlham College in January 1886 to travel with his family by train to Mexico City to visit missions his father helped establish. He returned to the Greenwood Farm in April of that year and did not continue his education at Earlham College. There is reference in family notes to Walter traveling to California in 1887, where, according to a business card, he was involved in selling real estate in the Santa Ana Valley near Earlham, California. When Walter returned to the farm in 1888, he apparently had become very interested in photography, and during the period 1888–1910 he became an accomplished amateur photographer, as revealed in the breadth and quality of the images he captured on dry glass-plate negatives. I do not have any record of where and by what means Walter learned photography. However, at the time he became interested in photography the availability of commercially produced gelatin dry glass-plate negatives, coupled with the wide distribution of do-it-yourself photography instruction manuals,6 enabled individuals with an interest in photography

to become self-taught. Most likely this is the means by which Walter developed his skill in photography. Walter used two 5 × 8 inch large-format view cameras to take his photographs, and photographs made by both cameras are included in this article. A large wooden box camera was used in the 1889 self-portrait, which was taken by means of a large mirror. This would be the camera that Walter used for his early photography. The lens on this box camera used Waterhouse stops inserted in the lens mount to control light entering the camera. Since the lens did not have a shutter, the lens cap served that purpose and was removed and then replaced after a certain time interval to capture the image on the glass negative. In the self-portrait, Walter has the lens cap in his right hand. When a lens cap is used as a shutter, the subjects being photographed are required to remain still; any movement blurs the image on the negative. This blurring occurred in a few of Walter’s Washington, D.C., street scenes. The second camera Walter owned was the portable English-style folding Universal view camera manufactured by the Rochester Optical Company in Rochester, New York,7 which I am fortunate to have in my possession. This beautiful compact double swing Universal camera has a square polished mahogany camera box and features extra-long leather

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photography catalogs.10 The earliest Walter could have purchased this model of the Universal camera would have been in 1893, when the camera first appeared in the Rochester Optical Company catalogs.11 Walter did not have a photography studio in Mount Pleasant, but he did build a darkroom in an unfinished part of the second floor in the rear of the farmhouse where he could load the dry glass-plate negatives into the plate holders and develop them after exposure. He also used Scovill cherry wood printing frames to make contact prints, probably

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The East End of the White House was photographed by Walter Hussey during the Benjamin Harrison administration in 1889.


bellows, a reversible back for horizontal or vertical views, and brass rack and pinion movements for smooth focusing. In 1893 the camera, without lens, cost $38 and came with a long canvas carrying case, a combination sliding and folding tripod, and one Perfection Double Plate Holder.8 Walter’s Universal camera is fitted with an unmarked 2¾ inch lens with a rotary stop brass Prosch Duplex pneumatic shutter operated by an attached rubber air bulb for timed or instantaneous exposures.9 While the shutter is marked “Duplex” on the front, it is identical to the newer Prosch Triplex shutter advertised in

frequently the location. Nor were the negatives properly handled and stored, so the gelatin emulsions on some are damaged, showing scratches and chips. Yet the large format of the glass negatives has enabled the printing of exceptionally detailed images that are a valuable historic record. When the farm was sold in 1970, many of the negatives were retained by family members with the intent of preservation, although I remember that negatives with images of farm animals and other images were unfortunately not saved. The glass-plate negatives that were retained can be divided into two groups: negatives with images from Walter’s travels in the United States (Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, and Florida), and negatives with a diverse group of interesting images of family, friends, and other people and scenes mostly in and around Mount Pleasant. The most interesting of Walter’s travel images are the twenty-eight from his trip to Washington, D.C. They provide an extraordinary glimpse of the nation’s capital during the late nineteenth century. All were taken during the winter, since Walter would have had farm responsibilities during the rest of the year. He photographed many of the historic landmark buildings in Washington at that time, including the White House. To ascertain exactly when Walter visited Washington, I researched the dates when buildings he photographed were constructed. The Arlington Hotel was expanded in 1889,12 and in Walter’s image of the hotel the new addition was just being completed. That would place Walter in Washington during November and December 1889, when President Benjamin Harrison was residing in the White House.

WASHINGTON AND THE WHITE HOUSE after exposing the negative and sensitized paper to sunlight, which was the practice at that time. Since Walter did not have a studio, only three of the glass negatives retained by the family have portraits of a single sitter, including his parents, and three of families. These portraits were photographed in the unfinished part of the farmhouse with a simple white background hung on the brick wall. Walter’s gelatin dry glass-plate negatives were not properly cataloged, so there is limited information on the dates when the images were taken, the identity of many of the people shown, and

There are two great images of the White House in Walter’s negative collection. One image of the east end of the White House and the fountain at the steps leading to the White House Grounds was taken from the East Executive Avenue, next to the Treasury Building. The other is in the series of seven truly outstanding panoramas of Washington that Walter captured through the rectangular pyramidion windows positioned around the observation deck at the top of the Washington Monument. I find these to be the most fascinating of the Washington images, for the perspective they provide.

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The White House is at the center of one of seven panoramic views captured by Walter Hussey from the small windows on the observation deck at the top of the Washington Monument in 1889. The sprawling Conservatory complex, which would be replaced with the West Wing in 1902, extends from the west end of the house. The surrounding neighborhood, filled with low-rise brick structures and dotted with church spires, remains largely residential. Many of these city blocks would soon be replaced with office buildings as the city evolved to house the growing federal government.

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and the Treasury Building are prominently visible flanking the White House. Other significant historical landmark buildings can be identified: the Shepherd Mansion at Connecticut Avenue and K Street NW, the Corcoran and Hay-Adams Mansions on H Street NW across from Lafayette Park, and the Arlington Hotel on Vermont Avenue and Eye Street NW. Many of these have since been demolished.13 The White House Conservatory complex is clearly visible on the west side of the White House. The first greenhouse was built by President James Buchanan in 1857, and several more greenhouses were added through the years under different presidents. The Conservatory complex was removed in 1902 during the White House renovation under President Theodore Roosevelt, to be replaced by an executive office building that eventually would become the present-day West Wing. The U-shaped building surrounded by trees,

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A detail of the panorama pictured on the previous spread reveals long since demolished landmarks in the President’s Neighborhood including the Corcoran and Hay-Adams Mansions on H Street across from Lafayette Park. Also seen here (in the lower left corner of the photograph just south of the State, War, and Navy Building) is a rare view of the brick horse stable built for President Ulysses S. Grant in 1871.


These images made me wonder how my grandfather managed to carry the bulky large-format camera (this was before he purchased the portable Universal camera) and the necessary accessories (tripod, several extra double-plate holders loaded with glass-plate negatives, etc.) up the 898 steps to the observation deck of the Washington Monument. However, I learned that a steam-powered hoist was built inside the shaft in 1880 to transport building materials while the obelisk was being constructed. After the Washington Monument was dedicated in February 1885, the hoist was converted to a passenger elevator before it was open to the public in October 1888. Thus Walter would have been able to use the elevator to ride to the observation deck with his photography equipment to take these rare early panoramic images. In the striking photograph shot to the north of the monument, the imposing State, War and Navy Building (completed in 1888)

with the entrance gate facing Seventeenth Street NW just south of the State, War and Navy Building, is the last White House horse stable built in 1871 for President Ulysses S. Grant.14 In the great panoramic image with the U.S. Capitol, the Smithsonian Castle and Arts and Industries Building and the first Department of Agriculture Building are the only buildings on what was to become the National Mall. The enormous Center Market15 on B Street NW (renamed Constitution Avenue in 1931), covering two blocks between Seventh and Ninth Streets NW, and the large Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station16 at Sixth and B Streets NW are also clearly visible in this image. Among the other Washington images captured on Walter’s glass negatives are three images of the East Front of the stately U.S. Capitol after a recent snowstorm, including a closer view of the Capitol dome. Another negative has the image of the James

A. Garfield statue in the circle at First Street and Maryland Avenue SW, with the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in the background. An interesting image of the South Front of the Patent Office Building shows pedestrians buying food bags for 10 cents from vendor carts on the corner at Seventh and F Streets NW. Walter’s interest in this building might have stemmed from his father being an inventor who was granted three U.S. patents. Another great image is a northwest scene up the wide Pennsylvania Avenue NW from Second Street NW showing several horse-drawn streetcars and buggies, which were the common modes of transportation in Washington at that time. Any moving streetcars and buggies are blurred in this image, since this photograph was a timed exposure, taken with Walter’s view camera that used the lens cap as a shutter.

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left Hussey’s photograph of the south front of the Treasury Building would be difficult to capture today as the area is now within a secured perimeter.


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above Hussey’s photograph of the luxury Arlington Hotel following its 1889 expansion helped the author date the glass negative collection. From 1868 to 1912, the hotel stood just northeast of the White House at the present location of the Veterans Administration Building.

above Street vendors can be seen selling food from their carts to passing pedestrians in Hussey’s photograph of the Patent Office Building, 1889. right John Quincy Adams Ward’s statue of President James A. Garfield, which was unveiled in the circle at First Street and Maryland Avenue SW in 1887, is seen in the foreground of Hussey’s photograph of the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

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women posing around a small pond, with four on a small boat and others on a bridge or at the water’s edge, some holding wooden tennis rackets and one with a fishing rod. Examples of other interesting Mount Pleasant images in the Smithsonian’s Walter J. Hussey collection are images of formally dressed family and friends in different poses in the parlor of the Hussey farmhouse, Quaker friends staying at the Hussey farm while attending the six-day Ohio Yearly Meeting held in Mount Pleasant Yearly Meeting House , friends riding in horse-drawn sleighs after a snowstorm, a classroom heated by a potbelly stove in a one-room country schoolhouse with several grade levels of students being taught by one schoolmaster, men riding in horse-drawn buggies and high-wheeled sulkies, and several farm scenes. I must mention that my grandfather was a skillful artist as well. Two of his landscape paintings were hanging on the wall in images Walter took of guests in the parlor in the farmhouse. However, I do not know the whereabouts of any of his paintings. While Walter did not have a studio in Mount

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MOUNT PLEASANT The second group of images from Walter’s glassplate negatives provides an exceptional and important visual history of his family and friends and a glimpse of life in Mount Pleasant primarily in the late 1880s and the 1890s, although additional family images were taken in the early 1900s. These wonderful images include several large gatherings of friends of Walter’s on outings in the woods with musical instruments or wooden tennis rackets. I was struck by how formally the men and women were dressed for an outing in the woods—the men in three-piece suits and derby hats, and the women in long dresses with hats of various sizes, many adorned with flowers. One truly fascinating image shows seven couples dancing to music provided by a quartet consisting of three string players (two violin and one string bass) and a clarinet player on a large wooden “dance floor” that was assembled in the woods. Children watching the couples dance can be seen under trees in the background. In one of Walter’s best artistic images, and my favorite, he has twenty formally dressed men and

Many of Walter Hussey’s photographs are set in rural Mount Pleasant, Ohio. Included in the collection are outdoor gatherings of his formally dressed friends dancing in the woods (opposite) and posing (right and below).

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Walter Hussey paints a landscape while a couple admires his work in a studio in DeLand, Florida, c. 1891. below

Pleasant, I have one mounted photograph of Walter at age 26 painting a winter landscape with a young couple looking over his shoulder at a studio that is believed to be in DeLand, Florida, in 1891. Two finished landscape paintings and a man’s portrait are also visible in this photograph. I have not been able to confirm that Walter had a studio in DeLand, but that is what the handwritten label and date on the photograph say. Most of all, my grandfather was a very successful farmer. Farming was his livelihood, and it supported his family.17 In 1893–94, at age 28, while he was still very involved with his photography, Walter embarked on building a sizable registered American Jersey dairy herd around the famous St. Lambert Jersey family by buying thirty registered Jersey cows from different breeders in the Northeast. He also bought one of the best pure St. Lambert bulls in the world to be head of his


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Walter Hussey (standing far right) poses at the front porch of the Hussey farmhouse with three generations of his family in 1911. Hussey’s parents (the author’s great grandparents) are standing at far left. Hussey’s son John (the author’s father) is the second child on the right.

Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2010. At the museum the glass negatives are stored under archival conditions, and they have been digitized to become a permanent record in the Photographic History Collection.18 My grandfather’s legacy to his descendants lives on in this collection, and now the public can view the breadth and quality of his photography.

Walter Hussey strikes a pose in the front yard at the Hussey Greenwood Farm, 1890.

notes 1.

J. A. Caldwell, History of Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio and Incidentally Historic Collections Pertaining to Border Warfare and the Early Settlement of the Adjacent Portion of the Ohio Valley (Wheeling: Historical Publishing Company, 1880), 530–40.

2. James L. Burke and Donald E. Bensch, Mount Pleasant and the Early Quakers of Ohio (Columbus: Ohio Historical Society, 1975), 8–9. 3. Ibid., 12–22. 4. Caldwell, History of Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, 561. 5. Ibid., 543–44. 6. For example, J. Traill Taylor, The Photographic Amateur: A Series of Lessons in Familiar Style for Those Who Desire to Become Practically Acquainted with This Useful and Fascinating Art, 2nd ed. (New York: Scovill Manufacturing Company, 1883); W. F. Carlton, The Amateur Photographer: A Complete Guide for Beginners in the Art-Science of Photography (Rochester: Rochester Optical Company, 1891). This guide was included with each Rochester Optical Company camera purchased. 7. Catalogue of Photographic Apparatus (Rochester: Rochester Optical Company, 1893), 4–5. 8. Ibid. 9. How to Make Photographs and a Descriptive Catalogue (New York: Scovill and Adams Company, 1892), 83–86. 10. Ibid. 11. Catalogue of Photographic Apparatus, 4–5.

herd. Thereafter, Walter soon became a prominent breeder of Jersey dairy cattle and was elected into the prestigious American Jersey Cattle Club in 1895. The previous year Asahel, Walter’s father, was granted a patent for a cow-milker that could have been used to milk the Jersey dairy cows. In a letter my father sent to his grandfather, Asahel, in 1916, he wrote, “We still are milking 25 to 30 cows and ship cream to Steubenville.” However, sometime around 1920, Walter switched to raising Hereford cattle, and that was the breed raised on the farm while I was growing up. My grandfather lived on the Greenwood Farm until October 5, 1959, when he passed away at the age of 94. He was a skilled amateur photographer whose glass negatives leave a rich visual record of the nation’s capital and life in and around Mount Pleasant, Ohio, during the late nineteenth century. To permanently preserve his negatives, I donated eighty-four glass-plate negatives to the

12. “The Opulent Arlington Hotel,” Streets of Washington, www. streetsofwashington.com; James M. Goode, Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington’s Destroyed Buildings, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 2002), 209. 13. Goode, Capital Losses. 14. Herbert R. Collins, “The White House Stables and Garages,” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol 63–65 (1963– 65): 366–85; Frank G. Carpenter, “Our Presidents as Horsemen,” Magazine of American History 17 (June 1887): 483–93. 15. Goode, Capital Losses, 302–03. 16. Ibid., 454–55. 17. J. H. Andrews and C. P. Filson, Centennial Souvenir of Steubenville and Jefferson County, Ohio, 1797–1897 (Steubenville: Harald Publishing Co., 1897), 199. 18. The Walter J. Hussey Collection (accession number 2010.0080, now 154 images) is accessible online via the Smithsonian home page, www.si.edu. At this site the images can be zoomed in to observe detail. The author wishes to acknowledge Jane Fraelich, who gifted him Walter’s Universal camera; Shannon Perich, associate curator of the Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, who coordinated the donation of Walter’s glass negative collection to the Smithsonian; John Dillaber, photographer, Smithsonian Photographic Services, Photographic Archives Division, who digitized the negatives; and John Hussey and the Mount Pleasant Historical Society for donating glass negatives to the collection.

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