Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Earliest Photographs

Looks like the old market sheds below what is now Military Road. One can see them in the larger panoramic view often taken from the St Mary's Cemetery across the Baakens

This was another first for Port Elizabeth. By all accounts, the first photographic studio in South Africa was established in Port Elizabeth.

The first publicly announced photographic process, was the Daguerreotype process, or daguerreotypy. It was introduced worldwide in 1839. For following nearly twenty years, it was the most commonly used photographic processes internationally.

The first photograph using this process in Port Elizabeth was on the 17th October 1846.

Main picture: The best guess what this photograph represents are the old market sheds below what is now Military Road. One can identify them in the larger panoramic view often taken from the St Mary’s Cemetery across the Baakens River

Monsieur Jules Leger of Paris, a daguerreotypist, arrived in Port Elizabeth from India on October 14, 1846 aboard the schooner Hannah Codner. Three days later, he was taking “photographic likenesses (a minute’s attendance)”, in Mr. William Ring’s library. Very soon Leger exhibited a handful of settler portraits and some colonial scenes which were described in the Grahamstown Journal in November 1946 as “beautiful, wonderful, interesting.”

Another of the early photographs of Port Elizabeth probably from the 1850s

Another of the early photographs of Port Elizabeth probably from the 1850s

Leger’s associate, William Ring, then moved to Cape Town with the equipment which Leger had sold to him but he was less successful. The adoption of the wet plate process ensured that photography in South Africa expanded.

Main Street between 1853 & 1858 as there is no Town Hall & the new Church on the right was built in 1853

Main Street between 1853 & 1858 as there is no Town Hall & the new Church on the right was built in 1853

No sources are able to identify who the first persons were to be photographed. The only reasonable assumption to be made is that they were affluent. Moreover, none of these photographs is extant.

The City Hall being constructed: 1858 - 1862

The City Hall being constructed: 1858 – 1862

The only extant photographs that I have able to trace, which can be classified as early photographs, are the ones used in this blog.

As regards photographers, according to JJ Redgrave, one of the first and best was a Mr James Bruton who commenced business as a photographer on 11th February 1859 after being a shopkeeper. In December of that year he opened a studio in Jetty Street, finally moving to Cape Town in 1874. Port Elizabeth owes him a debt of gratitude as it is probably that many of the extant photographs of that period are Bruton’s work

Related blogs:

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Defences during the Boer War

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Interesting Old Buildings in Central Port Elizabeth:

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The Shameful Torching of Port Elizabeth’s German Club in 1915: 

 

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Grand Hotel:

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: White’s Road:

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Slipway in Humewood:

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: King’s Beach:

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road:

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Sand dunes, Inhabitants and Animals:

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Horse Memorial: 

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Sources:

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/SOUTH-AFRICA/2003-07/1058776733

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/SOUTH-AFRICA/2003-07/1058693826

http://reference.sabinet.co.za/webx/access/journal_archive/02590190/602.pdf

http://www.ancestors.co.za/articles/research-help/photographers-of-the-19th-century-in-south-africa/

 

Pioneer Port: The illustrated History of East London by Joseph Denfield

 


1 Comments

  1. Have you ever come across anything relating to Sarah Gurney in Port Elizabeth? She started life in Braintree in Essex as Sarah Hornblow married in 1810 to George Moore & had 3 children. 1816 she married again to John Cadle who took the family to Salem Hills as part of the 1820 Settlers( I believe I can show this was bigamous) By Cadle she had 6 more children then he died in 1822 and in 1823 she married James Thomas another settler with a young daughter. They had 2 children before he also died in Port Elizabeth in 1827. Later that year She married Charles Gurney previously a boat owner and smuggler and later the Market Master. She died in 1843. Probably too early for a gravestone to be found.

    Anything about her life in Port Elizabeth would be of interest. I do have a lot about the rest of her life its just the last few years.

    Reply

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