Caleb Lysander Howe


Caleb Lysander, Howe Cabinet Card.jpg

Caleb Lysander Howe


Veteran Photographer Gone.


Death of C. L. Howe of Brattleboro---

Interesting Sketch of His Life.


C. L. Howe, the old photographer of Brattleboro, died at his home on Harris place there last week Thursday. His death was not unexpected, as he had been in feeble health for several months, and each succeeding day found him growing weaker. The news was cabled to his daughter, Mrs Mary Howe-Lavin, who sang in Paris the night of her father's death. His wife and three children were at his bedside. Caleb Lysander Howe, son of Caleb and Sophia Howe, was born in Dummerston September 23, 1811. At the age of two years he went with his parents to Dover, where his father carried on a farm, being also engagd in teaming between Dover and Boston, an important vocation 50 years ago. Mr. Howe worked on the farm till he was about 16, when he left home, to learn a trade in C. P. Dryden's machine-shop at East Dover. Two years later he came to Brattleboro, to work in the machine-shop of Hines & Newman, and finally went into the rule-shop, where he remained till his return to Dover, where he stayed two years or more. At this time he married Miss Cynthia Sherman, daughter of Dea Sherman of Dover, when he returned to the rule factory and remained through the hard times of 1837.


Mr Howe often recalled the exciting incidents attending the great squeeze of that period, when the bank suspended specie payments, and, in fact, it was difficult to get money for any purpose. A public meeting was called to protest against the stringency, at which meeting the late Mr Seymour appeared and assured the anxious depositors and others, that if they would only have patience they would certainly be paid in full, and moreover they would be paid in silver, a promise that was scrupulously kept. Mr Howe again returned to Dover, in 1838, where he leased the old Perry farm. It was while he was engaged in farming that an itinerant picture-maker took rooms in the old hall then standing on Dover common.


It was in the very earliest daysof picture-making and Mr Howe became deeply interested in the art. This must have been sometime either in 1846 or 1847. Finally after considerable bantering Mr Howe offered the picture man the New York price for his materials and apparatus, and agreed to pay his board for the time he had spent in town for his business. This offer was accepted and Mr Howe began making pictures. The pictures were all daguerreotypes at that time, and the silvered copper plates were the principal article of expense in the outfit. These plates were bought in Boston at $11 a dozen. The young artist went to Chesterfield to look at a four-wheeled car which was then in use by a traveling picture-maker. Returning home by way of Brattleboro, he was informed by Picture-Maker J. L. Lovell that a man from Norwich, Ct., had gone up in Fayetteville with a fine new car which he would sell. Howe went there and within an hour he had closed a trade with the Norwich artist for his entire outfit, for which he paid $300, a big sum in those days.


He immediately started out on a tour of the county, and the first month he made $80, and from that time on he usually counted a profit of from $100 to $200 a month. He finally sold his car to a man in Wardsboro, and going over to Saxton's River he bought another of Mr Taft, who was going into the mercantile business in Bellows Falls. Mr Howe moved the car to Dover and thence to Wilmington, where he stayed about a year, and then removed to Hinsdale, N. H., and to Winchester, where he sold out and went to North Adams. There he remained about six months and until he came to Brattleboro in 1856, and bought Lovell's business and opened a gallery in Cutler's block on Main street. This was about the time when photographs were first introduced, though tin-types were more the rage, as they could be made on most any thing, even on leather or wood. Being of a mechanical turn of mind Mr Howe had worked out many schemes in connection with the art of picture-making, and his fame as an artist spread, his pictures being among the very best. Mr Howe was a lineal descendant of Caleb Howe, who was killed by the Indians in Vernon, and whose family was carried away by the savages. He won quite a reputation throughout the county as a teacher of vocal music and as a tenor singer. He taught singing schools at an early age, and for several years he sang in the choirs of the Congregational and Universalist churches in Brattleboro. He lived a quiet and abstemious life, devoid of affectation and show, every energy being devoted to his chosen profession of which he was master, and to his musical studies. Besides his widow he leaves seven children, two, N. Sherman and Fred Howe, being engaged in the hotel business in Bermuda; Mrs Alice, wife of E. E. Holloway of Indianapolis; Miss Jeanette, John C. and Lucien in Brattleboro and Mrs Lavin in Paris.


Young Woman, Tintype, Caleb L. Howe.jpg

Portrait Of A Young Woman

Tintype By Caleb L. Howe


Caleb L. Howe, Sphereotype, Albert Bisbee Patent May 27, 1856.jpg

Portrait In Sphereotype

Courtesy Of Jonathan Webb

Scantic Antiques, East Longmeadow, Massachusetts


Caleb L. Howe, Trade Card, 1870-1880, Wilmington, A Head Of Time.jpg

"A Head Of Time"


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Death of C. L. Howe.


His Record as a Photographer and His Love for Music.


Caleb Lysander Howe, Brattleboro's veteran photographer, and one of her oldest, best known and most highly respected citizens, died at his Harris place house last evening after an illness of two months. Mr. Howe was born in Dummerston in September, 1811, being a son of Caleb and Sophia Sheldon Howe, and a lineal descendant of Caleb Howe, who was killed by the Indians in Vernon in pioneer days.


His parents moved to Dover when he was a child, and he grew to manhood in that town, although spending some time with his brother-in-law, Capt. Dryden, at Holden, Mass. Mr. Howe started in life as a farmer in Dover, but came to Brattleboro to work in the old rule factory. Business here was suspended during the panic of '37 and Mr. Howe returned to Dover.


He carried on a farm there during the summers and in winters taught singing schools in nearly all the towns of the county, until about 1850, when a daguerreotype maker came to Dover with his car. Mr. Howe showing great interest in the process of picture making, the traveler offered to sell him the business, and agreed to stay a week to show Mr. Howe the work. The result was a sale, but the traveler left Dover two days later, and Mr. Howe started in the new business without further instruction. For nearly five years he traveled through southern Vermont and into adjoining towns in New Hampshire. In 1855 Mr. Howe went to North Adams, Mass., where he ran a gallery a year. The following year he came to Brattleboro and bought the gallery established by Mr. Lovell. The business has been carried on continuously since that time. Daguerreotypes were superseded by ambrotypes or sphereotypes, made on glass; about 1860 the tintypes came into vogue, shortly after followed by the paper photograph, in which wonderful improvements have since been made.


During the Civil war, when so many troops were stationed here, Mr. Howe's business increased rapidly, and at that time was the largest in the line ever done in the state. The soldier boys would actually stand in line from sunrise to sunset awaiting their turn to be photographed.


Mr. Howe's studio was in the Cutler block from 1856 to 1865, then in Union block until 1880, and since that date in Bank block. N. S. Howe was intimately associated with his father until 1872, when his place was taken by his younger brother, John C. Howe, who has been the father's partner since 1880.


Mr. Howe's first wife was Cynthia Sherman, daughter of Deacon Nathan Sherman of Dover. Five children were born to them, of whom two survive---N. S. Howe, in the hotel business in Pawling, N. Y., and Bermuda; and Miss Jeanette Howe of this village. The oldest son, George, died in infancy; and the youngest, Frank, at about 12 years of age, in Wilmington. The other son, Cyrus, who died at about 13, exhibited wonderful musical gifts, and was accustomed to accompanying his father to sing at public gatherings. The death of the mother and of Cyrus occurred in Dover.


Mr. Howe was married in 1847 to Martha B. Simonds, daughter of Deacon David Simonds of Peru, this state. She survives him with their five children---John C., above referred to; Alice, wife of E. E. Holloway of Indianapolis; Lucien, the well-known musician; Fred, now in Bermuda, and and Mary (Mrs. Lavin), the eminent singer, now abroad.


Mr. Howe's love of music was his leading characteristic, and under a favorable environment he would undoubtedly have become famous as a musician. As it was, he not only taught singing schools and started others on musical careers, but he had more than a local reputation as a singer. In his early days his rich tenor voice was heard at temperance meetings and other public gatherings, and after coming to this village he sang for years in the choirs of the Congregational and Universalist churches. The musical trait was transmitted to all of his children, and in following their bent two of them---Lucien and Mary---have achieved prominence, the latter being the most famous singer Vermont has ever produced.


Mr. Howe was also possessed of strong artistic perceptions, which accounted in a large degree for the reputation his studio has gained. No better daguerreotypes or ambrotypes were ever made than by Mr. Howe, and since its establishment, his studio has kept pace with all the developments of the photographic art. In his business life he was a man of the strictest integrity. His business and his taste for music absorbed his attention completely, and he cared nothing for public honors. He was a member of the Columbian Masonic lodge and a regular attendant at the Congregational church. The funeral will be held at the house Sunday afternoon at 2.


Vermont Phoenix, March 15, 1895.


Caleb Lysander Howe, Steel Engraving.jpg


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Caleb L. Howe's Photograph From Wantastiquet


Caleb L. Howe & Sons Photograph, Circa 1880.jpg

Caleb L. Howe & Sons Photograph In July 1879

Baptist Church With North Tower Only

St. Michael's Episcopal Church

Centre Congregational Church With New Chapel

Gravel Pit Above Railroad Tracks

Woman Walking South Along Meadow Lane, Later Oak Street

Old High School, Far Right, Wing On South Side


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---Howe has just completed a remarkably perfect and satisfactory photographic view of the village, from a point admirably chosen about two-thirds of the way up the mountain and nearly in a straight line from the end of the toll bridge. The size of the picture is 20 by 24 inches, the apparatus used being the mammoth camera recently spoken of in our Bellows Falls correspondence.


The view takes in the whole village from cemetery hill on the left to the asylum buildings on the right, and the entire scene westward to the outline of the distant hills is distinctly marked. The picture is clear and perfect in every detail, and does great credit to Mr. Howe's establishment as a painstaking and artistic piece of photographic work.


Vermont Phoenix, July 11, 1879.


View Of Brattleboro From Wantastiquet, July 1879, Caleb Lysander Howe.jpg


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General John Wolcott Phelps, Cabinet Card   Photograph By Caleb Lysander Howe, Circa 1870.jpg

Caleb Lysander Howe's Portrait Of General John Wolcott Phelps


Cabinet Card, Reverse.jpg


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John C. Howe.jpg

John C. Howe


An Old Photograph Studio.


That of John C. Howe Established by His Father in 1856---

Changes in Methods.


The story of the development of the photographic art as one learns it from a study of old negatives is of interest. Probably there is no better place in New England to trace the development of the art than in the studio of John C. Howe. Mr. Howe's father, who died 15 years ago, was one of the pioneers in the art in this part of New England and opened a studio in Brattleboro in 1856. It was on the third floor of the block now occupied on the ground floor by the Warner bakery. There are only two business concerns now in existence that were established when Caleb Lysander Howe came here from Dover almost discouraged over his efforts in the photographic business. Mr. Howe was a farmer in Dover and taught singing schools in the winter. One day in the summer of 1852 there came to Dover a traveling daguerreotype artist. He did not make the photographs of today mounted on fancy cards and embodying the skill of an artist. They were daguerreotypes, the forerunners of the ambrotype and ferrotype which preceded the photograph of today.


Caleb Howe was fascinated with the art of reproducing the likenesses of people and hung about the man's car where the "artist" made pictures on what looked like silver plates. The next day he visited the car again and again on another day. The proprietor of the traveling studio noticed that Mr. Howe was interested in the process and within an hour or two proposed to sell out to the Dover farmer. Mr. Howe asked the traveling artist what he wanted for his outfit and the traveler offered to sell for $300 and would instruct Mr. Howe how to make pictures. It looked easy to Mr. Howe and the deal was closed. Mr. Howe became the proprietor and the former owner, who had promised to remain with the new proprietor and instruct him in the mysteries of picture making, left town in three days.


Mr. Howe found that he could not solve the mystery of preparing the mercurial bath for the old-fashioned daguerreotype plate. He knew of a man in Brattleboro who professed to have some knowledge of the picture making art and came from Dover to this place to talk with him. The Brattleboro artist did not know any more about the troubles which Mr. Howe than the latter did and Mr. Howe decided that he would go to Boston to learn what he could about the business in which he had embarked. He visited the studio of J. M. Black, then the leading establishment of its kind in Boston, and came away three or four days later with a sufficient knowledge of the art of making pictures to overcome his difficulties. Deciding that Wilmington whither he had moved from Dover was too small a field for his operations Mr. Howe went to North Adams but at that time the building of the Hoosac tunnel brought to that place an element of population that did not apeal to the photographer and he came to Brattleboro in 1856 purchasing the J. L. Lovell studio. His son, N. Sherman Howe, was associated with him in business until 1870 when the latter went to Chicago where he was in the Fassett gallery for a year or so. N. S. Howe was in the insurance business in Brattleboro for about 10 years with Malcom Moody who was assistant treasurer of the Vermont Savings bank. Later N. S. Howe went to Bermuda and managed the Princess until his death, Feb. 22, 1907.


Opening up his studio in Brattleboro Caleb Howe followed the profession of a photographer until his death in 1895. In 1880 his son, John C. Howe, became associated with him, and the business was moved from the studio in Union block which he opened in 1865, to the quarters now occupied in the Peoples bank block, the firm becoming C. L. Howe & Son. The present proprietor began work in his father's studio in 1868 immediately after graduating from the high school. John C. Howe as a boy spent many hours drawing plans of buildings and had an ambition to become an architect. He had almost made up his mind to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he entered his father's studio as a paid employee.


When he became interested in the photograph business in 1868 the operator thought of little but getting an image of the sitter on his plate. There was always a small table with a book on it. The person to be photographed was placed facing the camera and given the book. If the sitter prefered he could rest one of his arms upon the table. In those days few homes in this part of the country failed to have a photograph album. Having bought a big album it became necessary to fill it and as the records of the Howe studio show that from 20 to 40 sittings were made daily it is to be presumed that but few of the inhabitants escaped having their picture taken. From 1860 to 1864 the studio averaged about 20 sittings daily and in those days patrons generally paid in advance. Caleb Howe employed two and sometimes three men and many of the photographers of New England were pupils of this pioneer in the photographic business.


Mr. Howe traveled through all parts of Windham county and over into Bennington county as well as into New Hampshire stopping a week or two in a place making pictures. The old-fashioned daguerreotype one and one-half inches by two inches in a gilt frame with a glass sold for $1 while the size that corresponds to the cabinet photograph of the present day brought $5. During the last 20 years from 2,000 to 4,000 sittings have been made annually in the Howe studio. There is a negative in the studio of the late Larkin G. Mead, the famous sculptor, and one of William M. Hunt, the well-known artist. W. H. H. Murray, known better as "Adirondack Murray," also had his picture taken in the Howe studio. In the early days of the photographic business in Brattleboro Caleb Howe and his employes worked from 7 o'clock a. m. till 6 p. m., and generally came back for two hours in the evening. They were busy all the time. Since 1876 a complete file of all negatives has been preserved.


That the photographic art has undergone many changes is shown by a study of the old prints made by Caleb Howe. Until after the civil war the art had not developed to the point where negatives were retouched. The sitter wanted to see the outlines of his face and these were brought out strongly but no attempt was made to shade any part of the portrait or to remove blemishes. Until about 1875 the studio did not send out proofs of a negative that a person might make a choice. But one sitting would be given to any person. The studio guaranteed its work and it was rarely that it had to be done over because of any imperfection. During the years that Caleb Howe traveled about making pictures the wet plate process was used and it was necessary to have a dark room in which to prepare the plates for exposure. This dark room was on wheels and was drawn about the country. The cameras used by Mr. Howe, sr., were equipped with lenses of no greater capacity than those in some of the cheap cameras used by amateurs today. One of the pictures taken by Caleb Howe 57 years ago is a daguerreotype of his son John then three years old. The picture is as plain as it was the day the exposure was made and is an excellent sample of the work turned out in the early days.


John C. Howe is one of the very few photographers in New England who have made pictures by every process known to the profession. He has seen the ambrotype give way to the ferrotype or tintype and both of these processes succeded by the photograph of today. When Mr. Howe was a boy in his father's studio all the paper used for printing was imported and when received by the photographer it had to be treated to remove the sizing. Today such paper comes from the manufacturer prepared for use. The old time photographer bought his glass in sheets for use in framing daguerreotypes and cut it to fit the different frames selected by his patrons.


A study of the negatives in the Howe studio shows in a striking way the change in fashions. The contrast between the hobble skirt of 1910 and the crinoline of 1860 is amusing, while the headwear worn by the women of today compared to bonnets of the belles of 1860 and 10 years later is equally startling. An examination of hundreds of old negatives in Mr. Howe's studio shows that whiskers were quite the correct thing 45 years ago and the young men of 25 generally wore "sideboards" or Gladstones. The story of the development of the photographic business from the artistic side can best be told by contrasting the various styles and finishes of modern prints with those of 50 years ago. Black and white effects were the only ones sought in the early days of the profession and the artist had but little idea of the effect of light in taking a picture other than to know that light was absolutely necessary.


Brattleboro Reformer, November 18, 1910.


C. L. Howe & Son Cabinet Card, Ten Women, Old Man In Rocker, Young Boy.jpg

Large Cabinet Card By C. L. Howe & Sons

Circa 1888


Funeral Wreath, Caleb L. Howe Photograph.jpg

Funeral Wreath For Warren Davis

Died Aug 31st, 1859? Age 35 Years


Funeral Wreath In Detail, Caleb L. Howe Photograph.jpg


Lucinda W. Stone, Daughter Of Dr. Nathan Stone, Newfane, By Caleb Lysander Howe.jpg

Lucinda W. Stone


This carte de visite was taken in 1874 by Caleb L. Howe, to commemorate the death of Lucinda W. Stone that year on May 25th. The photograph is taken from an earlier daguerreotype taken in 1856, possibly also by Caleb Howe, when Lucinda was sixty-one years old. Her father was Dr. Nathan Stone of Newfane, Vermont, her mother was Alice Knowlton. Lucinda was probably named for her mother's younger sister, Lucinda Knowlton, Mrs. Samuel Willard.


Dr. Nathan Stone was born at Shrewsbury, Massachusetts in 1761, studied medicine at Dr. Flint's school of medicine, was a surgeon's mate in the Revolution. He came to Newfane in 1782, and was surgeon of the 14th Vermont. (militia) regiment, in 1787, of the 2d regiment in 1790, and of the 3d regiment in 1794. He held the office of Justice of the Peace for many years, and was town clerk forty-two years.


Dr. Nathan Stone married Alice, daughter of Judge Knoulton in 1788, and reared five sons and four daughters, of whom Edson, died in New York ; Joseph died at Ellenburgh, N. Y.; Lucinda died in 1874; Benjamin died at the age of ten years; Alice R. died at the age of twenty-six years; Sophia K., widow of Justus Holland, and Sarah S.. widow of James Holland, reside in Newfane. Dr. Stone died in March 1839. Mrs. Stone died on November 14, 1865, aged ninety-six years.


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