This cabinet card portrait of a pretty and fashionable young woman is the work of G. W. Pach. The woman in the photograph appears quite austere but of course sometimes appearance can be deceptive. Pach, and the Pach Brothers, were celebrated photographers of their era. G. W. Pach’s studio at the time of this photograph was located at 841 Broadway at the corner of 13th Street in New York City. Pach also had branch studios at Harvard and Yale Universities as well as in Poughkeepsie and West Point, New York. In addition, there were branch studios in Long Branch and Ocean Grove, New Jersey. The aforementioned studios are all mentioned in print on the reverse of the cabinet card. Also on the back of the image is a pencilled date indicating that this photograph was taken in 1879. To learn more about the Pach Brothers and to view additional photographs taken by them , click on the category “Photographer: Pach Bros”.
The subject of this cabinet card was a victim of mistaken identity. The gentleman in this image was identified as the ninth Governor of the state of Pennsylvania, David R. Porter. The previous owner of this photograph made the identification. After I purchased the card, I did some research and learned that David Porter was born in 1788 and died in 1867. The style of this photograph originated long after Porter’s death and I became upset at myself for beginning the identity confirmation process after paying for the photograph rather than before making the purchase. I had violated one of my basic rules for purchasing photographs of famous people. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Further research determined that the subject of the photograph is actually David Porter’s son, Horace Porter, who also was quite an accomplished man. The reverse of the photograph has an inscription “Amb. Porter” and this was the lead I followed to make the correct identity. The whole process was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I went from feeling foolish, as well as angry at the previous owner’s unintentional incorrect identification; to feeling happy about identifying the subject as a man who played an integral part in American history. Horace Porter (1837-1921) is most well known for his activities during the civil war. He served as a Lieutenant Colonel, Ordnance Officer, and Staff Officer in the Union Army. In 1866 he was appointed brevet Brigadier General in the U. S. Army. He was also personal secretary to General and President Ulysses S. Grant and to General William Sherman. Later, he was the Vice President of th Pullman Palace Car Company and the United States ambassador to France (1897-1905). Horace Porter was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. As stated earlier, he was the son of David R. Porter who who served as Pennsylvania’s Governor. His cousin, Andrew Porter was a Mexican-American War veteran and Union Army Brigadier General. Horace Porter was educated at Harvard University and graduated from West Point in 1860. He was distinguished in the Battle of Fort Pulaski (Georgia), Chickamauga, the Battle of the Wilderness, and New Market Heights. He received the Medal of Honor for his efforts at Chickamauga. He later wrote a memoir “Campaigning With Grant” (1897). The name of the photographer of this image is uncertain. It is difficult to decipher his printed name on the bottom of this photograph. Owners of other images produced by this photographer refer to him as “Pessford”. The script on the photograph could also be interpreted as “Bessford”. There was a photographer in Hudson, Wisconsin listed by the 1880 census as James Bessford, but no evidence could be found linking him to this photograph. POSTNOTE: The photographer has been identified by a cabinet card gallery visitor as Joseph G. Gessford. Check out this entry’s comment section for the visitor’s informative and interesting contribution.
Bernard Roelker (1816-1888)) led an active life in Literature and Law. He attended the University of Bonn on the Rhine where he studied law. He came to the United States in the late 1830′s. He settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut and privately taught German and Music. He then went to Harvard and became friends with Henry Longfellow who was a professor there. Roelker became friends with a number of literary luminaries. He taught at Harvard and renewed his study of the law. He then practiced law in Boston and later moved to New York City where he started the law firm of Laur and Roelker. He built a large practice, especially among the Germans of the city. He was expert at wills and contracts. He argued an important case, Meyer vs Roosevelt, in front of the United States Supreme Court in 1863. It was the first legal tender case heard before the court and Roelker won the decision. Roelker and his friend Samuel Tilden organized the Prairie du Chien Railroad in Wisconsin. Tilden ran for President in 1876. Roelker never married. The photographer of this Cabinet card portrait is the famous photographer Sarony of New York City. The photograph is dated November, 1879.