Jose Maria Mora (1850?-1926) was born in Cuba. He was the son of a wealthy planter who sent Mora to europe to study art. Mora decided he had other interests; mainly photography. The Cuban Revolution of 1868 prompted the Mora’s family to emigrate to the United States where Mora joined them. He studied under the very popular New York City photographer, Napoleon Sarony. In 1870 when he felt adequately prepared, Mora took over the studio of Gurney & Gurney on Broadway in New York City. In short time, Gurney became one of the most famous and financially successful celebrity photographers in New York City. Mora’s gallery stood out from others because of his creative use of many backgrounds and props in his photographs.
In 1893, Jose Mora closed his studio and his reason for ending his photography career is unknown. In 1926, Mora was found unconscious in his hotel room. His bed had fallen on top of him. He had been living like a hermit for 15 years and relied on other guests to provide him with food. Surprisingly, he was found to have about $9000 in savings at the time of his death. It was reported that he had padlocks put on the door to his bath because he thought bathing would shorten his life. Mora recovered from his accident physically but mentally he was ruled incompetent and committed to a hospital. He died a month later.