William Eddowes (1860-1937) & Robert T. Eddowes (1855-1933)
This partnership, formed in 1886 by William & Robert T. Eddowes, specialized in portraits of children, performers, and businessmen. The nucleus of the business began with a small home studio that Robert opened at 151 Oakland Street in Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1880s. When William joined Robert, the brothers opened a studio at 355 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Eddowes Brothers would remain in operation over fifty years, albeit under the exclusive direction of William Eddowes for its final three decades.
The partnership commenced activity at the moment when dry plate photography supplanted the wet plate processes. William served as chief camera operator and Robert as printer and chief financial officer. Eddowes Brothers used Platino papers for rich tonal gradation on their prints. Because of a theft in 1902, we know by report that they favored German lenses from the Goerz and Zeiss companies.
In the early 1890s they moved to 26 W. 23rd Street. During the height of their popularity in the first decade of the 20th century, they again relocated, this time to 9925 Broadway. At the time of this relocation, Robert ceased active involvement in the company, moving across the river from Manhattan to Bayonne, New Jersey, and establishing a photoengraving facility. He developed an expertise about the ink absorption of various papers, and would eventually be hired by photo-paper manufacturers as a salesman/educator to the photographic trade.
For the first two decades of the 20th century, William’s wife, Florence, ran the company’s finances. William remained an active photographer until 1935. He lived in Newark, New Jersey for much of his life, though he died in Larchmont, New York, on Dec. 8, 1937.
NOTES: "William Eddowes," Obituary New York Times (Dec 9, 1937), 25. "Stolen," Photographic Times 34 (Nov 1902), 522. David S. Shields/ALS
From the 1880s onward, the Eddowes brothers pursued an aesthetically novel representation strategy: all bust shots and most half land portraits were taken before a tonally textured background screen. Only full figured images made use of painted backgrounds, and these were almost invariably lightly toned or out of focus.