Stereoviews–New Book Features River History in 3-D
Written by Tom French
posted on June 13, 2011 22:42
Editor’s Note: Tom French and his mother, Nellie Taylor (TI Park), are two of the foremost collectors of stereoviews in the region. Tom's book, River Views: A History of the 1000 Islands in 3-D, includes over one hundred full-size stereoviews as well as a collapsible viewer so that readers can enjoy the images in 3-D. TI Life will review the book in our July issue. Below is an excerpt from the book about the most prominent photographer of these 3-D images of the river from the 1870s and 80s. Enjoy.
A.C. McIntyre — First Photographer of the Thousand Islands
For almost 150 years, the photos of Alexander Carson McIntyre, or A.C. as he was known, have been telling the story of the early history of the 1000 Islands as it became a tourist destination. He was perhaps the most accomplished and prominent early photographer of the region. His 3-D stereoviews became ubiquitous to the area during the late nineteenth century, and his photos were, and in some circles continue to be, synonymous with the region. Walk into any museum or browse any book associated with the history of the Thousand Islands, and you will no doubt find multiple images taken by A.C. McIntyre.
The son of a Scottish sea captain, he was born August 30, 1822, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1855, as a recent widower, he opened a photography studio in Brockville, Ontario.
Photography in the mid-nineteenth century was a new science, and methods and technologies were constantly changing. Indeed, some might say that photography was more of an art then than today. Photographers had to apply a mix of chemicals to a “wet plate” and then take the pictures within twenty minutes. If the photographer was outside of the studio, as many of McIntyre’s photos were, the mixing had to be done in the darkness of a portable tent. The photographer had to determine how much time was necessary for a proper exposure (based on lighting conditions and without the use of a light meter), which could be several seconds, and then develop the image immediately. The equipment was bulky and required carrying fragile glass plates, the tent, and the variety of chemicals.
Nonetheless, McIntyre was at the forefront of this photographic revolution and experimented with and perfected many new technologies from the daguerreotypes1 that he started with in 1855, through ambrotypes2, calotypes3, stereo imaging, and the dry plate (gelatin) process4 that emerged in the early 1880s and which is still the basis for film photography to this day.
At various times in his business career, he operated a studio in Montreal and Ogdensburg, as well as Brockville, Alexandria Bay, and Thousand Island Park. But it is his work in the Thousand Islands which gave him the most success and became the most enduring — so much so that his images are still alive today, literally in 3-D.
He established his ancillary studio in Alexandria Bay in the early 1870s. He was certainly doing business there by 1873 when he photographed a series of stereoviews of the “ascension” of a large, lighter-than-air balloon, The Atlantic. He operated his Brockville, Ontario, store during the winter months, and then left it to an assistant while he went to Alexandria Bay for the summer.
The location of his Alexandria Bay store seems to have moved from year to year. Advertisements exist announcing that his shop will occupy a portion of Centennial Hall. Another announcement states he will be in “an octagon studio.” Yet another notice proclaims that he will be located in the “Blue Glass Observatory in front of the Thousand Island House.”
He clearly took thousands of photographs in his lifetime. He was available for private sessions and he sold pre-prepared souvenir stock views in his stores.
Most of his stereoviews were taken along the river and amongst the islands. He would have had to lug his portable darkroom tent across the water in a boat. For this purpose, he obtained, in 1875, his own steam yacht, The Nobby. He used it not only to get around and as a prop in his photos, but also, some believe, as a staging platform for his darkroom tent.
He obtained the yacht from Oneida Lake just north of Syracuse, New York, in May, 1875. He brought it to the Alexandria Bay area in late May via the barge canal (part of the old Erie Canal system) and Lake Ontario, a journey of almost a hundred miles, but had to put in about half way across Lake Ontario due to an abundance of ice (bergs from one to twenty-five feet) that blocked his way — something that would be considered a fluke of nature today as the ice is usually gone by mid-April.
Photo: Taylor/French Collection, 2011
Nobby (also labeled as View of Nobby Isle on a different mount) -- This view shows the Steam Yacht Nobby, purchased by McIntyre in 1875. It is believed that this image was taken at the foot of Nobby Island.
Nobby Island was purchased by Civil War Hero, Henry Heath5 by 1872. At the age of 16, in 1861, Henry enlisted in the Union Army and was a member of the 20th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, also known as the “Harvard Regiment” because of a number of Harvard graduates in the regiment. Heath’s Company A was commanded by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who would become a Justice on the US Supreme Court. In October of 1861, he was injured by a blow from a cannon wheel and captured in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, near Leesburg, Virginia. He spent the winter in a Confederate prisoner of war camp in Richmond, Virginia, before being freed through an exchange of prisoners. After the war, he became successful with real estate investments, especially in the Cranford, New Jersey, area and also developed connections with the Pullman family (of the Pullman Palace Car Company). Heath was instrumental in encouraging McIntyre to set up a photo studio in Alexandria Bay, which might also explain why McIntyre christened his yacht, The Nobby.
By 1879, he had purchased a larger yacht, The Idlewild, which allowed him to sleep over on the boat.
He was an astute salesman with a knack for advertising his skills and wares, as evidenced by the various notices and advertisements that appeared in the local papers of the day. In the process, he developed a variety of labels that advertised not only his business, but also extolled the virtues of the region and other area establishments. His labels were copied verbatim (minus the name) by at least one other photographer, George Monroe (George Eastman’s (of Eastman Kodak) personal photography teacher).
Prior to opening his studio in Alexandria Bay, he was also located in Ogdensburg, New York, about 30 miles downriver. It was during this period, beginning in about 1868, that McIntyre used yellow mounts. He continued using the yellow mounts with simple labels, often on the front of the card, for the first few years in his Alexandria Bay shop. But by mid-decade, he had switched to the orange mounts and the eloquent labels often associated with his work.
Depending upon which label was used, it might include useful information for tourists, including railroad routes and schedules, hotels, steamer routes, and certain attractions.
Photo: Taylor/French Collection, 2011
Camp Charming -- This view, published by McIntyre, shows President Ulysses S. Grant (seated in the dark suit with a top hat on his knee) during his visit to the 1000 Islands in 1872. President Grant was the guest, along with Civil War General Phillip H. Sheridan, of George Pullman, of the Pullman Palace Car Company. Some people believe the man to the left of Grant is General Sheridan, but it is this author's opinion, based on photo comparisons, that the man is more likely the host, George Pullman.
Although this view is usually attributed to McIntyre because of his label on the back, another theory is that it was actually taken by the Bain Brothers, of Clayton, and sold to McIntyre with the rest of their collection in 1874 by James Bain when he left for Michigan. McIntyre was an astute salesman, and at least one McIntyre expert believes he would have advertised that he was a photographer of President Grant had he actually taken the picture (in the way that he boasted that he was "Photographer of the President" after Chester Arthur's visit in 1882). There are several Bain views that can be found with early McIntyre labels, though I have not seen this particular view as a Bain.
Throughout most the 1870s, his mounts were 3 1/2 inches high, but at some point in the late 1870s or early 1880s, he began using four inch mounts as well. His later views were also on brown mounts with his name in gold lettering along both sides. There are examples of cream-colored mounts as well.
During the course of his career, he published views recording the visits of two sitting presidents to the 1000 Islands — Ulysses Grant in 1872 and Chester Arthur ten years later. He traveled in a circle of nationally known photographers including George Monroe and Matthew Brady. Indeed, by comparing McIntyre and Brady plates, some believe there are questionable attributions to some of Arthur’s trip photos.
By a second marriage, Alexander Carson McIntyre had five sons and three daughters. Upon his death in April of 1897, one of the sons, Gordon, took over the business until his own death in 1907. At that time, the value of the estate was “less than $200. Its inventory including ‘one lot of Island negatives’ valued at $15 and ‘2 retouching pencils,’ at ten cents.” But the history he left to the region is priceless.
By Tom French
Tom French was raised on Wellesley Island at Thousand Island Park. He received his bachelor's degree from St. Lawrence University and his Masters from Potsdam College and teaches English in Massena, NY. His work has been featured in Mac|Life Magazine, Adirondack Life, Stereo World, and The Watertown Daily Times. Several of his commentaries have aired on North Country Public Radio . In addition, he is a member of the band, The Buoyrockers.
Photographs appearing in the slide show do not appear in River Views: A History of the 1000 Islands in 3-D, and therefore are being published for the first time here. They are part of the Taylor/French Collection which now numbers over 1000. “We're in this together," says Tom explaining how he and his that mother both own half the cards. “We argue over whether she owns the left or the right side.”
Note: Portions of this article also appeared in Stereo World Magazine, the official publication of the National Stereoscopic Association. Thousands of stereoviews exist from thousands of locations. Individuals interested in learning more about stereoscopes, stereoviews, and anything 3-D should start by visiting the NSA website, www.stereoview.org.
River Views: A History of the 1000 Islands in 3-D, is now available at the Pre-sale price of $38.00 until July 31. This includes free delivery for US addresses in mid August. The 3-D Viewer is included. The book will sell for $44.95. For more information and a preview of the book see: tom-french.net.
Slide Show: Captions appear by hovering your mouse over each image. All photos are circa 1875-1885.
Daguerreotype: The first successful photographic process developed in the early eighteenth century by French chemist Louis J.M. Daguerre in which a positive image (vs. a negative) is formed on a light-sensitive surface on a copper plate. The images were extremely fragile, easily rubbed off, and were best preserved if placed in some sort of glass frame.
Ambrotype: Similar to the Daguerreotype, the Ambrotype was a positive image on a glass plate. The process became prevalent in the United States in the 1850s partly because it was less expensive than the Deguerreotype.
Calotype: A process that involved making a negative image on specially coated paper and then transferring it as a positive image onto another piece of photo paper. Developed in the 1840s, the process had a number of drawbacks including the need for longer exposures and the fragility of the paper.
The photographic process still used by today’s film cameras in which the film can be prepared ahead of time, loaded into a camera, exposed (into a negative) at any time after that, and developed when convenient. The first roll film was introduced by Eastman Kodak in the late 1880s.
Information derived from a past TI Life article: “Henry R. Heath: Union Soldier, Thousand Islands Pioneer”, written by Steven D. Glazer and published in April 2010.
Comment by: Sue Thompson ( )
Left at: 10:58 PM Monday, June 20, 2011
Congratulations on completing and publishing your book. Can't wait to see the end result.
Comment by: Laurie Murphy ( )
Left at: 1:59 PM Saturday, July 9, 2011
Enjoyed the article! As a descendent of A.C. MacIntyre I am curious how you came to the determination that A.C.'s father Patrick was a sea captain. Is the book available for purchase yet? I am looking forward to getting a copy.
Comment by: Tom French (author) ( )
Left at: 8:03 AM Saturday, July 16, 2011
According to my notes, the information about McIntyre's father was in a 1904 Brockville Evening Recorder article entitled "Scenery on the River Was Popularized by Former Brockville Man" (August 31, 1904, page 3). It can be found on Microfiche at the Brockville Public Library or at the Leeds & Grenville Genealogical Society at the Brockville Museum. The book includes extensive endnotes specifying exactly where I found information. Although originally scheduled for release in early July, a delay in production has pushed the release date into September. I apologize for the delay, and appreciate your patience.
Comment by: Linda Cuthbertson ( )
Left at: 10:34 AM Friday, September 9, 2011
I truly enjoyed reading your article and look forward to getting a copy of the book. I have an antique book of McIntyre's photos published by The Albertype Co, copyright 1889. The 32 scenes are phenomenal! I enjoy comparing the past to the present day Island scenery. I spend the summer at a camp site near Clayton and truly enjoy the islands and beauty! Can't wait to see your book when it comes out!
Comment by: nancy withey ( )
Left at: 12:56 PM Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Hello, my husband was fascinated by the story on News 10 now and I would like to know if this book is for sale somewhere, it would make a wonderful Christmas gift.
Comment by: Tom French (author) ( )
Left at: 5:48 AM Wednesday, November 30, 2011
In addition to being available from my website, tom-french.net, and Amazon, the book can be found at Corbin’s River Heritage, 534
Riverside Drive, Clayton; the Antique Boat Museum, 750
Mary St., Clayton; Captain Spicer’s Gallery, 40467 Route
12, Clayton; the Brewer Book Store at St. Lawrence
University, Canton; Traditional Arts in Upstate New York
office, 53 Main St., Canton; and at the Clarkson Bookstore
at Clarkson University, Potsdam.
In Canada: Novel Idea, 156 Princess St., Kingston;
Earth to Spirit Fair Trade Co., 340 King St., Kingston;
Arthur Child Heritage Museum, 125 Water St., Gananoque;
and Leeds County Books, 73 King Street W., Brockville.
Comment by: Debbie Hull ( )
Left at: 8:05 PM Tuesday, June 12, 2012
How many hours did I spend with my Bompa's stero-opticon? It was great entertainment on a rainy day in TI Park. I still have many of the pictures and the old wooden viewer.
Comment by: Steven Glazer ( )
Left at: 10:12 AM Tuesday, August 21, 2012
I just saw a copy of your book at the Arthur Child Heritage Museum in Gananoque. Nice job, Tom!
By the way, according to contemporary accounts, Henry Heath took possession of his newly erected cottage on Nobby Island in July 1871. Part II of my article about Heath and Nobby in the March 2011 issue of TI Life has all the details.
And Heath's company in the 20th Massachusetts during the Civil War was not commanded by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who was a lieutenant of the company in 1861. The commander of Company A was Captain Henry Martyn Tremlett, who had a reputation for "obscenity and licentiousness"; nevertheless, he was said to be a respected officer.
Comment by: Jessie Fuller ( )
Left at: 11:18 PM Thursday, November 15, 2012
I AM WODERING IF THE BOK IS STILL AVAILABLE? wE DID LIVE IN tHOUSNAD iSDLAND pARK ABOUT 6 YEARS AGO. oUR m5'S GREW UP THERE. yOU MAY REMEMBER THEM ,MICHELLE,MICHAEL,MELINDA,MATHEW AND MURRAY. iREMEMBER YOUR MOMVERY WELL, A GREAT LADY.
PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF BOOK IS AVAILABLE AND WHERE.
THANKS, JESSIE FULLER
Comment by: Tom French (author) ( )
Left at: 7:52 PM Saturday, November 17, 2012
Yes, the book is still available. In addition to being available at several shops along the river, it can be found on Amazon or directly from my website -- tom-french.net. If you order from my website, I can sign or inscribe the books as directed.
Comment by: Joan M. Stone
Left at: 2:35 PM Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Thomas French has left a legacy, one that many families can relate. We are pleased that his book is now available for the Thousand Islands is the "Eighth" Wonder of the World. And Thousand Island Life.com brings pleasure and closure to the many families settling the area before 1800. In French Creek, later named Cornelia, then changed to Clayton, New York in 1832, Sydney Spencer was named Constable 1828, he would wisely move west.
The children of Rufus Spencer 1757-1837, left will, would also leave for the west, for two of his grandsons would die in Northern New York. Sherwins Bay Cemetery on Pillar Point, NY is the resting place of a few of his descendants. A cousin of Rufus Spencer, also known as Rufus Spencer, lived in Lewis County, NY (1761-1836)(DAR files), he was on his way to join his brother Peleg Spencer, (Founder of Spencerville, Canada), remained in the Lewis County domain for 35 years, his family legacy is recorded.
My GG Grandfather Solon Spencer 1807-1892, lived in Depauville, NY, (Catfish Falls), less than a mile from Corbins Corners, for over 50 years, he left his last son Winslow Spencer, his farm (land deeds & will). Distant cousins are buried in the Cemetery at Corbins Corners. Thomas French has now entered a special place in my family legacy.