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James Buchan Photo back of James Buchan
James Buchan (1812 or 1813 - after 1880)
James Buchan was related to Hannah Rich, the owner of this photograph album, by marriage. The album and one picture were given to Hannah on the occasion of her marriage to William Blakely Peters in 1861, and she added to the album over several years.

The Delaware County Biographical Review: “After attending the district school, Stephen [Rich] went to New York City when he was eighteen, and found work with James Buchan & Co., manufacturers of soap and candles.”

A brief sketch by William Munro MacBean in Volume 4 of his 1925 publication, "Saint Andrew’s society of the state of New York," states that James was the son of Robert Buchan and "possessed a remarkably well selected library, full of representative works in Scottlish literature, and that he wrote "pleasant reminiscense of life in the Scottish border and in Canada." He further stated that James was born at Harelaw Mains, Parish Of Linton, Roxburghshire, Scotland on September 3, 1812. After a five-year apprenticeship with a hardware dealer, Stephen Palmer, he sailed from leith for Montreal, and after a brief period moved to Peterboro. He arrived in New York in 1835 and entered into the business of soap manufacturing and candle making, and began his own company in 1842 located on Elizabeth Street which he continued with until 1879.

A flyer regarding James Buchan’s business appears in The Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera at Winterthur Library in Delaware: “Trade price list of carbolic soaps and saponaceous compounds, 1871, from James Buchan & Co., sold by Bowman & Blewett, New York City” and, in fact, it is in this business context that James Buchan appears in the Delaware County Biographical Review, in the section devoted to Mrs. Sarah Rich: “Charlotte and Rachel [Rich] are both widows in New York City, the former having married William Patterson, and the latter Mr. Buchan, of the firm above mentioned.”

He first appears in the U.S. Federal census records in 1850 census in New York City as a chair maker with his second wife. He was first married to Jane McClure in New York City on 10 May 1839 and had by her: Robert, born about 1839 (his picture is also in Hannah’s picture album); Hannah (later Ogilvie), born in 1841; Mary Oliver, born in 1844; and Thomas Rich, born in 1846. His wife Jane died on 29 Mar 1848, and within a year or so he married Rachel Rich, the daughter of Stephen A. and Jane (Oliver) Rich. Their household included the children of James' first wife and their son James, Jr. who had been born in February of that year.

By 1860 the family had grown, and had moved to Westchester, New York. Here James is listed as a soap and candle maker, and would for many years operate the business on Elizabeth Avenue, running many ads throughout the years. In 1870 James was enumerated as a merchant and in 1880 as a manufacturer of soap and candles. Besides five domestic servants from Ireland, the household included his wife Rachel and children: Mary; Sarah; Annie; Stephen; and John as well as their widowed daughter Hannah Ogilvie and her two children James and Jane. Living next door was son Robert, his wife Sophie (Hatfield), and their daughter Rachel as well as three domestic servants.

James' daughter Hannah was also enumerated a couple weeks later residing in New York City with her two brothers: Thomas, who was listed as a 23 year-old candle maker and James, a 20 year-old clerk.

James died in New York City on 29 Apr 1887. The death of his wife, Rachel, came a dozen years later on 06 Oct 1899. They, along with other family members, were laid to rest at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Kings Co., New York.

About the photographer: James Buchan’s portrait (along with several others in Hannah Rich’s photograph album) was taken by Abraham Bogardus, without doubt one of the brightest luminaries of early photography. (See his imposing photographic Bogardus stamp on back of Buchan photoportrait on the Picture History site. Craig's Daguerreian Registry tells us Bogardus was born 29 November 1822 in Dutchess County, NY, to a family of old Dutch settlers, the first of whom arrived in 1633. Bogardus was employed in the late 1830s as a clerk in a dry goods store, and in 1845 exhibited a painting at the American Institute.

It was around 1845 that Bogardus learned the daguerreotype process from George W. Prosch of New York City. In 1846 Bogardus opened a daguerreian gallery at 363 Broadway, New York City, at the corner of Barclay and Greenwich Streets. After opening a variety of studios in a variety of locations both in New York and in New Jersey, in 1851 Bogardus relocated his New York City gallery to 229 Greenwich Street; in 1862 he moved once again, this time to back to 363 Broadway. See the accompanying map.

In addition to taking thousands of small photographs called cartes-de-visite, one of the most interesting enterprises in which Bogardus engaged was his effort—with PT Barnum of circus fame—to discredit the growing craze for “spirit photography” which began in 1862.

As the website for the Museum of Hoaxes describes it, spirit photography got its start when William Mumler made what he claimed was the first “spirit photograph.” His asserted that departed spirits could imprint their images on photographic materials: the “spirits” appeared as faint, ghostly images besides the living subjects.

Spirit photography appealed to bereaved families during and after the Civil War. It also gathered its share of detractors, most notable among them PT Barnum, the famous showman. Barnum felt spirit photographers were taking advantage of those whose judgement was clouded by grief.

In April 1869, the Museum of Hoaxes site tells us, William Mumler was brought to trial for fraud. Abraham Bogardus testified at Mumler's 1869 court hearing that he, Bogardus, belonged to the National Photographic Association, which had among its goals "putting down any humbug we could discover." Barnum, too, volunteered to testify against Mumler, and to do so he asked Abraham Bogardus, as a well-known and respectable photographer, to prepare a spirit image of Abraham Lincoln floating behind Barnum's right shoulder. Barnum wanted to demonstrate that spirit photographs could be easily manufactured by any competent photographer.

At the trial Barnum made a point to differentiate between his own "humbugs" and those of the spirit photographers. He argued that despite his reputation for misleading the public, “I have never been in any humbug business where I did not give value for the money.”

A riveting blow-by-blow account of precisely how the “Sting” operation against Mumler was set up and executed, with Bogardus’ and Barnum’s assistance, appears in Michael Leja’s Looking Askance: Skepticism and American Art from Eakins to Duchamp.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the sensational public unmasking of this photographic fraud, Bogardus became the first president of the National Photographic Association, a position he held for many years. For more about Abraham Bogardus, see his article, The Daguerreotype, published in 1893. Some of Bogardus’ photographic works include: Actress in a Snowy Scene, “Keep this as your guide to get Fine Photographs", a Picture of Tom Thumb and Wife, a gallery of cartes-de-visite in the archives of the New Jersey Department of State, a trio of sisters, and several pictures at the University of Louisville photographic archives.

Abraham Bogardus died in 1908.

Please Note: In 2005 this album came into the loving care of Hannah Rich Peters’ and William Blakely Peters’ great-granddaughter, Carolyn Flanders McPherson, and is presented here for the first time. For more detailed information on the photo album and its contents you may view the introduction here.

Patricia and Carolyn have attempted to identify all persons in the album and learn more about them through research of various records. If you can help us identify or add further information to this photo, please contact:
Email Carolyn


Additional Links

Next Photo - Robert Buchan, son of James
Brief sketch of James Buchan
Photo Album of Hannah (Rich) Peters
Photograph of Jane Oliver-Rich
Biography of Mrs. Sarah Rich
Picture History (An outside link)
Craig’s Daguerreian Registry (An outside link)
Museum of Hoaxes (An outside link)
Spirit Photograph of William H. Mumler
----An outside link to Museum of Hoaxes
Michael Leja’s Looking Askance
----An outside link to The University of California Press
The Daguerreotype by Abraham Bogardus
----An outside link to The Daguerreian Society
Actress in a Snowy Scene by Abraham Bogardus
----An outside link to Picture History
"Keep this as your guide to get Fine Photographs"
----An outside link to George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
Tom Thumb and Wife
----An outside link to Center For Disability And Public History
A gallery of cartes-de-visite
----An outside link to New Jersey Department of State
Three sisters by Abraham Bogardus
----An outside link to Vintage Works
Updated June 01, 2014
Album photos provided by Carolyn F. McPherson 2005

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