Ashford brothers

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Ashford Brothers & Co.

Henry Ashford and Thomas Bristo Ashford

 Gallery of Celebrity and Novelty Cartes

[ABOVE] Popular Actors"(No.1), published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865). [ABOVE] Popular Actresses(No.1), published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865). [ABOVE] A portrait of John Sims Reeves (1821-1900), a popular Victorian vocalist. A celebrity carte-de-visite portrait published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865).
[ABOVE] Popular Operatic Composers of the Day, published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865). [ABOVE] Operatic Prima Donnas (No. 1) , published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865). [ABOVE] Musical and Vocal Celebrities (No.1) Composers of the , published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865).

[ABOVE] A novelty carte-de-visite published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865). This carte might have been produced to serve as a self-deprecating Valentine.

[PHOTO : Courtesy of Mrs Helen Dunn]

[ABOVE] The trade plate of Ashford Brothers & Co. taken from the reverse of an album card published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865). [ABOVE] Five Hundred Photographic Portraits of the Most Celebrated Personages of the Age - a composite photo-montage published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1864).
 

Ashford Brothers & Co. of Newgate Street - Photographic Publishers of Celebrity and Novelty Cartes

Around 1862, Henry Ashford (born c1834,Sproughton,Suffolk) set up a photographic publishing company with his older brother Thomas Bristo Ashford (born c1831, Sproughton, Suffolk). The photographic publishing company initially went under the name of Ashford Brothers and operated from 76 Newgate Street, City of London. In the 1861 census, Henry Ashford had been described as a "Photographer", but it is clear that Henry and Thomas Ashford were primarily photographic publishers during the 1860s.

Ashford Brothers of Newgate Street, London published carte-de-visite portraits of famous celebrities of the day that had been taken by other professional photographers. During the 1860s, Ashford Brothers published individual photographic portraits of popular celebrities, including Florence Nightingale, the reformer of hospital nursing, Anthony Trollope the novelist, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a Baptist preacher and religious writer, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, the philanthropist and social reformer, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian national hero. The original portraits had been taken in the studios of some of the most well-known professional photographers, such as William Edward Kilburn and Henry Hering. The firm of Ashford Brothers would act as the photographers' agents, reproducing the photographic prints and distributing the finished celebrity cartes to stationers and other retail outlets.

Ashford Brothers & Co. became well-known for their "composite cartes", carte-de-visite photographs featuring anything from a dozen to a thousand small portraits on a single small card. The composite cartes included titles such as "Reigning Sovereigns and Principal Royal Personages of the Day",  featuring 73 portraits of European Royalty, "Popular Actresses" a series of cartes carrying two dozen actresses on each card and "Photographic Portraits of the Most Celebrated Personages of the Age", a photographic print containing "upwards of Five Hundred Portraits". The most notable production of Ashford Brothers & Co. was "The Great Sensation Card", a composite carte-de-visite showing more than one thousand portraits of "Living and Historical Celebrities".

A card produced by Ashford Brothers featuring about 500 portraits of "eminent persons" was the subject of a court case in May 1863 at which a stationer was accused of "photographic piracy". Pirated copies of the "Eminent Persons" carte were being sold at Thomas Wilson's stationery business in St John's Wood. During the court case it was revealed that "Mr Ashford (the legitimate agent of the creator of the photograph) was selling the print at the rate of 70 to 100 dozen a day". It was reported that the genuine "Eminent Persons" cartes supplied by Messrs. Ashford, were printed on the back "Ashford Brothers, 76 Newgate Street ", yet the pirated versions had no name or address printed on the reverse ("Photographic News", 29th May 1863, page 261).

Ashford Brothers & Co. were also well-known for their "novelty cartes". The firm produced elaborate cartes-de-visite which served to introduce and conclude the pages of a family photograph album. Ashford Brothers & Co. published special introductory cards which consisted of a welcoming verse surrounded by a decorative border (e.g. a wreath of flowers). The firm also published distinctive "End Cartes", which would be displayed on the final pages of a family photograph album. Like the introductory cards, these "End Cartes" comprised a verse surrounded by an illustration. One example carries the concluding verse:

"Now you've seen my whole collection, Just pause a moment for reflection. Young and old, great and small. Absent friends, I want you all.

The partnership between Henry Ashford and Thomas Bristo Ashford (trading as Ashford Brothers & Co.) was dissolved on 28th September 1867. It appears that, between 1867 and 1868, the two brothers worked independently in photographic publishing. Henry Ashford worked as a photographic dealer in Queen Street, Cheapside, London, before being made bankrupt at the end of December 1868. Apparently, not long afterwards, Henry Ashford emigrated to Australia. It seems that Thomas Bristo Ashford continued as a photographic publisher at 97 Newgate Street, London up until 1876.

From 1877, Thomas Bristo Ashford earned his living as a "Fancy Stationer" at 97 Newgate Street, London. The 1881 census records forty-nine year old Thomas Bristo Ashford and his wife Henrietta at their residence at 20 Bellefields Road, Lambeth [ Thomas Bristo Ashford had married Henrietta Ashford (born 1824, Witnesham, Suffolk) in 1857 ]. When the 1891 census was taken ten years later, Thomas B. Ashford was still working as a fancy stationer and living in Lambeth. Thomas Ashford's wife Henrietta had died in Lambeth the year before at the age of sixty-six.

By 1894, Thomas Ashford was working a farm at Clement's Hill, Broxted, near Dunmow in Essex. Thomas Ashford's father, Robert Ashford, had been a farmer in Suffolk and in the last six years of his life Thomas followed the same occupation.

Thomas Bristo Ashford died at his farm in Broxted, Essex in 1901, aged 70.

[ABOVE] The trade plate of Ashford Brothers & Co., Photographic Publishers of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1866). This firm of  Ashford Brothers & Co. was established by Henry Ashford and his brother Thomas Bristo Ashford around 1862. Initially known as Ashford Brothers this firm of photographic publishers went under the name of Ashford Brothers & Co. from around 1864.

[ABOVE] Five Hundred Photographic Portraits of the Most Celebrated Personages of the Age - a composite photo-montage published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1864). A similar photo-montage of Five Hundred Eminent Persons, created by the professional photographer Frederick Holland Mares of Grafton Street Dublin, was published by the Ashford Brothers around 1862. Both these multi-pictured cartes were subject to piracy. In May 1863, the photographer Frederick Holland Mares and the Ashford Brothers, Mares' London agents and publishers, took legal action against a stationer who was selling pirated copies of Five Hundred Eminent Persons at his London shop.
 
Series of multi-pictured cartes de-visite, published by Ashford Brothers & Co. between 1862 and 1867
"Popular Actors" (24 Portraits on each card)
"Popular Actresses (24 Portraits on each card)
"Operatic Prima Donnas" (20 Portraits on each card)
"Musical & Vocal Celebrities" (20 Portraits on each card)
"Popular Operatic Composers of the Day"  ( 7 Portraits per card )
 

[ABOVE] An "Introductory Carte" for a carte-de-visite album, published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865). [ABOVE] An "End Carte" for a carte-de-visite album, published by Ashford Brothers & Co. of 76 Newgate Street, London (c1865).

[PHOTO : Courtesy of Mrs Helen Dunn]

 

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