John J. E. Mayall - Photographer in Pennsylvania, London & Brighton

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John Jabez Edwin Mayall - Photographer in London & Brighton

John Jabez Edwin Mayall (1813-1901)


John Jabez Edwin Mayall was born in 1813, near Oldham in Lancashire, England. John J. E. Mayall is often referred to as an American photographer, but this is an error. Some modern reference works on early photography state that he had his origins in America and that he was a native of Pennsylvania. This is perhaps not surprising, as many of Mayall's contemporaries, including Queen Victoria, mistook him for an American and he initially made his name as a daguerreotypist in Philadelphia.

The photographer who became known as John Jabez Edwin Mayall, was the son of Elizabeth and John Meal and his birth was registered under the name Jabez Meal in the Lancashire district of Manchester on 17th September 1813. Mayall's father was described as a manufacturing chemist and is believed to have specialized in the production of dyes for the linen industry. Jabez Meal (J.J.E. Mayall) was born in the Oldham area of Lancashire, but by 1817 John Meal and his family were living at Lingards, near Huddersfield in the cloth manufacturing region of West Yorkshire. In Baine's Directory of 1822, Mayall's father, John Meal, is listed as a dyer in Linthwaite.


Early Career in West Yorkshire ( 1833-1842 )

Books on local history which deal with the Linthwaite and Slaithwaite district report that in his twenties Jabez Meal (J.J.E.Mayall) worked in the linen thread trade of West Yorkshire. Canon Charles A. Hulbert, formerly a vicar at the church of Slaithwaite, near where Jabez Meal (J.J.E.Mayall) lived as a young man, recalls Jabez in a memoir :
"Mr Jabez E. Mayall, of Linthwaite, was one of the most eminent natives of the village. He carried on Dye Works and studied Chemistry and other sciences in general."

Canon Hulbert could have confused Jabez with his father John Meal, who was a chemist and dyer, or perhaps young Jabez had taken over the running of his father's dye works. John Sugden in "Slaithwaite Notes of the Past and Present" (1905) adds the intriguing detail that while in West Yorkshire, Jabez (J.J.E.Mayall) built up a large fortune, and lost it "through no fault of his own, neither by dishonour, disgrace or neglect of duty." It is not clear whether Sugden was alluding to the financial collapse of the Meal's dye works or the failure of Jabez's next venture as a proprietor of an inn on the Manchester Road.

In 1834, Jabez Meal (J.J.E.Mayall) married Eliza Parkin, the 18 year old daughter of Joseph Parkin, landlord of the Star Inn on the Manchester Road, near Linthwaite, West Yorkshire. After the death of his father-in-law, Jabez (J.J.E.Mayall) took over the 'Star Inn' where "he taught a number of his more promising customers the three Rs, English and Latin."

Jabez and Eliza's first son Edwin was born in 1835. A second son, born in 1839, was named Joe Parkin after Mayall's father-in-law.

The loss of a large fortune could explain Jabez's change of circumstances as recorded in the 1841 census return.
















Mayall's London Studio

On his return to England, John J. E. Mayall worked for a short time with Antoine Claudet at his Daguerreotype Portrait Gallery on King William Street, near the Strand in London. Antoine Claudet (1797-1867) was Richard Beard's main rival in London in 1846.

By April 1847, John J E Mayall had established his own 'Daguerreotype Institution' at 433 West Strand, London. Cornelius Jabez Hughes (1819-1884), who was later to become a photographer to the Royal Family on the Isle of Wight, was employed as Mayall's secretary and chief assistant.

Hughes placed an advertisement for Mayall's Daguerreotype Institution in 'The Times' newspaper on 18th May 1847. In the advertisement Mayall was presented as "Professor Highschool - late of Philadelphia, U.S." As mentioned earlier, Mayall had been associated with Philadelphia's Central High School during his stay in America and probably adopted the title of "Professor" to reflect his scientific training as a chemist and to reinforce his claims to be a pioneering inventor in the field of photography.

Mayall was never one to make modest claims about his contribution to the art and science of photography. Under the heading 'NEW DISCOVERIES IN DAGUERREOTYPE' the notice in 'The Times' reads "In consequence of the new discoveries which he has made . . . he is enabled to take daguerreotype portraits by an entirely new process, of a degree of delicacy, depth of tone, and lifelike reality, never previously attained by himself of any other photographic artists." The advertisement of May 1847 went on to add that the gallery of the Institution, contained "the finest collection of daguerreotype pictures ever exhibited." Many of Mayall's pictures exhibited in the Institution's gallery were daguerreotypes he had made in America, including "panoramas of the Falls of Niagara" and "fine art illustrations of the Lord's Prayer", which had been made four years earlier in Pennsylvania.


 Charles Dickens by John J. E. Mayall

In 1852, Mayall advertised a second establishment in London, situated at 224 Regent Street on the corner of Argyll Place, which Mayall claimed had "the finest situation for light in London." In an advertisement published in the 'Hastings & St Leonards' News' on 21st May, 1852, visitors to London were invited to inspect "Mr Mayall's extensive collection of Portraits of Eminent Men" at both of Mayall's Daguerreotype Institutions.

1873 Edwin Mayall, eldest son of JE Mayall, the well-known photographer of London and Brighton. The deceased was only 37 years of age, but had had great experience in photography, having worked it from the earliest days of daguerreotype and