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© David S. Shields

Gilbert & Bacon Studio    Feb 12, '11 3:12 AM
by David for group historicalziegfeld #536

Philadelphia's finest performing arts photographers for half a century, and an enduring civic institution, Gilbert & Bacon Studio presented the camera craft of three major lens artists: William Frank Bacon--from 1870 to 1900, Milton Hemperly, from 1883 to 1893, and Frank T. Bacon, from 1893 into the 1920s. Since no convenient biographical sketch exists of the founder, William Frank Bacon, I will provide one here.

The dominant talent in the Philadelphia photographic partnership, Gilbert & Bacon, William Frank Bacon, was born on June 6, 1843 in Bangor, Maine. He belonged to that 2nd generation of photographers whose first acquaintance with the art took place on the battlefields of the Civil War. An enlistee with the 2nd Maine Regiment, Frank Bacon, saw action from the Battle of Bull Run at the start of the war, when the regiment was the last to leave the field on the Union side, to the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. He remained in uniform until the end of the war. After the war he settled in New York and learned camera craft at several galleries there.

About 1870 he moved to Philadelphia forming a partnership with A. P. Trask which lasted five years until Trask was bought out by C. M. Gilbert in 1875. By 1878 the partnership was sufficiently well established for both persons to be admitted to membership in the Philadelphia Photographic Society. They operated their studio at 830 Arch Street. When Gilbert retired in 1886, Bacon opened a second gallery at 1030 Chestnut Street and presided over the studio for fourteen years. The Arch Street studio was eventually purchased by Milton Hemperly, Bacon’s chief cameraman from 1883 to 1893. Hemperly, who excelled in outdoor and location shooting, invented in the 1890s a flash light magazine lamp, and became a pioneer of home photography in Philadelphia.

Another significant figure who worked in the studio was Sadakichi Hartmann, the bohemian and photographic critic, who served as a retoucher in the late 1880s.

W. Frank Bacon contracted Bright’s Disease in the 1890s and gradually turned the conduct of the studio over to his son, Frank T. Bacon. The photographer died in September 1900. Illness in July 1900 caused him to turn over the business to his son, Frank T. Bacon. [St. Louis & Canadian Photographer, 24, 1900, p. 532] Frank T. Bacon maintaining the Gilbert & Bacon brand with the assistance of Mr. McIntyre. They remained a vital force in performing Arts photography until 1920. David Shields


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