The Seaman Family - links to Stamp Photographs and StickyBacks
The information produced here about the Seaman dynasty has been kindly provided by photo historian Paul Godfrey.
The Seaman family were players in the field of stamp photographs, stickybacks, and no doubt other cheap portraiture products. These notes are intended to illustrate something of the spread and popularity of these products.
The Seaman family of photographers had a number of studios in the UK. The dynasty started with Alfred Seaman, b 1844, a Norfolk brick maker who who had turned photographer by 1881. Alfred had eight sons who all played a part in expanding the business, parts of which were later taken forward by further generations of the family. Parts of the business operated at different periods in Chesterfield, Ilkeston, Alfreton, Leeds, Sheffield, Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford, Douglas Isle of Man, Hucknell, Blackpool, Bridlington, Hull, Doncaster, Beverley, Scarborough, Southport, Northampton, Colchester, Durham, Bristol, West Hartlepool, Cardiff, Bristol, Great Yarmouth, Birmingham and Lincoln. Dr John Bradley has published an excellent 169 page monograph on the family and its photographic businesses and products, which is available online here .
A Seaman business at 27 Mint Street Lincoln was operated from 1892-1901 by Alfred Seaman's younger brother, Edward Seaman b.1845 East Lexham, Norfolk. In 1895 Edward patented a printing frame which printed 12 photographs, each 1 inch x ¾ inch on a piece of photographic paper 3 inches square (UK patent 6901 of 1895). He advertised stamp photographs for sale in 1897. If this Seaman studio offered stamp photographs, then it seems likely that others also did so. Below is an early 20th Century example stamp photograph stuck onto a white laquered moulded fibre decorated mount. The mount measures 3.25 x 2.5 inches and the photograph 1.6 x 1 inch. The image is of an unknown seated child. In the lower right hand corner of the mount, moulded into the surface, is text reading "Seaman and Sons, Chesterfield, Ilkeston, Sheffield and Leeds". The manufacturer of these mounts is not known. The design and appearance suggests that these mounts are some early form of plastic, but close examination shows the composition is some sort of moulded fibre.
Two other members of the Seaman dynasty filed patents relating to equipment used in producing and numbering small multiple negatives from larger plates which would have assisted in taking and printing small inexpensive portraits.
Dennis Benjamin Seaman b. 1870, Worral Yorks, patented a moveable back camera and printing frame taking multi images on a larger glass plate and simultaneously photographing a numbered ticket. This gave a permanent link between an image and a ticket given to the customer, making it straightforward in a high volume business to match the customer with his or her images after the film had been processed and prints produced. One of Benjamin's products, produced with this device, was a postcard with a main image of the subject's portrait with a smaller image of a number printed on a small strip either above or below the main image. (UK Patent no 5361 of 1903) Below is an example print from a similar camera. This appears to be an elongated carte de visite, but in fact is not a photo stuck onto a mount but is a pseudo carte made from one piece of photographic paper 122 x 54mm on which is printed the main image, the photographer's name and a strip from the customers ticket showing the ticket number. This is from the F.J.Seaman studio in Blackpool. The reverse is blank, but in manuscript is written "Foster". This type of photograph would have been far cheaper and easier to produce that cartes de visite or cabinet photographs.
Below is another example of the work of F.J.Seaman c.1905, then with studios at Hull, Beverley, York, Blackpool and Nottingham. This shows how a tiny stamp-sized photographic image, less than an inch square, was made into an inexpensive product for the less well off customer. The mount measures 3.5 x 2.4 inches.
In 1906 Herbert Oscar Seaman of Victoria Rd, Stechford, Worcs, tried unsuccessfully to patent a device which seemed to be a kind of small light box camera accessory which facilitated photographing a ticket number with the subject's image. (UK Patent no 9648 of 1906)
Dennis Benjamin Seaman had studios in Manchester,Liverpool and Douglas, Isle of Man between 1898 and 1922. The image below, part of a postcard, shows Dennis Seaman's Studio in the Castle Mona Shops which had been built in 1898 outside the Castle Mona Hotel and facing the Central Promenade. The postcard image is reproduced with the kind permission of Manx National Heritage, the full image can be seen on the imuseum site here: https://www.imuseum.im/search/archive_record/view?id=mnh-museum-694250. The date of this image is probably around 1902 and at this point Dennis Seaman had two shops in this arcade, numbers 3 and 4. Just a few shops along was Spiridione Grossi's Studio at No 10. Grossi's studio window was advertising "Stickybacks" and Dennis Seaman's, "photos 6d a dozen". A later document, from around 1911-17, catalogued by Manx National Heritage and the Isle of Man Museum. https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/8c95e5d6-03a9-315a-b3e4-c9699b07c159 is a valuation list for Douglas properties owned by Boddingtons Isle of Man Ltd which includes the Castle Mona shops, and shows that, a few years on, Dennis Seaman had three of the 14 shops (numbers 2,3 and 4).
Below are three images, kindly shown with the permission of Frances Coakley, www.manxnotebook.com, of the kind of cheap work produced at this time by Dennis Seaman. The third photo, with no visible imprint, is embossed on the mount "Castle Mona Douglas & 75 Lime Street Liverpool" and has been dated Sept 1900 (but not named) on the reverse by the original owner. Below these is another image from Dennis Benjamin Seaman's studio at Douglas . This appears to be a tiny carte de visite, but is not a photograph on a mount. It is a midget pseudo carte, comprising one piece of photographic paper 70 x 40mm, on which is printed the portrait and the name "D.B.Seaman & Co, Douglas". All of these examples of cheap work must have been very inexpensive and quick to produce and would have been in direct competition with their stickyback rivals.
The Western Daily Press of Friday 03 November 1905, carried the following report linking the Seaman dynasty and the term "StickyBack".
"BRISTOL POLICE COURT. YESTERDAY.— Before Major Rumsey and H. W. Carter. THEFT STICKY-BACK TICKETS. Frank Chard was charged, on remand, with stealing a number receipt forms, value 5d, the property of H. 0.Seaman, photographer, of 27, Castle Street [Bristol], and with obtaining by false pretences one shilling from Mary Ann Burge, 2, Goodhind Street, and 8d from Mary Ana Johns 2, Gloucester Street, Mrs Burge stated that Chard asked her buy some tickets of which she would be able to have her photograph taken at half-price—twelve stickybacks for sixpence instead a shilling. She understood the boy obtained a commission, and bought two tickets. On going to Seaman’s she found the tickets were of no use. Mary Ann Johns said she bought three tickets from the boy for 8d. The photographs, she understood, were 3d dozen. An assistant to Mr Seaman stated that the tickets were taken from the counter when witness and Mr Seaman were absent. About twenty tickets from two stolen books were presented. No canvassers were employed. The boy pleaded guilty and said he was sorry and did not know what made him it. The Bench decided to send the lad to Kingswood Reformatory for five years."
This insight into the marketing of StickyBack photos and the use of the "Sticky-Back" name might only apply to this one Seaman studio, or it might be indicative of the way that a number of them operated in 1905.
The next three images are reproduced with the permission of Ron Cosens (www.cartedevisite.co.uk) and show cheap portrait work from the Seaman's Studio at 16 High Street, Birmingham. The first two are midget pseudo cartes, printed on thin cardstock. They both show the same boy wearing a cap, probably from the same sitting. These measure 41 x 69mm and 40 x 72mm respectively. The information on the face, "Seamans' Studio 16 High Street Birmingham" [note the position of the apostrophe] is part of the photographic print. These appear to be from around 1910. The left hand image has been hand tinted, no doubt at extra cost. The third image is a midget print on thin card, 49 x 84mm of a young man with a central hair parting. There is no text on the face of the photograph, but the back is stamped with a rubber stamp "Seaman's Studio 16 High St Birmingham" and is dated 28 April 1913
At some point, at least four of the Seaman Studios (16 High Street Birmingham, 19 Castle Street Bristol, 3 Queen Street Wolverhampton, and 65 Park Street Walsall) passed into the hands of photographer Charles Thomas Saunter b.1864. The postcard below captures the moment. From the dress of the two ladies depicted this seems to be around 1905-10. Charles Thomas Saunter first appeared as a photographer at 104A Foord Rd Folkestone in the 1899 Kellys Directory of Kent. In the 1903 Kellys Directory he was a photographer at 38 Rendezvous Street Folkestone. In the 1911 census Charles Thomas Saunter b.1864 Folkestone Kent was listed as a photographer and employer at 5 Finnemore Rd, Bordesley Green, Birmingham, where he was living with his wife Sarah and 3 children. Kellys Directories list him as a photographer in his own name at 15A High St Birmingham in 1912 and in 1915 at 16 High Street Birmingham. Charles Thomas Saunter, photographer, was listed at 3 Queen Street Wolverhampton and at 16 High Street Birmingham in Kelly's 1921 Directory.
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