Louis Saul Langfier (Photographer)

Louis Saul Langfier - Dancer - Crop1

Some photographs take me on a journey and this is one of them. It is a softly focussed image of a dancer holding a painted tambourine. It immediately makes me think of the 1920s (although it could be earlier) and is mounted on thin, textured card with the photographer’s name embossed on the lower right.

When my daughter, who studies Dance, saw this photograph she drew my attention to the early 20th century American dancer Isadora Duncan, who developed a free and natural dance style inspired by the Greek arts and folk dance. The style came to be known as modern dance, and included floorwork unlike classical ballet. The dancer in the photograph obviously fits this genre, with loose clothing and a pose reminiscent of Duncan, though unfortunately there is nothing on the photograph to identify who she is.

Happily the photographer can be identified a little more easily. Or so it seems! Although faint in places, the embossed name contains the words Louis and Edinburgh and comparison to other online images confirms it to be Louis Saul Langfier (1871 – 1948):

Louis Saul Langfier - Dancer

photo - dancer photographer

Louis Saul Langfier was one of a family of Langfiers, including brother Adolph, all working in the photographic trade with their businesses often overlapping. One particular family member Louis Langfier gained success in London, being located in prestigious Old Bond Street and boasting patronage by the Royal Family (The Sketch – Wednesday 26 June 1901):

Image © Illustrated London News Group

During an interview published in The Sketch, Louis states that he joined his ‘nephew’ L. S. Langfier at ‘the firm in Glasgow’ in around 1896. Indeed, Louis Saul Langfier was named alongside ‘uncle’ Louis Langfier in The Edinburgh Gazette, 14 Oct 1898, as co-owner of Langfier and Langfier & Co., 158 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow. According to the interview above, ‘uncle’ Louis then left Scotland in 1899 to set up a London firm, leaving Louis Saul to look after the Glasgow studio.

All was not completely rosy however, since in 1905 the estates of Louis Saul, including the Glasgow address, were sequestrated/closed (Aberdeen Press and Journal – Wednesday 26 July 1905):

Aberdeen Press and Journal - Wednesday 26 July 1905Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Perhaps Louis Saul Langfier had hit hard times? Or perhaps he simply wished to spend his energies looking after his own company ‘Louis Saul Langfier Ltd’, newly located in Edinburgh (The Scotsman – Friday 01 April 1904)?

1904 The Scotsman - Friday 01 April 1904Image © Johnston Press plc

By 1908 the Edinburgh company was advertising ‘the most beautiful works in colour’ and appealing for attention from Art Connoisseurs (The Scotsman – Saturday 24 August 1907):

1907 The Scotsman - Saturday 24 August 1907Image © Johnston Press plc

Thus at first glance Louis Saul appears to have made a success of his second Scottish endeavour, with the firm known as ‘Louis Saul Langfier Ltd’ existing in Edinburgh until it’s liquidation in 1929.

So it wasn’t until I stumbled upon a rather unpleasant newspaper article in the Sunday Post, dated 1919, that I realised the situation was more complicated than I first supposed (Sunday Post – Sunday 02 March 1919):

Sunday Post - Sunday 02 March 1919 titleImage © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Pushing the racist overtones to one side, the article asserts that German photographer Carl Henrich T Shmidt is ‘manager and principal shareholder in the high class photographic business of Louis Saul Langfier Limited at 60 Princes Street (Edinburgh)’. Furthermore, it states that Mr Schmidt had been the principal shareholder of the firm since 1910 or thereabouts.

Which begs the question… where was Louis Saul Langfier after Mr Schmidt took over the Edinburgh studio?

I have a theory, as suggested by entries in the British Telephone Directory archives. In 1910 and 1911, ‘S. Langfier’ is listed as Artist & Photographer in James St., Harrogate (Yorkshire). And from 1913 to 1921, a photographer by the same name is listed at three different London addresses. The name possibly refers to Samuel Langfier, father of Louis Saul and Adolph, who died in 1919 aged 78. But I think it likely that the two sons, particularly Louis Saul, were in fact running these businesses.

Supporting this, Adolph’s name is quoted in relation to the bankruptcy of the Harrogate firm (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Wednesday 20 July 1910):

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 20 July 1910 bankruptaYorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 20 July 1910 bankruptbImage © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

And Louis Saul is living at one of the London addresses, 115 Queen’s Road, Westminster, according to the 1919 Electoral Register for London.

Finally, another of the London addresses, 123 Victoria Street, Westminster, is associated with Louis Saul’s wife, Pearl Lyndon, who herself is a fascinating character with a complicated story (and the subject of my next blog post).

Which brings me back to the photograph of the dancer at the top of this post. Should we just assume it to be the work of Louis Saul Langfier, because of the embossed signature? Or would it be better to attribute this work (and presumably many others) to photographer Carl H T Schmidt? After all, credit where credit is due!

Newspaper clippings courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry and The Gazette.

Any mistakes are my own! Please feel free to contact me with corrections/further information.

 

 

Cabinet Card by F. Sharples (Blackburn)

F. Sharples Cabinet Card Cropped

This amazingly clear portrait of a serious looking gentleman was taken by F. Sharples of Blackburn, Lancashire. It is oval in format and the image is well preserved because it has been stored in the original paper envelope. If only more vintage photographs were stored this way! Not only would it keep them in better condition, but the envelope itself contains useful information not present on the actual card:

F. Sharples Cabinet CardF. Sharples Cabinet Card - Envelope

The photographer was Frederick William Edleston Sharples, born 1867 in Blackburn, Lancashire. In 1911 he and his family were living at 4 Limbrick, Blackburn, the same address as his photographic studio.

I came across an interesting news snippet in the Preston Herald, Wed 19 Jun 1907 that relates to Mr Sharples. He and another man Henry Charnley were driving from Blackpool to Burnley when they collided with a tram in Preston. The car sustained £35-worth of damage, and the men sued Preston Corporation (owners of the tram) for the repair costs. The case went to court and the details of the accident seem somewhat extraordinary by modern standards; the men were over-taking two carts when they saw a tram coming towards them. The car was trapped by the carts to the left and two lorries to the right and therefore had nowhere to go, so the driver of the car (the report doesn’t specify) ‘put up his hand to the driver of the tram as a warning of the position and to make his presence known’! The car apparently stopped, the tram didn’t and, well, you can probably guess that the car was damaged. And a tyre was burst. Despite this, no-one was hurt and the men continued in the car for the remainder of the journey.

The passengers of the tram asserted that it was the tram that had came to a halt, and that the motor car ran into them. But despite this contrary evidence, and after two weeks of deliberation, the case was found in favour of Mr Sharples and Mr Charnley, who were awarded £35 7s 5d, with costs (Preston Herald, Wed 3 Jul 1907).

Another interesting snippet comes from the Lancashire Evening Post, Sat 9 Sep 1905:

Lancashire Evening Post - Saturday 09 September 1905Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I do hope Mr Sharple’s dog found a loving home, and that the gun found a safe pair of hands!

Newspaper clipping courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry.

Mr & Mrs Alf Dodgeon

Portrait of Elizabeth Colbert 1906Portrait of Elizabeth Colbert 1906 (inscription)
1906 – Wishing you a Happy & Prosperous New Year – From Mr & Mrs Alf Dodgeon

This charming portrait is housed in an oval cardboard frame, which is signed (more clearly on the original) ‘Mr & Mrs Alf Dodgeon’. When I see an unusual name such as this I give a little cheer, since it makes identification so much more likely.

A quick search of the census brings up very few candidates, with only one Alf(red) Dodgeon of roughly the correct age. Born in Nelson, Lancashire, Alfred and his family can be found on the 1911 census living in Burnley. He was 55 at the time and working as a cotton manufacturer. He and his wife Elizabeth (Colbert) had been married for 29 years and of their five children, three had reached adulthood.

In the course of scouring the internet for information I came across several references to Alfred’s interest in photography. He appears to have won prizes in competition and even had a photograph published in The Amateur Photographer magazine, 1907 (vol.46, pg.313). All of which makes me wonder if he took this lovely photograph of his wife himself?

Nelson Leader - Friday 17 June 1932Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Alfred retired from his workplace Carrington and Dewhurst Ltd in 1932, as reported in the Nelson Leader (Friday 17 June). I hope he was able to indulge more time in his photographic hobby – it would be wonderful to see other examples of Alfred’s work, if any exist!

Newspaper clipping courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry and Lancashire BMD.