Photographer Edward Livingston Wilson was born in 1838 in Flemington, New Jersey to Hart and Amelia Wilson. Coming from a prominent local family, Mr. Wilson's foray into photography began when he met veteran Philadelphia portraitist Frederick Gutekunst in the early 1860s. Lacking little in the way of professional capital, Mr. Wilson nevertheless was able to publish 'The Philadelphia Photographer' with the assistance of M.F. Benerman in January of 1864. This was the first photographic journal in the United States and immediately met with critical and popular success.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the photographic industry was extremely elitist and rife with abuses and discriminatory practices. For example, new photographic processes were restrictive because most featured 'right to use' clauses that limited many photographers from using this applications. As a result, their businesses could not compete effectively with those few companies that were allowed to apply the latest technologies. Edward L. Wilson decried these unethical business practices. In 1865, Mr. Wilson organized a strong and ultimately successful opposition that against prejudicial bromide patents. Three years' later, the brutal photographic stamp tax was eliminated, largely due to the photographer-turned-publisher's exhaustive efforts. Also in 1868, Mr. Wilson became one of the founders of the National Photographic Association, which later became the Photographers' Association of America.
Mr. Wilson was involved in every aspect of the photography business. In addition to being an accomplished photographer, author, and editor, his business Wilson, Hood & Co. was a respected photographic supplier. His annual compilation series, Photographic Mosaics, featured the latest innovations and important events that shaped nineteenth-century photography. Active in civic affairs, Mr. Wilson was named as a delegate to represent Philadelphia at the Vienna Exposition of 1873. His mission was to generate European interest in the 1876 Centennial Exposition, which was being held in Philadelphia. Due to Mr. Wilson’s involvement, a separate photographic exhibit was featured in its own building at the Centennial Exposition, for which he also served as official photographer.
Throughout the latter portion of the nineteenth century, Mr. Wilson traveled widely, and his lectures on the Orient were extremely popular with American audiences. He also wrote several textbooks on photography during this period, most notably Quarter Century in Photography and Cyclopaedic Photography. In 1885, the name of the Philadelphia Photographer was changed to Wilson’s Photographic Magazine. Edward L. Wilson was 65 when he died in Vineland, New Jersey on June 26, 1903. He was a keen student and gifted teacher of photography, and served as the genre’s most eloquent national and international spokesman.
1893 The Photographic Journal of America, Vol. XXX (New York: Edward L. Wilson), pp. 552-557.
1903 The Photographic Times-Bulletin, Vol. XXXV (New York: The Photographic Times-Bulletin Publishing Association), p. 407.
1903 Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, Vol. XL (New York: Edward L. Wilson), pp. 289-293.
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