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Hablot Knight Browne, The London Stereoscopic Company; The Ghost in the stereoscope; 1856 - 1859. Image and original data provided by Rijksmuseum: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl

Hablot Knight Browne, The London Stereoscopic Company. The Ghost in the stereoscope, 1856 – 1859. Image and original data provided by Rijksmuseum: http://www.rijksmuseum.nl

In 1862, amateur photographer William H. Mumler of Boston took a self-portrait in his studio, unaware of a ghostly apparition lurking directly behind him. It wasn’t until he viewed the resulting image of a pellucid arm draped casually across his shoulder that he realized the camera must have exposed the lingering spirit of his deceased cousin. With this eerie, novel image, Mumler, a jewelry engraver by trade, became the first of many photographers to claim having photographed a spirit. Photographs like Mumler’s provided timely evidence that spirits of the deceased freely interacted with the world of the living–a discovery he would milk for profit within the framework of the Spiritualist movement.

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 Southworth & Hawes, Early Operation Using Ether for Anesthesia, late spring 1847. Image and original data provided by The J. Paul Getty Museum

Southworth & Hawes, Early Operation Using Ether for Anesthesia, late spring 1847. Image and original data provided by The J. Paul Getty Museum

In 1846, dentist William T. G. Morton assembled a group of doctors in the operating theater at Massachusetts General Hospital, a sky-lit dome located on the hospital’s top floor. As the doctors watched from the dome’s stadium seating, Morton waved a sponge soaked in a mysterious substance called Letheon inches from his patient’s face. The patient quickly lost consciousness and remained completely still as a surgeon removed a tumor from his neck. Upon waking, the patient declared to his astonished audience that he had felt no pain. This surgery marked the first time the effective and safe use of anesthesia was demonstrated publicly, ending centuries of agonizing pain during surgery. It would also quickly spiral into a dramatic controversy surrounding Letheon’s discovery.

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Arnold Genthe | Miss Helen Chamberlain with Buzzer the cat, May 28, 1918 | Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

“It is told that at the age of four, when I was taken by the nurse to look at my newly arrived brother Hugo, I seriously remarked, ‘I’d like a little kitten better.’ I am fond of dogs, but cats have always meant more to me, and they have been the wise and sympathetic companions of many a solitary hour.”

 –Arnold Genthe, As I Remember (1936)

Arnold Genthe is best remembered for his photos of San Francisco’s Chinatown, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and his portraits of notables, from celebrities to politicians. Maybe that list should also include cats.

A self-taught photographer, Genthe opened a portrait studio in San Francisco in the late 1890s. His clientele grew to include personages like silent actress Nance O’Neil, theater legend Sarah Bernhardt, poet Nora May French, and author Jack London. In 1911 Genthe moved to New York City, where he concentrated primarily on portraiture, photographing such towering figures as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and John D. Rockefeller. And all the while, he was photographing cats. Among the more than 1,000 images of Genthe’s photographs in the Library of Congress Collection in the Artstor Digital Library, there are 82 that include cats, usually accompanying women, but occasionally alone. More than half of these feature his beloved cat Buzzer (or perhaps that should be “Buzzers,” as he used that name for four cats).

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Our slide show is made up of some highlights featuring Buzzer; search the Artstor Digital Library for Genthe and cat to see all of the photographer’s feline friends.

–  Giovanni Garcia-Fenech

Arnold Genthe | Buzzer the cat, 1912 | Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

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Artstor has collaborated with the George Eastman House to add more than 14,000 images to the Digital Library. The world’s oldest museum of photography is now represented in Artstor approximately 19,000 examples of photographs, from early daguerreotypes to contemporary prints. The additional images significantly increase the number of photographs available to Artstor users for teaching and scholarship.

The collection represents photographs ranging from early to contemporary photography. Of particular note is an important collection of daguerreotypes produced by the Boston photographic firm of Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes, whose artistic portraiture established them as the first masters of photography in the United States. Other notable portraits include those taken by Julia Margaret Cameron, the 19th century British photographer known for her portrait studies of Victorian luminaries. Beyond portraiture, there are fine examples of 19th century travel and landscape photography, whether focused on the Middle East (Abdullah Frères, Félix Bonfils), or the American West (William Henry Jackson, Carleton Watkins). Also well-represented is the 19th century French photographer, Eugène Atget, whose images of Parisian street scenes and architecture would influence later Modernist photographers. Figures from the Modernist Photo-Secession movement are featured with works by Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Kasebier, and Francis Bruguière. Other 20th century photographers will also be included, such as Margaret Bourke-White, Brassaï, Walker Evans, Andreas Feininger, Victor Keppler, Nickolas Muray, Arnold Newman, Arthur Rothstein, Aaron Siskind, Paul Strand, and Minor White.

For more detailed information about this collection, visit the George Eastman House collection page.

Related collections:

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