Item #7449 [Cabinet photo of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody.]. Frederick Gutekunst, photog.

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[Cabinet photo of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody.]

Philadelphia: The F. Gutekunst Co., [ca. 1890]. Cabinet card photograph, 5.6” x 4.1”, plus mount. CONDITION: Very good, strong tonality, a few light abrasions to image and light wear to board.

A scarce cabinet card photograph of educator and reformer Elizabeth Palmer Peabody near the end of her accomplished life.

In an 1894 advertisement in The Nation, evidently published shortly after her death, Gustekunst advertised photos of Peabody, likely from the same sitting as the photo offered here: “Miss Elizabeth P. Peabody. Imperial Panel Photos on heavy bevel mounts, 14 x 17, $3.00 each. Also Cabinet Photos. ‘The family consider these pictures of Miss Peabody the best that exist.’ The F. Gutekunst Co., 712 Arch St., Philada.” The ad appears to have been published shortly after Peabody’s death.

Born in Billerica, Mass., Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804–1894) was an educator and Transcendentalist. Educated by her mother, she opened three schools of her own in the 1820s, all in Massachusetts. From 1825 to 1834, Peabody worked as the secretary of Unitarian preacher William Ellery Channing, and in 1837 she became a charter member of the Transcendentalist Club, along with Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Channing, and Bronson Alcott. In 1839 Peabody opened her West Street bookstore, which became a watering hole for Boston’s intellectuals. On her own printing press she published some of Hawthorne’s first books and for several years published and wrote for The Dial, a literary monthly and organ of the Transcendentalist movement. One of the earliest female book publishers in America, she published in 1849 an issue of a Transcendentalist journal, Aesthetic Papers, which contained Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.” She closed her shop in 1850 and in 1859 became aware of Friedrich Froebel’s kindergarten work in Germany. The next year she opened the nation’s first formal kindergarten in Boston, which she continued until 1867, when she undertook a tour of European kindergartens to study Froebel’s principles more closely. Much of her later published writing centered on kindergarten education. In 1873 she founded the Kindergarten Messenger and in 1877 organized the American Froebel Union, serving as its first president. She spent her last years writing as well as lecturing in Alcott's Concord School of Philosophy, an experimental school for adults. In 1886, despite failing vision, she wrote a tribute to the Boston painter and poet Washington Allston titled, “Last Evening with Allston.” She died in 1894 in Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Possibly born in Germany, Frederick Gutekunst (1831–1917)—who became known as the "Dean of American Photography"—was active in Philadelphia. Learning the daguerreotype process from photographic pioneer Robert Cornelius, Gutekunst opened his first photographic portrait studio with his brother in 1854. The Civil War turned Gutekunst’s photography studio into a popular destination, Philadelphia being a major center for military deployment. Soldiers and Union Generals such as George Meade, Ulysses S. Grant and Philip Sheridan visited Gutekunst’s studio, his portrait of Grant in particular gaining national interest. Gutekunst worked as the official photographer of the Pennsylvania Railroad and was recognized for his photos of the Gettysburg battlefield. For the 1876 Centennial Exposition, he created a ten foot wide panoramic photograph made from seven negatives, described at the time as the largest photograph in the world. In 1885 Gutekunst was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. He successfully ran his photographic studio for sixty years.

REFERENCES: Elizabeth Palmer Peabody at britannica.com; Elizabeth Peabody at newworldencyclopedia.org; The Nation, Vol. 58, No. 1497 (New York: Evening Post Publishing, 1894).

Item #7449

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