UCHIDA KUICHI (1844–1875)
Uchida Kuichi was born in 1844 in Nagasaki, Japan. He may have first encountered photography through contact with the Dutch physician Johannes Pompe van Meerdervoort at the naval training school there. Uchida studied photography with Ueno Hikoma in the early 1860s. In 1865 Uchida and Morita Raizø opened the first photography studio in Osaka. Uchida moved his busi- ness to Yokohama in 1866, and then to Tokyo in 1869. Over the next several years he established a reputation as the finest portrait photographer in Tokyo. His fame resulted in a commission from the Department of the Imperial Household in 1872 to make the first official photograph of the Emperor Meiji. Uchida photographed the young emperor wearing traditional court dress. State authorities believed the image fed negative stereotypes of Japan as a regressive country, and commissioned another photograph in 1873 to show a more updated look. The later image, depicting the emperor in a West- ern military-style uniform and with a new short haircut, was widely distributed as the official imperial portrait. Uchida also traveled with the emperor throughout Japan in 1872, where he photographed the various locations visited as well as the public’s response to the imperial entourage. Uchida’s successful career was cut short when he died of tuberculosis in Tokyo in 1875.
UENO HIKOMA (1838–1904)
Ueno Hikoma was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1838. His merchant father, Ueno Toshinojø, imported Japan’s first camera in 1848. Ueno’s interest in photography did not stem from this event, however, but from studying chemistry at the naval training school in Nagasaki under
Johannes Pompe van Meerdervoort, a Dutch naval doc- tor. Ueno was an intrepid student, constructing his own cameras from old telescope lenses and experimenting with various ways to make photographic chemicals, which were not yet readily available. In 1859 Ueno learned collodion wet-plate photography from the Swiss photographer Pierre Rossier, sent to Nagasaki by the London firm Negretti and Zambra. In 1862 Ueno published Seimikyoku hikkei (Chemist’s Handbook), co-authored with Horie Kuwajirø. It included an ap- pendix describing collodion wet-plate photography, Japan’s first manual on the process. Later that year, Ueno opened a studio in Nagasaki, one of Japan’s first, and he also began importing cameras and photographic supplies. Ueno became well known for both landscape and portrait photography. He photographed a number of important nineteenth-century figures, including former U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant. Other highlights of his career included assisting a team of Americans who came to Nagasaki in 1874 to photograph the transit of Venus across the sun, and photographing the battlefield during the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. Ueno was one of Japan’s most successful early photographers, later open- ing branch studios in Vladistock, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in 1890 and 1891. He died in Nagasaki in 1904.
UKAI GYOKUSEN (1807–1887)
Ukai Gyokusen was the first Japan-born professional photographer, operating a studio in Edo (Tokyo) from 1860 or 1861 until 1867. Until recently his reputation has been overshadowed by Shimooka Renjo and Ueno Hikoma’s who nevertheless did not open their studios until 1862. It is strange that Ukai’s significance was forgotten since biographical details are carved on his gravestone in Yanaka Cemetery, Tokyo. Born into a wealthy samurai family, in Ishioka-shi, Ibaraki Prefec- ture, Ukai worked as a merchant in the sake business until 1831 when he decided to become a full-time art- ist. Nothing is then known until he decides to move to Yokohama in 1859 or 1860 with the intention of study- ing photography. His gravestone inscription confirms he consulted the American, Orrin Freeman, who had opened an ambrotype studio and was giving lessons. It then seems that he purchased, for a considerable sum, Freeman’s camera, equipment, and a series of lessons before opening a portrait studio in Edo. At his studio, named Eishin-do, he photographed over 200 members of the aristocracy. In 1879 he was employed by the Gov- ernment to photograph antiquities in western Japan. In 1883, Ukai unaccountably buried several hundred glass negatives adjacent to his final resting place in Yanaka Cemetery. (One of his ambrotypes is held by the Yoko- hama Archives of History, Yokohama.)
Nineteenth century interest in utilizing the power of photography in all forms of scientific endeavour led the Englishman,William Thompson (1822–1879), to speculate on the use of photography as an inexpensive method of assessing the damage to bridge piers in time of flood. In February 1856 Thompson succeeded in making a weak col- lodion negative of the sea floor of Weymouth Bay at a depth by lowering a box containing a 5 × 4 inch plate camera on a rope some eighteen feet to the bottom. Thompson described his methodology in a paper “On Taking Photographic Images Under Water,” published in the Journal of The Society Of Arts, May 9th, 1856, which is reproduced in Historical Diving Times, 19 (Summer 1997).
In 1866, the Frenchman, Ernest Bazin claimed to have made underwater photographs at his marine obser- vatory. Bazin used a form of diving cylinder to enable him to descend below water with electric lights to illu- minate his subject. However none of these images have survived and it appears that none were ever made public. While there are reports of photographs taken from a submarine by the German Wilhelm Bauer and various experiments by the Swiss F. A. Forel to determine the penetration of daylight through water by photographic means, the first major publication to utilise photography for the illustration of marine specimens was William Saville-Kent’s The Great Barrier Reef of Australia, its products and potentialities published in 1893. However Saville-Kent’s specimens were not photographed with an underwater apparatus.
The first systematic approaches to underwater pho- tography were commenced in 1886 the Frenchman
Louis Boutan (1859–1934) and his assistant Joseph David (1869–1922). Born in 1859, Boutan obtained his doctorate of science from the University of Paris in 1879. In 1880, at the time of the Melbourne Exposition, he was sent by the French Government to Australia to study the embryology of marsupials. He was appointed maître de conference at the University of Lille in 1886 before undertaking a mission to the Red Sea in 1890. In 1893 Boutan was appointed professor at the Arago Laboratories at Banyuls-sur-Mer, part of the University of Paris. By the end of that year Boutan had established the fundamentals of underwater photography.
Writing in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine in 1898, Boutan recalled that he was fascinated by the underwater landscape he found at Banyuls-sur-Mer when invited to use the Laboratory’s diving suit. He wrote “why, I asked myself, could I not succeed in mak- ing a photograph at the bottom of the sea?” In a note in Archives de Zoologie expérimentale et générale, Boutan described the principal features of his underwater photo- graphic apparatus, the plans for which had been devised by his brother Auguste, an engineer and manufactured by the firm of Alvergniat in Paris with anastigmat lenses by Darlot. These had the form of a rectangular metal box fixed to a metal tripod having adjustable legs, external controls for adjusting the shutter and diaphragm and changing the specially varnished Lumiere plates and a rubber balloon with which to adjust the buoyancy to the whole. One of these cameras was illustrated in the Century Magazine article together with several of Boutan’s underwater images.
Initially Boutan found that back-scattering of light and the lower contrast gave unsatisfactory images on his “isochromatic” plates. After considerable experimenta- tion he was able to obtain more satisfactory images by interposing a blue filter in front of the camera lens.
Several ingenious methods were employed by Boutan to illuminate his underwater scenes. In 1893 he collabo- rated with a French electrical engineer, M. Chaffour, to make the first flash bulb. Chaffour used a thick glass bottle, some 10cm in diameter, mounted with the neck down. He placed a coil of magnesium ribbon inside the jar before replacing the air with pure oxygen. An electric current was used to ignite the magnesium rib- bon, producing a very intense flash of light. This system was not without its disadvantages. When ignited, the magnesium produced a dense cloud of magnesium oxide vapour which not only reduced the light output but also coated the inner surface of the bottle. Moreover the high temperature produced at ignition frequently caused the bottles to explode, even underwater. Although only an experimental model, the Chaffour flash established the principles for all future flash bulbs while Boutan had produced the first underwater image made with flash.
A more reliable, if cumbersome, system of illumination was built by David for Boutan. An alcohol lamp was placed in a glass bell-jar secured to the top of a wooden barrel. An external reservoir of magnesium powder was connected to a metal tube placed just in front of the lens flame. Using a rubber bulb, Boutan was able to blow the magnesium powder into the flame to produce his flash illumination. A scale model of Boutan’s camera and the “barrel” flash is on permanent display at the Musée de la Plongée, Sanary-Sur-Mer, France. A later system utilised carbon-arc lamps power by banks of batteries.
Boutan described in some detail his methodology for making underwater images. Descending to the bottom in a diving suit, he selected the area to be photographed, then signalled to the dive boat for the apparatus to be sent down, stand first then on signal the camera box and illumination source. Once set up, Boutan then signalled that he had commenced the exposure and waited for a signal from the boat to tell him when the required time had elapsed.
In 1898 he published the first book on underwater photography: Photographie sous-marine et les progrès de la photographie, Schücher Frères, Paris. The following year Boutan obtained sharp images of underwater vegetation at night and, using battery- powered arc lamps, images of a plaque at a depth of 50 metres. The exhibition of slides of his underwater photographs at the Expositions Universelle, Paris in 1900 and publication by Charles Mendel of more images in La Photographie sous-marine, with text by Pierre Guichard, served to further Boutan’s reputation as the foremost underwater photographer of the time.
UNDERWOOD, BERT (1862–1947) AND
Manufacturer of ten million stereo cards and 300,000 stereo viewers a year (1901)
The Underwood brothers built a Stereoscopic produc- tion and sales organization that surpassed all that had preceded them. By learning the door to door selling techniques of B. W. Kilburn of Littleton, New Hamp- shire, the Underwoods took the lead in the creation of the world’s largest stereo view business. Even The Stereoscopic Company in Great Britain could not match their success.
Elmer and Bert Underwood, sons of the Reverend E. Underwood, were born in northern Illinois Elmer in 1859 and Bert in 1862.
Elmer started a publishing business there in 1879 whilst Bert worked in a grocery and then for the White Sewing Machine Company in Kansas City before becoming a sales agent for a medical book which he peddled from door-to-door throughout his assigned area on the edge of Indian Territory. A natural sales- man, Bert became known among the farmers as “that boy who sells a book to everyone:’ During his book selling trips in 1881, he met an agent for stereoscopic views and became convinced that if the merits of the then “out-of-date” stereoscopic views could be prop- erly presented to the public they would prove to be fast sellers. Ordering a stock of views and a stereoscope he began to formulate a system for selling them that proved immediately successful.
Bert’s sales grew so fast that within a few months he persuaded his brother to sell his publishing business and join him in expanding the stereo view business into other areas. At that time, the Underwoods were selling the stereo views published by Charles Bierstadt (Niagara Falls), J. F. Jarvis (Washington, D.C.) and the Littleton View Company (one of B. W. Kilburn’s competitors) in the sparsely settled areas west of the Mississippi. (Some of these early views have been found inscribed on the back “Sold by Underwood and Underwood, Ottawa, Kansas:’) In a year’s time the brothers had established their own group of sales agents (all trained in the Under- wood method) working in Missouri and Kansas.
The Underwoods directed this sales force from a small office in Ottawa, Kansas. Many of these agents were recruited from colleges and universities. Some earned enough during the summer months to pay their entire college expenses for the year.
As their business grew, they documented the system in a manual that taught their agents how to successfully sell stereo views. To learn just how these agents plied their craft, a copy of their Sales Manual for 1890 was examined at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Stereoscopic Research Library.
The Underwoods divided their sales effort into two parts—the canvassing and the delivery. Canvassing included gaining a hearing, creating a desire to buy and obtaining a small order for a stereoscope or views. Upon delivering the original order a week or two later, they made their major pitch to sell more views.
The manual took the new agent, step by step, through a typical sales call, telling them what to say and how to handle all objections. The agent was instructed to greet the person answering the door with: “I have something very beautiful I want to show you. It will take just a minute:’
No mention was made of the product they were selling. If the prospect hesitated, they added: “It is something new in this line, and I can show you much better and easier than I can tell you:’ If told there was no interest in buying anything they countered with: “Oh, I am only showing now and I have something so interesting I do like to show it. You can spare just a minute:’ After gaining entrance, the agent laid his case down and removed the stereoscope saying: “Of course you have a stereoscope:’ If the customer did not, the agent stated that they have never seen views through this type of glass. “Everyone says it is the finest lens they ever looked through:’ The important thing was to get the customer seated and to hold the scope. The manual advised the agents to insert each view into the scope before taking the preceding one out so the customer was always looking at something, the better to hold their attention.
They made each view as interesting as possible by pointing out the objects of value, beauty or novelty in each. For example, “Phoebe’s Arch, Palmer Lake, Colorado. Notice how far through that arch, across the landscape you can see. That farthest mountain is thirty miles from the arch. Isn’t it something wonderful to cover such distance in a view” Remember, the manual
advised the agent, “your customer will often see, in the views you show him, only what your words have the power to make him see. They credited the glass for the beautiful details and distances brought out in perfect relief. They dwelt on the power of the glass as a sale of the scope obviously produced a demand for views.
They attempted to close the sale by saying: “If I will bring you just as good a lens as this is in about two weeks, you will want one of them won’t you? This scope is only ninety cents and if the one I bring is not as good as this, don’t take it.” Price was only mentioned after they had shown a number of sample views.
The agent then advanced numerous reasons the cus- tomer should have a stereoscope in their home—they cost very little and yet are so interesting; if company comes they can help entertain themselves with a ste- reoscope and a collection of views; children read, hear people talk then study about places in the views; they can never visit all these places as it would cost hundreds of dollars to visit only a few and the stereoscopic views, as seen through a good glass, will give them a better idea than they can get in any other way.
The agent concluded with: “Well, I shall put you down for the glass, shall I not, as it’s only ninety cents:’ The order was written up for “Scope and Views” and the customer was told: “You see, 1 have put you down for a scope and left the views indefinite. When I bring around your scope I will have a fine collection of views and our $2.00 per dozen views are the finest in the country.”
If the customer already had a stereoscope, the agent switched the emphasis away from the lens, crediting all the fine effects to the superior quality of the clear sharp views, all from original negatives taken by the best view artists in the country. The agent worked prominent names into the sales pitch to influence the customer: “Dr. Jones liked that view very much. I have his order for a collection. The agents were told that lo- cal personal influences of this kind are impossible for anyone to resist entirely.
The experienced agents carried a small folder containing a list of prominent local people and their avocation who had purchased views. These were shown to the prospect with the comment: “Here is the Mayor you see, the Minister, the Postmaster, and of course, these Doctors, who have all purchased views for their collection:’ The great secret of moneymaking with views, it was emphasized, was to canvass their territory thoroughly—exhaustively. It was easier to build up the order if many of the customer’s neighbors were taking views. They were advised not to be easily put off as “NO, is not always an answer in canvassing any more than in courting. Persistence wins the day.
The manual also offered advice on how the agent should conduct himself while on the road. They ‘were admonished to find a good boarding place, keep the best of company and not talk politics and if a Christian, to go to church Sunday and make themselves at home in prayer-meetings or the Y.M.C.A. rooms. To be neat and clean in attire, to dress well and never boast of his business, only talking about his views when actually canvassing. (No mention of female agents has been found.)
When delivering the scope, it was important to once again get the customer seated to try it out. Views were shown in the same manner as when canvassing, having the customer decide on each view separately, laying aside those they wanted to keep. If the customer protested: “Oh, I have more than I can take now;’ the agent replied: “Why this is only a start—you have an opportunity to obtain the finest views that have ever been made and it will pay you to take advantage of it and get a good collection. Your scope is not so inter- esting without a nice collection. The more you get the better:’ The agent was reminded not to lower prices as that lowered the value of the goods in the minds of the patron. However, to clinch a large sale, the agent would offer a free stereoscope with an order for six dozen or more views!
In addition to their first class views, the agents carried a small number of copied views that they sold for three cents each. The purpose was to counter the customer’s objections that they could buy views cheaper elsewhere and to prove the superiority of their more expensive views. By downgrading these views with the comment: “These are copies. We carry them only for a cheap class of trade;’ they seldom had to show them. They also car- ried hand painted views and French transparencies with them that sold for 25 cents each.
Using these successful methods, Bert expanded their sales force into western Iowa, Nebraska, Dakota and Minnesota throughout 1884. At the same time, Elmer built the business in eastern Iowa, Illinois and Wiscon- sin. By the end of the year, they covered Kentucky Ten- nessee, Arkansas and Louisiana with their agents.
The following year, Elmer worked his way east into Pennsylvania and in a year and a half built the foundation of an immense business through the populous eastern and southeastern section of the country. Meanwhile, Bert crossed the Rockies, covering the Pacific Coast, from San Diego to Puget Sound, with agents.
The Underwoods claimed to have sent out 3,000 college students in one summer. Agents traveled by bicycle, or horse and buggy in farm country, and were sometimes invited, to spend the night with their last customer, paying for their room and board with stereo views. A few agents used their experiences with the Underwoods to go on to bigger and better things. One was James M. Davis, who became the exclusive Sales Agent for Kilburn stereo views. Another was B. L. Singley, founder of the Keystone View Company of
Meadville, Pennsylvania. Keystone, in time became a strong competitor to the Underwoods.
Outgrowing their single supply house in Ottawa, Kansas by 1887, they opened an office in Baltimore to supply all the territory east of the Mississippi. That same year they also secured control of the stereo views produced by Strohmeyer & Wyman. The combined ca- pacity of their four suppliers, Bierstadt, Jarvis, Littleton Views, and Strohmeyer & Wyman was ten million stereo views per year. A Canadian office was opened in 1888 to handle the large sales there.
Underwood and Underwood expanded into Europe in 1890 when Bert opened a branch in Liverpool, England. He personally ran the office for three years, creating a renewed interest in stereo views there. They moved their Baltimore office in 1891 to New York to better serve their growing sales overseas.
By 1894, they were selling their views wholesale or through agents in all European countries, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Japan, Cuba, Mexico and nearly every country in South America. In that year, the Underwoods shipped three million views to England retailing them for $2.00 a dozen. 160,000 stereoscopes were also sold there for $1.00 each.
Gradually the Underwood firm began to publish their own original views to supplement already established trade lists of their four suppliers. In 1891 Bert took les- sons in photography from M. Abel in Mentona, France. The excellent travel views of Italy Greece, the Holy Lands and Egypt, published under the U&U label, all were produced from Bert’s negatives.
While in Rome, Bert arranged to photograph Pope Pius X in stereo, producing a 12 card set on “The Pil- grimage to St. Peter s and the Vatican:’ After presenting a set to His Holiness, the firm received the following note from a Cardinal at the Vatican:
His Holiness Pope Pius X., wishes me to tell you how much He had admired the stereoscopic views which Messrs. Underwood & Underwood have kindly pre- sented to Him. As a token of His special appreciation of these very interesting photographs, His Holiness bids me send you in His name a silver medal together with His thanks.
It was not until 1897 that the company supplemented Bert’s work by employing their own full-time pho- tographers and using free-lance operators for specific assignments.
By 1901, the firm had finalized the design of the U&U logo on their stereo views and were publishing over 25,000 views a day of their own. They also sold 300,000 stereoscopes a year—a prodigious output that made the firm the largest of its kind in the world. Their stereoscope supplier was Henry E. Richmond, a native of Bennington, Vermont, who had established a stereoscope factory for the trade around 1890, in the small town of Westwood, New Jersey, population 838. The factory was just fifteen miles from mid-town Man- hattan and employed about thirty people. His factory ground the lenses, cut out the wooden parts, stamped and shaped the aluminum hoods, binding the edges with velvet. Those he made for the Underwoods were stamped on the hood with the words “Sun-Sculpture” surrounded by their rising sun trademark. The factory was a two-story building with a water tower that sup- plied water to the town of Westwood. U&U apparently bought the factory around 1901 and retained Richmond as their Manager through at least 1914.
They also purchased a factory from Strohmeyer & Wyman in Arlington, New Jersey, eight miles from Manhattan, that produced both stereoscopes and views. Seventy persons were employed there in 1906. One of the Underwoods’ more famous staff photographers, James Ricalton, was from Maplewood, New Jersey, just a few miles from their factory in Arlington. Their Westwood factory produced stereoscopes exclusively, employing 10 men and 20 women the same year.
At the turn of the century the Underwoods introduced their unique boxed set of views—a sequence of views that simulated a tour of the country depicted. Some views had captions in six languages printed on the back. A descriptive guidebook accompanied the views which included a map showing the exact location and boundaries of the views in the set.
U&U Guide Books were edited by some of the most eminent scholars of the day. The popularity of these travel sets and guidebooks made it difficult for smaller companies to compete and was responsible for some of them closing up shop and selling their negatives to the Underwoods, which grew even bigger as a result. Their boxed sets and books became immensely popular, form- ing the bulk of their output for the next 15 years. Their sales literature pointed out—“The Underwood Travel System is largely mental. It provides Travel not for the body, but for the mind- but travel that is none the less real on that account. It makes it possible for one to see as if one were present there in body—in fact to feel oneself present—and to know accurately famous scenes and places thousands of miles away without moving his body from his armchair in his comfortable corner; indeed, it enables him to take up one standpoint and then another with reference to them and so see them as a whole, and to study them minutely just as one would on a visit to the places in the ordinary expensive way.”
By 1910 they had 300 different stereo view sets for sale and had diversified into the new field of News photography. As stereo views declined in popularity their News Division grew. They ceased production of all stereo views in 1920, selling their stereo negatives to the Keystone View Company which continued to produce
Underwood inspired travel sets, primarily to schools. Shortly after the Underwoods retired, the company was reorganized as Underwood & Underwood News Photos, Inc. In 1943 Bert Underwood died in Arizona. Four years later, Elmer died in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Since 1978, much of the Underwood and Underwood archives have been housed within the University of California Riverside (UCR). This is as part of a 30 ton collection of 350,000 original stereoscopic negatives, 140,000 cards, record books, and salesman cataloques, primarily from Underwood and Underwood, The Key- stone View company, B.W. Kilburn, H.C. White, and The American Stereoscopic company.
Underwood & Underwood images are a vast and invaluable resource showing the modernization of the world, brought to life by the power of Stereoscopic viewing.