CHARLES DUDLEY ARNOLD
by Thomas G. Yanul
Thomas G. Yanul
WHERE DOES ARNOLD FIT ?
I guess the question one must ask before putting a great deal of time and effort into research on a particular individual is, what is the worth ? And when you consider Arnold as a late 19th century American photographer and judge him by the standards of the academic world, he is probably not worth the effort. For a high standard to be included in the "list" so to speak, of those who have achieved greatness through unusual deeds, or set trends and changed thedirection of an art form, then Arnold does not quality.
There is only so much room at the top - in general. But there is another factor that comes into play in the history of photography (as in art).One must at some level consider artists who have performed at a very high level of competency at a particular period, or at some special event in history. And certainly to my way of thinking Arnold has met that criteria.
As a recorder of the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893, and to a lesser extent thePan-American Exposition of 1901, Arnold I proffer, had excelled at his profession in an event that has landmark status in modern American history. The Columbian Expo was a kind of epoch in a young country's search for identity. Despite its residual architectural connection to European history, it non the less was seminal in America's coming of age. It was big, bold and brassy. One could even stretch the analogy to the City of Chicago for the same reasons. It was in "the west", which meant it was considered something of a prairie town to those back "east", where the traditional powers-that-be held forum. Certainly is was an afront to New Yorkers who had expected their city would be chosen to represent the United States in this first real mega-fair to tell the world who and what America had become...how we had grown into a genuine country with its own inherent attributes. For Arnold to be chosen to record and represent the Exposition photographically was at the time, a somewhat divisive issue. Fortunately Arnold proved himself more than adequate to the task, and his magnificent high "official" record of the Exposition has stood the test of time.
JUST WHO WAS CHARLES DUDLEY ARNOLD ?
Unfortunately, even after many years of chasing facts and fantasy, we don't know much about this individual. We will learn some of what and where he did it, but personal information is scant to say the least. Even his professional career is void of information regarding years of his photographic work, especially in New York City. I'm sorry to say that Arnold is in a large company of photographers (and artists) who have done yeoman work in the profession but have passed into obscurity for no other reason than they did not record or cover a "major event" that would carry their names along in history. Arnold is fortunate in that respect. He was in the right place at the right time; his name recognition will hopefully last as long as the record of the Chicago Columbian Exposition carrys him with it. You cannot study the history of the Exposition without referencing the visual record, of which Arnold's work is paramount.
ADDENDA TO ABOVE: In February of 2003, I acquired 33 vintage Arnold photographs from his New York City days. Although undated, they obviously were done during the years roughly 1884-1890, not only because of the subject matter - mostly shingle style houses along the Eastern U.S. built 1880's - but also because they bear his New York City Stamp. These are the first and only prints I have found that give credence to the fact that Arnold was catering to architects, many of whom were the most important of the day. These include McKim Mead & White, Peabody & Stearns, Lamb & Rich and other well knowns, along with some lesser known, architects.
I believe that one reason Arnold's name has not surfaced in searches of many architect's archives is that he did not, at this time, put his name in the negative or include it afterwards on the print Only his business stamp on the rear. And since most of these prints are albumins - a very thin printing out paper - most were mounted on boards for convenience in viewing and storing. And once mounted, his name is for all practical purposes gone. By the time of the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893 (he actually startsconstruction photography in early 1891) Arnold never again prints a photo without his name put in the picture. I assume he realized his mistake at some point and changed his methods. It really was a matter of survival then, as now. Since Arnold moved to New York City with a family and also made at least one, and probably two trips to Europe to photograph antiquities, his photographic practice must have been economically successful during those years.
The clamor during the Columbian Exposition years that Arnold was a nobody, an unknown eastern photographer, seems to be quite specious in retrospect. Arnold was known to the East Coast architectural community if not elsewhere. That is why he got the position of photographer at the Chicago Columbian Exposition. He was a proven fine architectural photographer. [see my page on an article written by W.I. Lincoln Adams stating that exact fact written in 1913]. In due time I will post these new images by Arnold so all can see what his work consisted of, and whom he was working for.
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE
The following pages of this site will lay out the details of what I know about his life and work. Details of work done at the Pan-American Expo are scant in nature. It was simply too far and too difficult for me to get involved in the details of that event, which I don't believe are crucial to his history. Suffice it to say we know he was there and he did the job in an adequate fashion. But apparently the monies were not there officially nor unofficially to warrent the kind of photography that was done at the Columbian.
The hugh format views made in platinum for the Chicago expo were not done at the Pan-American. I suspect it was simply too expensive and time consuming. In the future hopefully others will be able to flesh out the details of Arnold's work at the Pan-Am, but that is not a prime matter for this paper as such.
I have put the chronologies of Arnold's life, his work and home addresses up front of this Introduction simply to make it easier for those who need those hard, basic facts to do whatever they would like with them. They are a sort of jumping off point for others who may wish to pursue particular times or places in the Arnold references.
There are many more details to come of course, and they will be covered in appropriate segments as we go. Arnold's early life and what we know about it will come first. It is meager yet informative.
Ed. Note: the last of these pages is generally under construction as material is organized and added. Readers should check occasionally to see newer material as it is added.
TO SEE NEXT PAGE GO TO: The Arnold Family & Its Connections
7x8" Gold Toned Albumin
(See detail below)
ca. 1882-90 6x8" gold-toned albumin Coll.
author Courtesy Harlow Davis Jr.
|Detail of boys, Central Pk. NY.
Photo by C.D. Arnold
The photo is of Don Cristobal de la Cerda The Duke of Verague and his son.
Descendants of Christopher Columbus
Harlow N.(1838-1919) became President World's Columbian Exposition and son Harlow D. was Arnold's partner in the photo concession
Photo ca.1880's by Max Platz, Chicago
A family friend and noted portrait photographer