British photographic history

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Charles Alexander McEachen late 19th century photographe

I`m inquiring on what history you would have on the health risks/concerns photographers from the late 19th century encountered and/o suffered with in England during this time. Did any of the chemicals they use produce suicidal tendencies, possibly arthritic ailments etc.
I`m interested to know what information you can provide.

 I`m inquiring on behalf of a friend doing research on a photographer from England, this is what he has:

His name:  Charles Alexander McEachen
born: 1857 Woolwich, England
married: 1872 to Alice Saville
He was 21 when married, she was 26
  My friend is only inquiring for his own interest not for any commercial interest in any way. This couple later die quite young, she 42, he 38, tragically same day in Halifax N.S. Canada. She we think died perhaps by suicide age 42 while 7 months pregnant he comes home and discovers her in their bedroom then goes down stairs into their kitchen and consumes some of the chemicals he uses for his photography and dies soon after. They leave behind 3 children quite young themselves, the oldest a daughter who later in life meets a tragic end herself. My friend is interested in this from a psychological perspective trying to see if the tragic end to this married couple and if his exposure to these chemicals may have effected both their health perhaps suicidal tendencies.
 Anyway if you can help please let me know and I can forward this to my friend who`s 80 years old. Thanks.
 Sincerely, Todd Rudderham

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Bill Jay wrote an interesting article on the dangers of photography including poisonings which can be downloaded here: Basically photography made extensive use of some very toxic chemicals and even after restrictions on their sale started to be put in place from the 1860s they remained in use with the potential to be ingested or inhaled deliberately or by accident. 

Can anyone tell me where I might find photographs by or of  photographer  Charles Alexander McEAchen, His info:
born: 1857 Woolwich, England
Any info would be useful. Thanks,

Todd, we do not have him listed as a photographer in the Photographers 1840 – 1940 Great Britain & Ireland database (, so this took my interest as Ron Cosens and I are looking at British photographers who emigrated.

I note a slight discepancy in his dates.

Charles Alexander Julian McEachen, birth recorded 2nd quarter 1858, Greenwich R.D., London; baptised 6 June 1858, Portland. Dorset (son of John and Angelique). He is listed as a photographer on his marriage to Alice Saville on 17 June 1878  in the Parish Church , Woolwich, Kent with an address for both of 10 St. James Place (the residence of Alice's father Matthew). Their daughter Alice Maude was baptised 26 June 1879 in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Woolwich and father is given as Charles Alexander, a photographer, abode 2 Angelsea Hill. As Alexander McEachen he emigrated from London to New York aboard the Victoria arriving 4 August 1879, listed as a photographer but his family not with him. I can't find them in the 1880 US census but they are in the 1891 census for Halifax City with Charles going as Alexander again, a submarine miner. They have children Maud, 11 (born England), Alexander, 7, Daisy, 7 and Minnie 5 (all born US). Alexander McEachen was Sexton of the First Baptist Church in Halifax. His death was on 4 October 1894 in Dartmouth, NS.

Did Charles/Alexander work as a photographer in Canada or the US? I have not discovered any photos taken by him anywhere.

Mercury was no longer used by the time Charles/Alexander was active in photography and I can't think of anything used then that would have caused significant mental illness or suicidal tendencies. Certainly many photographers chose cyanide when they suicided and one Australian photographer, Charles Henry Manning who emigrated to New Zealand died that way. Another photographer Peter Schourup was called to give evidence at the inquest and just a few years later he too suicided with cyanide. I have come across quite a few other references to Australian photographers consuming cyanide in my research into our photographic history.

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