Excelsior Stereoscopic Tours of Burnley

12201216455?profile=originalDr. David Barber has published new research about Excelsior Stereoscopic Tours whose 3D cards feature in photo collections around the world. It explores the career of Milford Elsworth Wright (1861-1918), the stereographer behind the company and traces his journey from Perry, Ohio to the Lancashire mill town of Burnley.

See: www.pressphotoman.com


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  • Thanks Rob for your further posts and to those who have contacted me about Milford E. Wright and Excelsior Stereoscopic Tours. I will update this post with further information as it emerges.  

  • I have around 30 Wright / Excelsior stereoviews in my collection, 16 are different images of a 1905 Royal Visit to Blackburn. These allow me to deduce that there were at least 2, probably 3, cameramen recording the event that day for these stereoviews.

    I’ve always been disappointed by their image quality, they had all similarly faded and were less sharp than Wright’s normal output. Many photographers covered the event and produced postcards, the photographic ones in my collection are much sharper than these stereoviews. Some of these captured other photographers, including Mitchell and Kenyon’s (M&K) main film camera position, but not the ones who took these stereoviews. The images on the stereoviews also seem to have been taken from a lower angle than one would expect from a tripod mounted camera.

    I’ve been aware of the survival of the M&K films since Peter Worden and I first unpacked and catalogued the 780, mainly negative, rolls of highly flammable nitrate film back in 1994; 6 rolls were of this event.

    It was only more recently when I studied it again online that I glimpsed the two flat capped photographers casually snapping away from the waist, and chatting, that the penny dropped - they had used small hand held cameras.

    They can be seen to the right of the coachman as the Royal Party leave after the unveiling ceremony. https://youtu.be/0l4O6EtRb4Y?t=235. They are seen again later on https://youtu.be/0l4O6EtRb4Y?t=331

    Armed with this knowledge I now realise that one can also be seen walking back towards the camera position on the initial stereoview in the sequence. I have also now noticed that Wright does not assert copyright on any of them, he was just the publisher.

  • My research into Milford Wright has so far left more questions than answers. Advertising was presumably not part of his business model, I’ve found few entries regarding him in local or regional newspapers.

    David tells us he came to England as a salesman for Underwood & Underwood (U & U), before branching out on his own. However, was there an ongoing relationship between him, U & U, and B. L Singley (of Keystone fame) another former U & U salesman?

    Some surviving Excelsior stereoviews are dated. Mounts with the “Excelsior Stereoscopic Tours” branding showing images copyrighted by B. L Singley had appeared by 1895. That is two years before the earliest surviving, similarly captioned mounts I have seen (like the Burns Cottage example above) on which M. E. Wright asserts copyright. I’ve also seen two almost identical images inside Fountainebleu (some bedroom furniture has been moved) copyrighted by U & U and Wright respectively. Examination of the shadows and reflections in the two images suggest that they were taken in close succession from the same position, presumably by the same photographer.

    We know why Wright came to England, but why and when did he choose to settle in Burnley? He is not listed in the 1896 Barrett’s directory of the town, he may have been there in 1897, but he was definitely ensconced by 1900, when he offered his studio for sale. Once there, and if that sale went through, why did he choose to remain on the periphery of Burnley Wood? His 3 known addresses are all within 100 yards of that conveniently located studio, which from an O.S. map appears to have had a glasshouse at the rear. Why sell? Perhaps a nearby allotment for his beloved hens was a determining factor and it might have the answer.

    He is listed as a “Publisher of Stereo Views”, an employer, working from his home in Dall Street in the 1901 Census. His subsequent, rented, 3 Brooklands Road home address then features on his stereoviews, presumably until it was put up for sale in 1903. In the self-completed 1911 census he lists himself as a “Photographer”, an employer and still working from his home now on Hollingreave Road. Stereoviews bearing that address form the vast majority of survivals.

    That house only had a small back yard; however, did he also have a daylight studio on his allotment? According to his obituary he was also a well-known and successful intensive egg producer. His 74 “high quality” poultry and 6 hen houses had been auctioned off shortly before his death. That auction also included “one wooden building, 25ft. x 15ft, 10ft. at centre, containing 150 superficial feet of Window Space, the glass in it being in good condition.” Also for sale were “a Photographic Washing Tank, Enlargement Dishes with glass bottoms …. some photographic backgrounds, etc.” and two Rudge Whitworth bicycles.

    Wright asserts copyright on virtually all of his surviving Excelsior stereoviews that I have seen, if he took them all, he was very well travelled, as his 1915 US passport application seems to attest. I’ve only seen a couple of Excelsior stereoviews of his without his copyright assertion. In those instances the usual text just says that he is the publisher, one is a view of the full moon through a telescope, the other a view in China. One wonders how many images / rights did he buy in; or sell on? Hopefully other members will be able to comment and add to our knowledge.

  • Thanks Rob for this information about the likely dating of the the Milford E. Wright 'Highland outfit' photo taken in Dundee. Look forward to hearing/seeing more about your Wright / Excelsior stereo views.

    Readers may find this link to my blog works more effectively - Pressphotoman

  • Hi David, the Proctor cabinet photograph of MEW on your pressphotoman blog can be dated to between June 1885 when David Proctor took over the lease of, his former employer Mr. Ferrier’s studio in Arcade Buildings, King Street, Dundee, and March 1894 when Proctor removed to ‘larger and more central premises’ at 31 Wellgate. Incidentally, in 1885 he was charging 7 shillings a dozen for cartes-de-visite and 15 shillings a dozen for cabinets. Hope this helps, I will add more details re my Excelsior / Wright  stereoviews tomorrow.. Regards Rob

  • Hi Paula.

    I'd be delighted to write up a short paper for 'Stereo World' about Excelsior / Wright.

    Could you email me with a word-count and suggested deadline so I can factor it into my schedule... davidbarber@btinternet.com


  • Hi Peter.

    Thanks for your kind offer. I'd be very interested to see the Excelsior stereoview of the interior of Hereford Cathedral. Please send it to davidbarber@btinternet.com


  • Dr. Barber - Might you consider writing up a short paper on Excelsior / Wright for Stereo World the magazine of the National Stereoscopic Assoc.?  I'm sure it would not only be of interest to members, but would likely result in lots of new views from members.  I hope you will consider.  Best wishes, Paula Fleming

  • Hello Dr. Barber,  I do have an Excelsior stereoview of the interior of Hereford Cathedral, primarily showing the (former) 1862 G. G. Scott screen across the nave.  It's the only one that I've ever seen of Hereford, but survivors seem to be rare of any of his views.  If you would like a scan of it, I would be very happy to send it via email.

    Peter Klein  

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