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Churchill and Denison Studios

Active in:

  • Albany, New York

Biography

Remmett E. Churchill and his partner, D. Denison, began their careers as daguerreotypists in Albany during the 1850s. By the following decade they had opened a studio specializing in school and public-event commissions.

The U.S. Sanitary Commission was established by Mary Aston Livermore in 1863 as a civilian auxiliary organization dedicated to reform and raising funds to improve health conditions in military facilities. Fairs were held in many cities, featuring exhibition halls for the display of art and commercial products. The first fair, held in Chicago in November 1863, raised $80,000. The enterprise was unique in its day, offering the opportunity to sell goods while also promoting a national cause. More than a dozen fairs were held and eventually inspired the founding of the American Red Cross.

Both amateur and professional photographers exhibited their work, and many were also employed by the fairs. The sale of souvenir photographs, stereographs, books, and photo albums was lucrative. As mementos, these products presumably sustained the public's interest in the cause. As the "official photographer" of the Albany fair, the local studio of Churchill and Denison was probably responsible for this elegant, though unsigned, portrait of four young members of the Sanitary Commission.

Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996)