Bisbee was a daguerreotypist, photographer, inventor, and author. His History and Practice of Daguerreotyping was published in 1853, the same year he opened a photography studio in partnership with James Robertson on Main Street in Dayton, Ohio. He later operated portrait studios in Cleveland, Columbus, and Zanesville. The rocking horse was a popular prop for photographers, who were often called upon to take portraits of children. The toy’s presence in so many pictures suggests that clients of city studio photographers were often members of the rising middle class, who could not only afford a rocking horse but the relative luxury of portraits of their children.
Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996)