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James Earle McClees
Date: American, 1821-1887
active in:United States, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Biography: (1821-1887) Born in Chester City, Pa., his family moved to Philadelphia in 1829, and he was reported to have begun his photographic career in 1844, working for M.P. Simons. In 1847, McClees was listed as a daguerreian at 80-1/2 Walnut St., Philadelphia, in partnership as McClees and Germon, with Washington L. Germon. From 1848 to 1855 he was listed as a daguerreian, in the same partnership with Germon, at the southeast corner of Eighth and Chestnut Streets. This was probably the same address as 182 Chestnut St. In 1854 and 1855 the firm was listed at 160 Chestnut Street. In 1854, McClees traveled to Boston to learn photographic processes from John W. Black. One source also reported that in 1854 McClees and Germon moved their studio to 626 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, a location where they had been previously burned out. In 1855, McClees went to Europe, and returned with Leonard Fauderbeck, who painted the first life-size photographs in the U.S. In 1857, McClees was listed alone as a daguerreian at 160 Chestnut St., Philadelphia. In the winter (October) of 1857, McClees also opened a gallery in Washington, D.C., at 308 Pennsylvania Avenue. The principal operator for McClees in this gallery was Julian Vannerson; he also employed Samuel Cohner (Croner). The gallery operated until at least 1860. In announcing the opening of the gallery, McClees advertised it would be conducted by Vannerson, assisted by a Parisian artist with previous experience in New York City, and several chemical experts. The 308 Pennsylvania Avenue address was between 9th and 10th Streets, over Davis' Piano Store. From 1858 to 1860, in Philadelphia, McClees was listed as a daguerreian at 626 Chestnut St. In 1860, he was listed in business as McClees & Co., the "Philadelphia Photographic Emporium." In this same year, he moved his gallery to 910 Chestnut St. In 1860 in Washington, McClees listed himself in partnership as McClees and Beck (T.J.D.) at 308 Pennsylvania Avenue, and listed his home as being in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1867, he sold his gallery to William Bell. McClees died in 1887 in Philadelphia. Notes: McClees is credited with making the first collodion negative in this country. Imprinted cases have been seen marked "McClees" and "McClees and Germon." A late daguerreotype by McClees exists which is dated January 7, 1858. Information corrected to November, 1997; © 1996, 1997 John S. Craig