(Images used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives. Text is based on an article which appeared online in PACivilWar150.com)
Seen here are two images from the early 1890s at St. Joseph’s Academy in Emmitsburg. One is the group image of the Class of 1894; the other is an art classroom. They are, of course, a window into the lives of the young women who were educated in Emmitsburg over 100 years ago; however, they have a second interesting feature. They, along with other images in our St. Joseph’s Academy collection, are the work of a well-known Civil War photographer, William H. Tipton.
At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the only local commercial studio in the town was operated by Charles J. (1838-1906) and Isaac G. Tyson (1833-1913). The studio was founded in 1859. Tipton (1850-1929) was a native of Gettysburg who began working there as an apprentice at the age of twelve. Following the battle, the studio distributed images documenting the battlefield area and Gettysburg itself taken before and after the battle.
In 1866 Tipton and one of his employees, Robert A. Myers, purchased the studio from the Tysons and renamed it Tipton and Myers Excelsior Gallery. In 1880 Tipton became sole owner and the firm became known as W. H. Tipton and Company. Tipton’s business flourished, and he continued to photograph Civil War battlefields, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Spotsylvania, and Chancellorsville. He served on the Gettysburg Town Council and was elected to the state legislature, and worked on President Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign.
An indication of the scope of Tipton’s business can be seen on the back of the 1894 class picture, which contains this note:
… I have many thousands of plates taken from battle to present time, from which I can furnish photographs or lantern slides.
Headquarters for souvenir albums, guide book, and tourists novelties.
3 Main Street
Today, Tipton’s Civil War photography resides at the National Archives, as part of the records of the National Park Service.
Included in that collection are people and scenes used by Paul Philippoteaux as the basis for his Gettysburg Cyclorama. The cyclorama, now restored, can be seen today in the Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park. It is not clear how much of Tipton’s non-Civil-War photography has survived. The Provincial Archives has none of Tipton’s business records, nor do we have images of Tipton’s connected with Gettysburg or the Civil War. The images of his that we have are from work he did for the Daughters of Charity at St. Joseph’s Academy. However, we were pleased to find that our collections can add, in a small way, to the record of this important local photographer.