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ROOT, Samuel

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195 W. 17th. Photo courtesy: Old House Enthusiasts' Club House Tour, 2004
Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
One of the Root pictures of Dubuque published in Stereographic Views of Dubuque and Surrounding Scenery
One of the Root pictures of Dubuque published in Stereographic Views of Dubuque and Surrounding Scenery
One of the Root pictures of Dubuque published in Stereographic Views of Dubuque and Surrounding Scenery: Photo courtesy: New York Public Library
One of the Root pictures of Dubuque published in Stereographic Views of Dubuque and Surrounding Scenery
One of the Root pictures of Dubuque published in Stereographic Views of Dubuque and Surrounding Scenery
1858 storefront (left)

ROOT, Samuel. (Granville, OH, 1820--Rochester, NY, Mar. 11, 1889). Root first appeared as a daguerreian, a photographer who specialized in daguerreotypes, in New York City, N.Y., from 1849 to 1857. In 1849, Marcus Root opened a New York City daguerreian gallery at the corner of Franklin Street and Broadway and placed Samuel in charge. (1) In 1850, one of the Root brothers, probably Marcus, produced the first daguerreotype of "the Swedish Nightengale,"Jenny Lind in New York City. (2) Samuel Root also made daguerreotypes of such important people as Henry Clay and Bayard Taylor.

From 1851 to 1853, Marcus and Samuel Root were listed as daguerreians at 363 Broadway, New York City. They were listed in both the 1851-1852 and 1852-1853 directories. In 1851, the Root Brothers exhibited eight double whole plate daguerreotypes, 14 full plates; 12 two-thirds plates; 14 half plates and two quarter-plates at the American Institute, Castle Garden, New York. They won silver medals from the American Institute in 1850 and 1852. (3)

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

Root's first wife died, and he remarried and in 1857 moved his family. (4) He announced the grand opening of his gallery, S. ROOT'S NEW DAGUERREIAN GALLERY, at 166 Main Street over Glackmeyer and McDonald's clothing store on October 20th of that year. (5)

Root moved his gallery to several locations during his time in Dubuque. The 1859-1860 Dubuque City Directory listed his studio at the corner of 8th and Main. In 1863 the city directory carried a full-page advertisement listing his business location as "S. Root's Premium Daguerrean and Photographic Gallery" still at 166 Main Street. He appears to have maintained an interest in the New York studio which was managed by Thomas Faris. (6) In 1865 the directory listed the gallery as the corner of 8th and Main. (7) By 1868 he had moved to the Sanford Block at the northeast corner of 8th and Main. He remained there for nearly twenty years. Root and EPHRAIM CUTTER conducted a brief partnership, Root and Cutter Gallery, at that address in 1868. (8) The 1870 to 1887 directories list Root as doing business alone at the same address. (9)

In 1876 Root spent a great deal of time adding a collection of "handsome ladies" to a display case at the foot of the stairs leading to his studio. When the collection was stolen, Root, showing good humor, blamed it on some "crusty old bachelor." (10)

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Dubuque Herald, Jan. 1, 1860. Photo courtesy: Diane Harris

Root's daguerreotypes of many Dubuque residences and businesses formed the basis of a lithographic view of Dubuque published in 1858 by W.J. Gilbert, a local bookseller. (11) Root published several stereographic series including Views of Dubuque and Vicinity, Scenery in and Around Dubuque, Stereographic Views of Dubuque and Surrounding Scenery, and Scenery on the Mississippi and Tributaries in the Vicinity of Dubuque, Iowa. (12) In 1874 he was elected vice president of the national photographers' association at its convention in Chicago. (13)

Root, referred to occasionally in newspapers as "the artist of the northwest," found subjects in nature. In 1880 following a flood, he completed a line of stereoscopic views of Dubuque and vicinity. As described in the Dubuque Herald, "they are just the thing for Dubuquers to send to their friends at a distance to let them know how near we came (to) being swamped." (14) In 1882 a hail storm destroyed the skylight of Root's gallery, but he made the best of the incident by photographing some of the largest "stones."

Root died suddenly of a stroke while visiting his sister-in-law.



1. "Marcus and Samuel Root" Historic Camera History Librarium http://historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium2/pm.cgi?action=app_display&app=datasheet&app_id=2024&

2. Treadwell, T. K. and Darrah, William C. "Photographers of the United States of America," National Stereoscopic Association, 1994, Online: http://stereoworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/US-PHOTOGRAPHERS.pdf

3. Historic Camera History Librarium.

4. Palmquist, Peter E. and Kailbourn, Thomas R. Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide: A Biographical Dictionary, 1839-1865 p. 523

5. Historic Camera History Librarium

6. Palmquist, p. 523

7. Ibid.

8. Oldt, Franklin T., History of Dubuque County, Iowa, p. 869

9. Palmquist, p. 523

10. Ibid.

11. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, November 21, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18761121&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. "Caught on the Fly," The Daily Herald, July 23, 1880, p. 4