An Oboist from Reading, PA
09 June 2010
Posted by Mike Brubaker
The back shows the photographers' studio - Patton & Dietrich's Photograph Gallery, Cor. of Seventh & Penn Sts. Reading, PA. It features a simple woodcut illustration of a steam train, perhaps to suggest its location near the Reading Railway Station that was only a block south on 7th St.
Patton was George W. Patton, who was born in 1815 in New Jersey and listed his occupation as dagauretypeist in Reading's 1860 Census with personal property valued at $250. His younger partner Dietrich was William H. Dietrich, born 1841, who began working in Reading in the 1860's and at sometime around 1865 joined partners with Patton. Their studio stays listed in the Reading city directory through 1888. But by 1890 Dietrich has a sideline as a grocer with his son, William Jr., and by 1891, Patton is gone and William is no longer listed as a photographer. Dating businesses is difficult, but it seems unlikely that any misinformation would persist over annual directories.
Here is another of Dietrich's photos. Written on the back is the name Charles Lelan but with a different logo for William H. Dietrick underneath a blue 2 cent tax stamp, marked Diet. The census records for the mid-1800's do not show anyone named William Dietrick in Reading, so I believe William H. started his photography business with a more Germanic spelling, and then later changed it to Dietrich. In 1862 Congress passed new wartime taxes in order to finance the cost of preserving the union, and in 1864 extended it to include revenue stamps on matches and photographs. In 1865 the rate was reduced to 1 cent, and then shortly after the end of the war it was repealed. This gives a reasonably precise time period for Dietrich and Mr. Lelan.
Unfortunately, Charles Lelan has a name that can be spelled many ways and I can't find any history for him. Dietrich's first studio is a block west from the later one with Patton. Note the price of photos, Four Cards for One Dollar. In the 1865 Pennsylvania Tax records, Patton's income is listed as $200 for which he paid a 5% tax of $10.
The tax records provide an interesting look into civic life, and by chance I found a reference to tax collected in 1865 from a theater manager at 7th & Penn Sts. the same address as P&D's Photography Gallery. Perhaps this was the entertainment district of Reading, and the oboe player might be a theater musician.
Reading, PA was a busy place in the 19th Century, with a population of around 64,000 in the 1880's. As part of the first railway system in America, it quickly grew into a cosmopolitan hub of culture. By 1887, Patton and Dietrich were just 2 of 11 photographers working in the city.
There were two opera houses and the Grand Opera was at Penn and 4th Sts. There were 4 bands: the Ringgold Cornet band, est. 1852; the Liberty Cornet Band; The Germania Band; and the Mechanics' band. The Ringgold Band continues as America's oldest community band today. Ringgold Band History
There 6 musical societies, including 3 choral groups; a fife & drum band; a music club; and an orchestra. The Excelsior Orchestra organized in 1879 with Albert Taenzer as its music director, was only a block south from 7th & Penn Sts. The Amphion Music Club was on 5th & Penn. and met every Tuesday evening.
So who is this young man with the oboe? Unfortunately it is another mystery. But I do know that he chose a most difficult instrument to play, and for him to include it in a photograph shows a sense of pride and accomplishment.