The earliest history of photography dates from about 1839 in the United States. However, the initial process was invented in France by 1826 being somewhat primitive. By 1838 small improvements were made in the lighting, and exposure times by Louis Daguerre. His photograph “Boulevard Du Temple” taken in 1838 is generally accepted as the earliest photograph to include persons. The image was of a street in Paris, but because of the long exposure time, no trace of the moving traffic was found on the photograph. Their were two men who were pictured in the image, but they had to remain in place long enough to allow them to be visible. In studios that started to appear in the United States after 1839 lighting was especially important to the success of the photographer.
The village of Fredericksburg over the years had several men who worked in this trade. Not all were professionals. As early as 1880 John C. Bohn worked as a photographer in town. Some the other early photographers besides Bohn who either had studios in town or who from here included Lee H. Wolfe, his younger Brother U. Grant Wolfe, Levi S. Peiffer, William S. Anspach, Herbert A. Kemp, and William H. Bender. The last named was a amateur by trade, and made his living with other work. William H. Bender was born on May 19, 1877 in Porter Township, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. His father was a coal miner named John H.C. Bender who when he died in 1893 left a family of 6 children-the oldest of which was our subject. Bender worked as a slate picker for the Brookside Colliery in Tower City from 1890 until about 1896. Afterwards he worked as a laborer in Schuylkill County until 1900 when he moved to Lebanon, PA.
When William Bender moved to Lebanon he boarded at 494 New Street and worked as a furnace filler for one of the local iron companies. A couple of years in 1903 later he entered into the photography business. Working initially for his Uncle Lee H. Wolfe and his Uncle U. Grant Wolfe who had offices on Cumberland Street. When he started in this line of work of photography he lived at 501 Canal Street boarding for a couple of years. Bender the previous year on June 19, 1904 in Johnstown, PA married a local girl Anna M. Bowman who was the daughter of Samuel B. Bowman who worked as a railroad watchman at 12th & Cumberland Street for more than 20 years. By 1910 Bender moved to Bethel Township and lived in the vicinity of Fredericksburg where he dabbled again in the occupation always working as a amateur. While living near town, was when he worked as an amateur photographer seeking work wherever suitable employment could be located.
Bender took a number of photographs of the surrounding area and images of the citizens of the region. He worked indiscriminately at this work for several year before deciding to move to neighboring Berks County where he worked as a coal miner. Later in life as he got older he retired from active manual labor and worked as a janitor until his death on February 11, 1950 in Lebanon, PA. His body was removed for burial and interred in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg next to his wife Anna M. Bowman who preceded him in death in 1934.
Looking at the photographer stamp on the rear of this postcard taken from his photo studio you will notice that William Bender misspelled his occupation on the rubber stamp promoting his business. As an amateur-his photographs were mainly done on old card stock of various sizes or postcards, while professionally done pictures were printed on better quality material with the photographer identifying markings engraved or printed on the image sometimes with ornate designs.
To leave a comment or ask a question click here.