Whitney's Gallery, 3rd Street and Cedar Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota (Razed)

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Whitney's Gallery

Neighborhood/s: Downtown, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Ramsey County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Historic Function: Daguerreotype Gallery and Studio; Charles D. Elfelt's Store

Downtown Saint Paul Ramsey

Joel Emmons Whitney (1822-1886) is a true pioneer of Minnesota photography. He is one of the first people to practice photography in the Midwest, and some of the oldest extant images of Minnesota were created by Whitney. Alexander Helser, a pioneer in the art of the daguerreotype, taught Whitney how to capture images. Hesler worked out of Chicago, but in 1851 Whitney accompanied Hesler around St. Paul and Minneapolis to capture the wilderness scenes of what would become the Twin Cities. Whitney was most likely assisting Hesler when Helser captured a famous image of Minnehaha falls. This image inspired Wadsworth Longfellow to write the famous epic poem “Song of Hiawatha.”

Whitney occupied the space above Charles D. Elfelt’s clothing store on 3rd and Cedar from 1851 to 1867. The building pictured here reportedly contained a skylight which made the second story a natural-light studio for taking daguerreotypes. This image of the building is from 1851 when Whitney was working only with daguerreotypes. Whitney was an early adopter of photography, and his gallery was later known as “Whitney’s Pioneer Gallery and Photographic Depot.” Local newspapers from Whitney’s time often refer to him as the first photographer of St. Paul.

Whitney had many partners in his long career as a daguerrian and photographer. Aside from his mentor Alexander Helser, Whitney partnered with Charles Zimmerman, George Nichols, Moses Tuttle, William Combs, James Edgar Martin, Falkenshield and Otto Pasel. Whitney was nearly deaf for most of his life, and historians have speculated that he always had partners in the photographic business because he had a hard time communicating with customers.


Memories and stories

Photo Gallery

Related Links

Here are some photos by Whitney from the MNHS Photo and Art Database
Here is some more information about Whitney
Here is a link to the studio of Whitney's friend and partner Charles Zimmerman


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