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HomeContents > People > Photographers > T.R. Burnham

Other: Thomas R. Burnham 
Other: Thomas Rice Burnham 
Active:  US
Thomas Rice Burnham (1834-1893) or T.R. Burnham was an American photographer. In the 1860ís he worked in Maine with Asa Marsh Burnham as "Burnham Bros." He later moved to Boston, Massachusetts and operated from a studio on Washington Street until at least 1885.
He belonged to the Boston Photographic Society and/or Boston Association of Photographers; among his contemporaries were J.W. Black, E.J. Foss, and E.F. Smith.
Thomas Rice Burnham was born to Asa and Lydia Parsons Burnham in 1834 in Winslow, Maine. Little is known about his education or family life beyond he was one of four children and began his professional career in Portland, Maine. After a short stay in New York, Mr. Burnham moved to Boston in the early 1860ís, where he opened the first of several studios at 247 Washington Street, the heart of downtown Boston. The bulk of Mr. Burnham's trade was commercial portraits, cartes des visite (CDVs) in particular, using glass plate negatives. His portfolio was a veritable Who's Who of prominent Americans, which include President Abraham Lincoln, General Ulysses S. Grant, and actor Edwin Booth. His CDVs of departing Civil War soldiers became treasured mementoes of families and friends.
Mr. Burnham prided himself on being both artist and scientist, and frequently described by his professional colleagues as possessing "a very unique character." His experiments with glass plate negatives were enthusiastically chronicled by photographic club journals and industry publications. In 1870, he was named Vice President of the newly formed Boston Photographic Society. Three years later, he and partner Edward Sidney Dunshee were operating the Dunshee & Burnham gallery at 323 Washington Street.
By 1875, Mr. Burnham was concentrating on panoramic views, and introduced his large photographs that he declared were made from a "half and half" instrument he constructed with Usner and Alvan Clark lenses to an enthusiastic group of local artists. He explained this lens combination provided him with great depth without image distortion. Mr. Burnham's 20 x 24" views of Niagara Falls were constructed by reversing the front lens of his hand-crafted instrument. Each of these large plates required 6 oz. of collodion to coat, and the ever-innovative Mr. Burnham used a tar-coated pine bath dish that was approximately 9" longer than his glass plate. Despite the extreme difficulties associated with such an undertaking, his images are amazingly free of the mist that tended to obscure previous views of Niagara Falls.
Burnham died in 1893 and was buried at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville, Kennebec County, Maine.
Biography courtesy of Dave Morin (18 July 2021) 
Stereographs project 
Business locations 
Boston, MA, US 
[6-9] [Thomas Rice Burnham] "Photographic Artist"; views rare [2], studio portrait of girl, view on Boston Common. Also produced SI formats, cabinet & CDVs. Listed in Boston 63-77, 79-87 and 89-93. 
T.K. Treadwell & William C. Darrah (Compiled by), Wolfgang, Sell (Updated by), 11/28/2003, Photographers of the United States of America, (National Stereoscopic Association)
Credit: National Stereoscopic Association with corrections and additions by Alan Griffiths and others.
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