Samuel J Wiseman's was a photographer and fine art dealer in Southampton for over 50 years. As well as numerous portraits, Wiseman also produced many cartes de visite and stereoscope views of local landmarks and street scenes. He was born in Southampton and served an apprenticeship as a carver and gilder at the beginning of his working life. His brother Joseph was a tailor at first,(like their father), before he too took up photography and then emigrated to Canada in 1872.
In 1851 the census recorded Samuel J Wiseman, apprentice carver and gilder at 5 College Street living with his older brother Joseph and family. S.J Wiseman married Mary Ann Faulkner in 1853, and in the same year the Post Office Directory listed Samuel J wiseman, 'Carver and Gilder &c', and Joseph Wiseman, Tailor, at number 10 Bernard Street. The 1859 White's Hampshire and Isle of Wight Directory included S.J Wiseman at 10 Bernard Street in the section for Carvers and Gilders, and also in the 'Booksellers, Stationers, Binders &c' section. Wiseman was possibly also a photographer by this time. However, he was not listed in Southampton Directories as a photographer until 1863.
Carte de visite early 1860s
Wiseman was living with his wife and 2 young daughters in Woolston at the time of the 1861 census, and his occupation was given as Carver and Gilder. Wiseman's name appeared for the first time in a trade directory Photographers section in 1863. His studio was at 9 Bernard Street, where 2 young photographers worked for him in the mid 1860s. Adams and Stilliard eventually formed a partnership and took over the Bernard Street studio from Wiseman in about 1867. By that time Wiseman's name was well respected, and the text on the back of Adams and Stilliard portraits stated with pride that the partnership was 'late Wiseman'.
Wiseman opened a second studio at 15 Above Bar in 1863, known as Wiseman's Fine Art Repository. The larger premises allowed Wiseman to extend the range of goods and services he could offer. The Repository was located on the West side of Above Bar, between the Bargate and Spa Road, and included a large art gallery and a fine art dealership, as well as the photography studio. Wiseman had firmly established his credentials as an 'Artist in Photography'. Clients for the up market photography studio were able to enjoy the art on display at the gallery and in the shop. Despite the opulent and luxurious surroundings of the gallery and art dealership (see the guide book description below), Wiseman's portraits were taken against simple back drops, and the use of furniture and props was generally minimal in comparison to the settings favoured by the majority of his contemporaries.
Detail from the lease on 15 Above Bar, 1863
In 1864 Wiseman produced a carte de visite portrait of Confederate Officers that has appeared in many books and on websites about the American Civil War. The American Confederate ship the CSS Alabama was sunk by a Union Ship off Cherbourg at the Battle of Kearsarge, and about 30 of the crew were rescued by the British yacht, The Deerhound. Captain Raphael Semmes and 14 officers were among those rescued by the Deerhound. Rather than hand them over to the Union ship, the Captain of the Deerhound took the rescued officers and crew to Southampton. While recovering in Southampton, Captain Semmes and officers Kell and Wiblin chose the studio of Samuel J Wiseman to go to for a portrait souvenir of their stay. For the second time, Southampton had hosted Confederate officers and sailors, generating a great deal of interest nationally. ( See entry for John Beer and The CSS Nashville.)
Advertisement in Cox's Directory 1869
Carte de visite 1865
Carte de visite 1860s
In 1870, when the Fine Art Repository was going from strength to strength, and the trade in carte de visites was booming, Wiseman's wife Mary Ann died. The 1871 census listed him as a widower at 15 Above Bar with his oldest daughter Annie, young son Ernest, niece Clara, and 2 servants. Wiseman gave his occupation as Carver and Gilder. Two other daughters, Rosa and Flora, were away at The Forest Edge Girls Boarding School in Totton. Wiseman married again in 1873 and 2 more daughters were born; Ethel in 1877 and Olive in 1880.
Carte de visite 1860s
Carte de visite 1870s
Wiseman was listed as a photographer at the Fine Art Repository throughout the 1870s. Wiseman produced so many Carte de visite portraits in the 1860s and 1870s, many can be found today. As carte de visite portraits passed the peak of their popularity, Wiseman increasingly produced photographs of Churches, the medieval buildings in Southampton, and other landmarks. The surviving photographs by Wiseman after the 1870s are mostly stereoscope views of Southampton and the surrounding area.
Carte de visite 1870s
Stereoscope view of Above Bar. The second building from the left appears to be Wiseman's Artists Repository and Studio, see carte de visite below.
Carte de visite dated March 1881
Wiseman was recently bereaved for the second time when the 1881 census was taken in April. His wife Sarah had died in January that year when Olive was only 5 months old, and Ethel 3 years. Wiseman's teenage daughters and son Ernest were also living in the house in Charlton Road, Millbrook, along with a nurse and one general servant. Wiseman''s occupation was Fine Art Dealer, but no occupations were given for his young adult children. In 1885 Wiseman married Ellen Tomkins in Portsea, and their daughter Margaret was born a year later. At the time of the 1891 census Wiseman's daughter Rosa was involved in the running of the Fine Art Repository. Wiseman lived in Millbrook with his wife and daughter, and his daughters Annie, Rosa, Ethel and Olive lived at the business at 15 Above Bar with 2 servants. Annie's occupation was teacher, and Rosa was an Art Repository Assistant.
One of the galleries at the Fine Art repository at 15 Above Bar, from A Descriptive Account of Southampton Illustrated 1895 (Image courtesy of Southampton Central Library)
A guide book to Southampton produced in about 1895 included write ups of some businesses in Southampton, including Wiseman's Fine Art Repository. The article described the 'fine double front looking particularly attractive with its display of high class etchings and engravings, artists materials and fancy goods.' The ranges of artists materials, stationery and fancy goods were praised by the reviewer, as was the extensive collection of etchings, engravings and paintings for sale and on display in the galleries upstairs. The report described the workshops at the rear of the repository where innovative display equipment for shops and businesses of all kinds were developed, as well as the framing and restoration workshop. Despite a detailed description of all departments in the business, no mention was made of photography at all. The same guide book included a review of Hubert Henry's photography studio at 32 High St. Henry's studio had been the Alhambra Studios of Adams and Stilliard/Scanlan.
Cartes de visite 1870s
In the late 1890s the Fine Art repository relocated to 54 Above Bar, on the East side, between the Bargate and Poundtree Road. After 1895, Wiseman did not advertise the Fine Art Repository in the photographers section of trade directories. In the following years Wiseman was listed with 'artists colormen', carvers and gilders, picture frame makers, fine art dealers and print sellers, fancy repositories, and picture frame makers.
The 1901 census recorded Wiseman, his wife Ellen, 4 of his daughters and one general servant at 54 Above Bar. Wiseman's occupation was Fine Art Decorator; his daughter Rosa was a Fine Art Manageress, and Ethel and Olive were her assistants. A year later in 1902 Wiseman's wife Ellen died and he was a widower for the third time. Soon after the family moved to Highfield but continued to run the Fine Art Repository at 54 Above Bar, as a Limited Company. The 1911 census recorded S.J Wiseman as Governing Director and Fine Art Dealer, Rosa as Managing Director, Ethel as Director and Olive as secretary. Wiseman's eldest daughter Annie, and youngest daughter Margaret were also living with their father and sisters, but no occupations were given. Samuel J Wiseman died in 1914, and was buried in Southampton cemetery. His daughters continued to run Wiseman's Fine Art Dealers until about 1936. The business was listed for the last time in 1936, sharing number 54 with an Insurance Company. In 1839 54 Above Bar was Saxone's Shoe Shop. Most of Above Bar was destroyed in WW2, including number 54.
Finely hand coloured carte de visite 1870s
In 1871 Fannie, Ida and their older sister Emily lived with an aunt and a cousin at 'Lake House', Waterloo Road, Freemantle. The sisters were born in Islay, Troon and Belfast.
Carte de visite 1870s. Wiseman's portraits were rarely taken in front of a painted backdrop.