Biography: 19th Century photographer Benjamin W. Kilburn

Biography: 19th Century photographer Benjamin W. Kilburn


Benjamin Kilburn (1827 – 1909) was an American photographer and stereoscopic view publisher famous for his landscape images of the nascent American and Canadian state, provincial, and national parks and his visual record of the great migrations at the end of the nineteenth century.

Kilburn Brothers stereoviews date from about 1865. Published sources attribute their stereographs before 1876 solely to Benjamin. His brother, Edward Kilburn (1830 – 1884), however, learned the art of photography from a local daguerreotypist, Ora C. Bolton, from neighboring Waterford, Vermont at an earlier date.

Photographer O. C. Bolton also taught Franklin G. Weller of Littleton, New Hampshire. Weller became a notable stereo-photographer who would introduce comic views of a special local color and pioneer a popular line which appeared in later Kilburn subject categories. Bolton was connected with another early stereo-photographer, Franklin L. White of Lancaster, New Hampshire, who published a view list of glass stereographs in 1859.

Early period Kilburn stereoviews were sold by Joseph L. Bates, a retail outlet which specialized in Oliver Wendell Holmes stereo-viewers at his location on Washington Street, Boston. A Kilburn-Bates stereoview catalog was published about 1867. The Kilburn list reflected choices similar to those of Franklin L. White. Bates commercial support gave Kilburn Brothers their first significant push in the marketplace.

Stereograph of Boston Common by B.W. Kilburn

Stereograph of Boston Common by B.W. Kilburn

Castle Garden, New York, 1891

Castle Garden, New York, 1891 by B.W. Kilburn

Franconia, New Hampshire, 1880

Franconia, New Hampshire, 1880 by B.W. Kilburn

Boston, Massachusetts, ca.1880s-1890s

Boston, Massachusetts, ca.1880s-1890s by B.W. Kilburn

World's Columbian Exposition Official fair style, Chicago, IL, 1893

World’s Columbian Exposition Official fair style, Chicago, IL, 1893 by B.W. Kilburn

Great Boston Fire of 1872 Boston, MA Nov 1872

Great Boston Fire of 1872 Boston, MA Nov 1872 by B.W. Kilburn

Summit, New Hampshire, 1872 - 1877

Summit, New Hampshire, 1872 – 1877 by B.W. Kilburn

Appomattox, Virginia, 1865 - 1868

Appomattox, Virginia, 1865 – 1868 by B.W. Kilburn


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