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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins

1847 - 1922

Nathaniel L Stebbins was a New England based photographer who was active from the late 19th century up until 1922. He photographed sailing ships active around Boston and New York.

From Historic New England:

"Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins was born in 1847 in Meadville, Pennsylvania to Rev. Dr. Rufus P. Stebbins and Eliza Livermore Stebbins. He was a commercial photographer in Boston from 1884 until his death in 1922. During that time, his records indicate that he created over 25,000 glass plate negatives, more than half of which were of marine subjects. Stebbins also worked as an architectural photographer, and approximately 125 architectural prints are included with the marine materials. Throughout the course of his career, Stebbins published several books on marine and naval topics, including "The New Navy of the United States" (1912), "The Illustrated Coast Pilot, with Sailing Directions" (1891), and "The Yachtsman's Album" (1896). Mrs. Katharine Stevens, a daughter of the photographer, was living in Vermont in the 1970s and supplied the following biographical material: "Nathaniel L. Stebbins was the son of the Rev. Dr. Rufus P. Stebbins, a prominent Unitarian clergyman, and, for twelve years, president of Meadville Theological School, and of his wife, formerly Eliza Livermore of Cambridge. From boyhood he had a great love of the sea and of ships. As a young man he made a voyage to South America as passenger on a sailing vessel, and this increased his longing to be always in sight of the ocean. It was in about 1882 that he became interested in photography. I was a small child but I remember well his improvised darkroom in our bathroom and the portraits of us all that he experimented with. Very soon he was ready to give his whole time to photography, and since there were few specializing in marine pictures, it was natural that he saw that field as one which offered little competition, as well as an opportunity to be on the sea. He did do other sorts of photography, in the season when the marine work was not active. Much of this was theatrical, some was for railroads, and so on.Father was a member of the Corinthian and Eastern Yacht Clubs in Marblehead and of one in Boston. In order to be in touch with yachtsmen and yachting events, he had for some years a sturdy 40-foot sloop. One year he had a yawl, and another season he chartered a steam yacht. For big races, where he had to maneuver quickly, he would charter a tug.Cameras in those days were large, heavy things, and a box of glass plates in their holders was heavier. He sometimes had a boy to help carry them to the wharf, but I can still see his rather small, spry figure balancing by the rail in the heaving bow of the boat, while he lifted the great camera to get his shot. Of course we held our breaths, for he couldn't swim a stroke.In order to produce the Illustrated Coast Pilot father passed the examinations for a licensed coast pilot from Machias to some point south of New York. Many of the photographs in that book were secured when he went on the routine trips of the lighthouse tenders, by permission of the United States Lighthouse Board."