An argument for cleaning things up…

The ongoing unpack – clean – reorganize project has unearthed many things, good and bad but here’s one item I just ran across at the bottom of a box.

No date on it or any information other than what you see here. I even forget where or when I acquired it, but now it’s perched on my desk: role model? cheer leader? fantasy fodder? I can’t quite decide yet.

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  1. Our Friend, the Internet

    The man in the photograph will have to remain a mystery, but we can find out more about the photographer:

    A fascinating contemporary account of the state of the art of photography in NYC in 1887 (Mora is mentioned in the penultimate paragraph):

    http://www.daguerre.org/resource/dagnews/1999/11-06-99.html

    As much as we’ll probably ever know about the photographer, and a collection of opera stars he photographed:

    http://www.historicopera.com/thumb_mora_left.htm

    A collection of 53 images by Mora:

    http://www.picturehistory.com/search?word1=mora&submit.x=7&submit.y=7

    especially these four:
    http://www.picturehistory.com/find/p/19540/mcms.html
    http://www.picturehistory.com/find/p/13387/mcms.html
    http://www.picturehistory.com/find/p/13388/mcms.html (a professional wrestler in 1870!)
    http://www.picturehistory.com/find/p/20899/mcms.html

  2. At first, I thought it was you, going to one of those old-timey “Old West” photo places. Whoever it is, he’s hot.

    I dunno, John Muir’s cuter younger brother? I’m at a loss here, people.

  3. Mora! Mora! Mora!

    Hmmmm, lifelong bachelor, interests in theater, opera, wrestlers, beards, photography, the arts. Extreme packrat. Eats a lot of pies and cakes. Nope, doesn’t suggest anybody to me…

    The California Historical Society lists the following in its photography collections:

    Photo Album No. 80
    Description-Photographers sample book. Postage size pictures.
    Photographer-Mora, 707 Broadway, NY
    Size-14 x 10

    (Regrettably, the CHS doesn’t seem to have any images online. Also, I’m wondering if Nayland’s card might be a Mora self portrait.)

    Fun facts:
    Mora lived as a recluse at the Breslin Hotel at Broadway and 29th.

    Also (if I’m Babelfishing this German correctly) there was a type of frameless picture holder named after him. (a “Morastaender”)

    Der Typ des rahmenlosen Bildhalters wurde als „Moraständer“ vertrieben – wohl nach dem New Yorker Fotografen José Maria Mora benannt, der seit 1870 unter der Adresse 707 Broadway ein Atelier betrieb (Robert Taft: Photography and the American Scene. A Social History 1839–1889. New York 1938 [Reprint New York 1989], S. 349, 500)
    [Source: M ê l é à n o t r e v i e , p a s s é d a n s n o s m œ u r s:
    Zu Geschichte und Funktion der Fotorahmung

  4. Even Mora…

    (For the link-phobic, here’s the bio from Thor’s link to historicopera.com)

    José Maria Mora – Photographer: A Spaniard born in Cuba in 1849 [or 1846], he found a safe haven in New York during the Cuban Revolution in 1868. After studying with Sarony, he opened his first studio in 1870 at 707 Broadway. Mora was noted for his extensive collection of painted backdrops (over 150), many designed by himself, that hung in his studio. A great deal of his profit was earned from selling these celebrity images (called “publics”) in theaters, hotels and other establishments all over the world. Later in his life Mora chose to live as a recluse at the Hotel Breslin in New York for the last fifteen years of his life. His meals subsisted mainly of fifteen-cent pies and cakes, and other food given to him by hotel guests, even though it was said that he had several savings accounts and property in Cuba and on Long Island. In September of 1926 he was declared incompetent by a sheriff’s jury who based their opinion on his appearance and incoherent talk. Earlier in the year he had been sent to St. Vincent’s Hospital after he had been found unconscious in his room. When his room was searched it was found to have been littered with scraps of food, and barely alive in a box were two pigeons. His bathroom was secured with four padlocks, and the bathtub filled with theatre programs and newspapers from years ago. Photographs of dead celebrities, and old theatre clippings decorated his walls and tables. Mora passed away on 18 Oct 1926 (the newspapers reported his age to be eighty) at St. Vincent’s Hospital. His only next of kin were reported to be cousins in Brazil, N.Y., and Cuba, and a sister who was said to be the wife of the Brazilian Ambassador to Germany in the days of Bismarck.

  5. Re: Our Friend, the Internet

    Interestingly Antiques Roadshow featured an album of cartes de visite, or rather, calling card pictures. The album contained over a hundred Civil War – Reconstruction era cartes and was valued at roughly $8,000. The most valuable were pictures of Sojourner Truth and a black post-Reconstruction congressman whose name I forget.

  6. Neither did my grandfathers, but my Great Grandfather was quite something else. I just arrived in Toronto and I have a portrait here, I will try to photograph it and post it…

  7. Hmm – I would bet more of a way to keep the shadow from falling across his face, given the lack of elecctical lighting. Still, it is a great angle.

    Nice user pic, BTW!

  8. Lordy, how did I miss this? I need to keep up with my LJ reading.

    He’s stunning. Boyish, but not a boy. He’s got to be in his 20’s. Why can’t big beards make a comeback as a fad? Just for a decade or two…

    And isn’t it funny, in this modern age of online classifieds and webcam crotch shots, to find someone intensely attractive based entirely on a face shot?

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