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John Lyman Lovell Photograph Collection

Identifier: MA.00407

Scope and Contents

The John Lyman Lovell Photograph Collection consists of cased images (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes) and carte-de-visites related to the family of Amherst photographer John Lyman Lovell and to Lovell's professional work. There are also two notebooks with material about Lovell and miscellaneous images made by or related to Lovell. All of this material was collected by Gunter Mueller.

The collection contains a total of 34 cased images: 2 ninth-plate milk glass images in oval cases; 1 ninth-plate daguerreotype in an oval case; 1 ninth-plate daguerreotype in a leather case; 7 ninth-plate ambrotypes; 13 sixth-plate daguerreotypes; 4 sixth-plate ambrotypes; 3 quarter-plate daguerreotypes; 1 quarter-plate tintype; 1 half-plate daguerreotype, and 1 half-plate outdoor ambrotype. Also included in the collection: 24 carte de visites; 6 cabinet cards; 3 tintypes; 1 oval paper image of a man; 2 postcards, and 1 envelope with Lovell address.


  • circa 1845-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1848-1890

Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the John Lyman Lovell Photograph Collection for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes. Daguerreotypes should be returned to their boxes with the image face-down.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the John Lyman Lovell Photograph Collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

The following note is adapted from Gunter Mueller's text in Notebook No. 1 (see Box 1 for this notebook):

John Lyman Lovell was born on December 19, 1825, in Holden, Mass. He was the oldest child of John and Maria (Lyman) Lovell. The father, John Lovell was born on February 8, 1793, probably in Ornaga Ill., since this is where the earliest records indicate the family home was located, and it was where, after his death on July 24, 1864, in Amherst, Mass., he was interred. It is unknown at what date John (the father) moved east, but his marriage to Maria Lyman on January 1, 1822, may have been the approximate time.

Maria Lyman was born on January 31, 1799 in Vergennes, Vermont, to Jesse and Jerusha Hunt Lyman, both originally from Connecticut.

John and Maria Lovell had six children:

1. John Lyman Lovell, b. December 19, 1825 in Holden, Mass., d. December 8, 1903 in Newport, New Hamp., buried Amherst Mass. 2. Henry Martin Lovell, b. December 29, 1827, d. 1903, buried in Onarga, Ill. 3. Mary Jerusha Lovell Brainerd, b. January 17, 1830, d. 1904. 4. George Manly Lovell, b. December 30, 1831, d. 1910. 5. Elizabeth Emery Lovell, b. 1836, d. 1904. 6. Jane Maria Lovell, b. March 17, 1834, d. September, 1847, buried in Ware, Mass.

John Lyman Lovell was married on October 14, 1847, to Nancy Marie Wellman (b. June 21, 1823, in Dorset Vermont, d. 1903). 22-year-old John and 24-year-old Nancy appear to have settled first in or around Ware Mass. The couple had four children:

1. Henry Lyman Lovell, b. 1853 in Ware, Mass., d. 1916 in Baltimore, Maryland. 2. Charles Otto Lovell, b. January 14, 1859 in Amherst Mass. 3. Fred Ellsworth Lovell, b. March 16, 1861 in Amherst, Mass., d. February 2, 1907 in Newport, New Hamp. 4. Mary Jane Lovell, b 1867, d. 1934

John L. Lovell is thought to have learned the daguerreian photo process in 1849 while living in Ware. He may have had a photo gallery in Ware but this idea has not been verified.

At some point in 1852 John moved to Brattleboro, Vermont, and established a daguerreian studio in the Cutter Block on Main Street. In 1853 he was listed in partnership with Jeremiah D. Wells, who also had a studio in Northampton, Mass. and took many photographs of Amherst people, including at least some of the daguerreotypes of the Class of 1850.

It appears that John's brother Henry Martin Lovell was also active in the daguerreian business, with a studio in Troy, New York, from (at least) 1854 to 1855. At some point in 1856 Henry moved to Brattleboro, for he was listed that year as being in business with John. Mueller believed that, except where otherwise noted, all the daguerreotypes in the collection were produced in the John L. Lovell studio in Brattleboro. John's brother Henry may have assisted him during 1856, during the short time he was listed in partnership with John.

John L Lovell had a well established and respected business in both Brattleboro and Amherst. According to an article in the "Annals of Brattleboro": "Mr. Lovell prepared the pictures for a geological work arranged by Dr. Dean of Greenfield, and later took twenty thousand photographs for a similar undertaking under the direction of President Hitchcock of Amherst. "A Memoir of the Fossil Footprints of the Connecticut Valley," published by the Smithsonian Institute, was illustrated by him. In 1883 Mr. Lovell went with Professor Todd of Amherst College to take charge of the photographing of the transit of Venus at the Lick Observatory in California. These one hundred and forthy-five views are the finest ever made of a transit, one of them receiving a special mention in the diploma awarded Amherst College for its exhibit at the World's Fair. While in Brattleboro Mr. Lovell had many men more or less known to fame sit for the old-fashioned daguerreotype, among them Henry Ward Beecher, who was on a lecturing tour."*

John L. Lovell sold his studio in Brattleboro in November of 1856 to Caleb L, Howe who continued work from the same location. It is believed that all daguerreotypes that Lovell produced were done during his stay in Brattleboro prior to his move to Western Massachusetts. After this move in 1860 he continued to be listed as a photographer in Amherst until 1900. The daguerreian process had more or less run its course by 1860 and in all likelihood Lovell ceased to produce daguerreotype photographs by that time. He would have replaced this process by the newer, faster, and less expensive ambrotype, tintype, and paper processes.

* Annals of Brattleboro, 1681-1895 by Mary Rogers Cabot. Excerpt above from volume II, page 655. Accessed via


1.50 Linear feet (1 records box and 1 archives box.)

Language of Materials



The John Lyman Lovell Photograph Collection contains cased images and paper photographs, most of which show members of Lovell's extended family, two notebooks of research about Lovell compiled by collector Gunter Mueller (lived 1940-2015), and miscellaneous items related to Lovell. The collection provides important biographical context for this long-practicing photographer and could be used in connection with his photographs in other collections, such as the collection of Amherst College albums, many of which contain photographs made by Lovell for graduating students.


The John Lyman Lovell Photograph Collection is arranged in six series:

  1. Series 1: Daguerreotypes
  2. Series 2: Ambrotypes
  3. Series 3: Tintypes
  4. Series 4: Other Photographic Formats
  5. Series 5: Gunter Mueller's Printed Materials
  6. Series 6: Miscellaneous Photographs and Ephemera

Related Materials

The Amherst College Archives and Special Collections holds many other examples of cased images by other Western Massachusetts photographers such as Otis Cooley of Springfield, Jeremiah D. Wells of Northampton, Elijah Shumway of Amherst, E.W. Cowles of Amherst, William Ward Snell of Brookfield, et al. Although indexing for some names is ongoing, many of these photographers will be discoverable through an ArchivesSpace search.

The Lovell collection is also unusual in that it represents a collection of photographs related to an early photographer's family. For another collection of this kind, see the many daguerreotypes by William Ward Snell in the Snell Family Papers (MA.00032).

Physical Description

Many of the cased images formerly owned by Gunter Mueller have information behind the plate (between the plate package and the back of the case). This information shows that Mueller noted what conservation procedures he carried out, i.e., whether he provided new glass, rinsed the plate, sealed or resealed it, and provided a date (circa 1995-2008). He often kept the old seals and copied whatever identifying information was supplied with the object (e.g., "Grandfather John Lovell"). Most of the cased image packages were examined during processing (especially those that have no preserver and are somewhat loose in the case) and the information recorded in a "Physical Description" note accompanying the specific object.

Processing Information

Processed in 2022 by Margaret R. Dakin.

Margaret R. Dakin
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299