The MOTHER AND SON with forensic photographer H. Seymour Squyer

Originally I was going to make this a simple post entitled "Memorial Day and Those Who Waited." The inspiration being this woman and boy who are unknown, but the photograph looks like the sort a Union Soldier might have carried in his pocket.

Then I decided to do a little research about the photographer, H. Seymour Squyer. Again, ephemera takes me on a journey.

H. Seymour Squyer was born November 4, 1848. He was a photographer at 77 Genesee Street in Auburn, New York. In the 1880 census Squyer is 31 and married to Francis (Kupenhouser?), age 30. They have two sons, Frank age 3 and Fred around 10 months.

From the brief information I’ve found, Squyer did portrait photography, criminal forensic photography, and stereographs. I cannot find actual examples of the criminal work or stereographs, merely references to them.

Here you can read an article from the Auburn New York Weekly Bulletin about a trial Squyer was involved in. He took photographs of two signatures which were then enlarged allowing a court to determine if a signature on a will was forged.

Here you will find an article in which Squyer was a witness in an arson trial.

And here you can read more about the trial.

Another trial in 1897 in which he is questioned about the length of a flame from a Sheldon revolver and photographs he took.

Here is an article about a trial in which Squyer took a photograph of a page from an accounting book.

On May 11, 1892 Squyer had his own run in with the law.

In the 1900 census Squyer, age 57, is married to Harriet M., age 38. Within a few years Squyer was dead. On December 19, 1905 the following obituary appeared in The Auburn Citizen.

He was buried on December 21, 1905 in the Fort Hill Cemetery.

Here is an article for Squyer’s will dated January 26, 1906.

On January 23, 1906 the following appeared in the Auburn Semi-Weekly Journal in regards to Squyer’s will apparently being contested.

That is not the last we hear of Squyer. In The Citizen-Advertiser in Auburn, New York, on June 30, 1949 there is the following article in which we are told that Squyer's photographic plates were nearly used as glass in a greenhouse.
Click on image to see it larger. 
Rare Print Recalls Days of Yore at Wells
Reminiscent of days gone by is a picture of Glen Park, once the Aurora home of Henry Wells, founder of the Wells Fargo Express Company and American Express Company whose generosity made possible Wells College at Aurora. The picture of the college is among a collection of photographic plates of Wells college and the Village of Aurora, given to the college by George Underwood, Jr., of this city.
These plates were made about 1900 by H. Seymour Squyer for many years a leading photographer in Auburn. His studio was located at 180 Genesee Street, where they Mohican store now stands. Shortly after Squyer’s death in 1905, G. G. Hayden, who had just built a house at the top of Chadell Place in Auburn, acquired from the Squyer estate a ton or more of the photographic plates to used in a projected greenhouse for which he had difficulty in obtaining the necessary glass. Hayden’s death cancelled the greenhouse plans, and the old plates remained on the grounds, crated in wooden boxes in an old chicken house. Here Mr. Underwood found them when he bought the Hayden place in 1945.
The task of sorting out the plates has been a long one; some of them were protected by individual envelopes, but very few were labeled or identified in any way. However, Mr. Underwood has succeeded in “getting some of them into the hands of those who should have them.”
He has given the following to Wells College: Five views of Glen Park, taken shortly before the former home of Henry Wells was purchased and given to the college by the alumnae in 1907; six exterior views of Main Building and Morgan Hall; three interiors of Main, showing the old gymnasium, a parlor, and the museum; six vies of the lake shore and the road approaching Aurora from the south; and early picture of the Aurora Inn, which was built in 1883 (?) Several of them appeared in early issues of the Wells College Catalogue.
Mr. Underwood’s collection also contains some wonderful views of Auburn and boating on Owasoo Lake; possibly a picture of the first Boys Conference every held by the Y. M. C. A in the United States, also some plates of the old asylum, later the Women’s Prison in Auburn.

Mr. Underwood plans to turn over to the County Museum all plates for “Which he cannot find owners.” A few prints at a time will be displayed and identifications requested.
You can visit this page to find even more articles in which H. Seymour Squyer is mentioned.

Here, at the Cabinet Card Gallery, you can see a wedding photograph taken by Squyer.

Ultimately, what Squyer is famous for is a portrait he took of Harriet Tubman available at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

And so it goes. I start out with just a photo and then I get sucked in.

Should anyone have any more information about Squyer I'd gladly post it or link to it.

UPDATE: Here's a link to a photo of Robert L. Drummond, in civilian clothes, a soldier who served in a New York State military unit during the Civil War.


  1. I looked through my cabinet cards and CDV's and couldn't find the name. I can't get over the feeling that I've seen the name before though. I'll keep a watch for it.

  2. Great find and story. Early photographers had a special place in preserving images of small town life, introducing a new practical technology, as well as making a new art form.

    And I know exactly how this works, one crumb and then another, and before you know it, you are down the rabbit hole of history.

    1. And you always follow the crumbs so well with your posts.

  3. Fascinating story. I know how this goes. I'll keep an eye out for Squyer cabinet cards.

    1. Let me know if you find any and post them so I can link back to you.

  4. Anonymous7/03/2013

    Just found a photo at the law library in Rochester, NY taken by Squyer of Judge Charles C. Dwight. Photo will be viewable on http://www.nyheritage.org in a few days. Nice research you have done!

    1. Thank you! I've included the link at the end of the post.