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Portraits of a British merchant family in Brazil, between 1845 and 1865

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Portraits of a British merchant family in Brazil

Biographical / Historical

Alfred Phillips Youle, one of the few sitters identified in the collection, was born in London in 1824. He was one of the ten children of Peter Youle (London, 1788-London, 1863) and Ann Jones Shepherd Youle (1788-1873). It is not known when Alfred Phillips Youle arrived in Brazil, but by 1851 he had already joined his older brother Frederick and George Deane as a partner in Deane, Youle & Company, commission merchants whose transatlantic trade included sundries such as sugar, preserved meats, and spirits. Alfred Phillips Youle returned to London sometime in the 1860s, and by 1872 he was named to the first board of directors of the Great Western Railway Company Limited, the "Greitueste," which was formed to build railway lines in Western Brazil. He was also on the board of directors of the Conde d'Eu Railway, Limited in Parahyba, Brazil.

In 1852, Alfred Phillips Youle married seventeen-year-old Annie Stewart Schwind (Bahia, 1835-London, 1871) in Bahia. Annie was the daughter of Fredrick Louis Schwind (Liverpool, 1796-1873) and Margaret Stewart Schwind (Ireland,1811- ). Her grandfather of the same name (Germany, ca. 1750-Cape Coast, Ghana, 1799) was a mariner and later a ship's surgeon who served aboard several English enslaver ships. His first post was to the Alfred in 1784. He was serving as ship's master on the Pilgrim when she went down off Cape Coast in 1799. Annie's father, Schwind, Jr., along with his older brother Charles, was a member of the Bahia commission merchants firms of Schwind, Brade & Company and Schwind, Weetman & Company. The extended Schwind family was a British presence in Bahia well into the twentieth century.

The Schwinds were thus rooted in both Liverpool, the epicenter of the British slave trade, and in Brazil, which did not begin to seriously enforce anti-slave trade legislation until 1850, and which was the last country in the Western world to abolished slavery, doing so only in 1888. As merchants participating in the last leg of the triangular trade by sending goods produced in the Americas back to Europe, the Schwind brothers and their firms continued to accrue benefits from the institution of slavery in the form of compensations and reinvestment derived from products created through the labor of enslaved people. The commodities the Youle firms shipped to Europe were likewise produced in large part through the labor of enslaved people.

The Youles had 12 children before Annie died at age 35 or 36. A few years later, in 1875, Charles Youle married Charlotte Emily Broadbent in London. He died in England in 1905.


American photographer, Charles DeForest Fredricks (1823-1894), was an itinerant daguerreotypist who had been traveling extensively in Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina since 1843 when, on 8 March 1851, he paid a visit to Alexander B. Weeks (1818-1859) at J. Gurney's Daguerreotype Gallery in New York City, where Weeks worked as a daguerreotype operator, to convince Weeks to join him on his upcoming trip to South America. On April 14, the two men finalized their photographic partnership and, after making preparations, they embarked upon their journey, setting sail from New York on the Mary Ellen on May 19. They arrived in Recife, Brazil (then Pernambuco) in early July, and from the middle of that month until late September they operated a daguerreotype studio in the city before moving on to ply their trade first in Montevideo and then in Buenos Aires.

In April 1852, Weeks left on his return trip to New York, while Fredricks remained in South America for another year before moving on to Paris where he took up the new technique of collodion glass plate photography and opened a studio with Jeremiah Gurney. Meanwhile, upon returning to New York, Weeks opened a studio in Brooklyn under the name Fredericks & Weeks. Weeks operated the business as a partnership until January 1854, when he bought out Fredricks's half of the business. Shortly thereafter Weeks moved to Toledo, Ohio where he opened a studio. Fredricks, who had returned to New York at the end of 1853, established what would become New York City's largest and most fashionable portrait photography studio. Located at 585-587 Broadway, the facade of his premises was illuminated by hundreds of lanterns forming a sixty-foot arch which spelled out the words "Fredrick's Photographic Temple of Art." In 1857, he also opened C. D. Fredricks y Daries with Augusto Daries in Havana. Fredricks never returned to South America.

Sources consulted:

"Charles Schwind, 1790-1842." WikiTree. Profile last modified September 10, 2019.

"Frederick Louis Schwind (abt. 1750-1799)." WikiTree. Profile last modified January 10, 2020.

"Frederick Louis Schwind (1796)." WikiTree. Profile last modified October 10, 2019.

Herold, Marc. "Re: Liverpool Merchants Active in Bahia 1810-1900." Geneology.Com. June 30, 2008.

New York (State). Court of Appeals, New York Court of Appeals. Records and Briefs, vol. 13. 1864.

Peterson, Rebecca Ewing. "Alfred Phillips Youle." Find a Grave. Added to website February 6, 2012.

Peterson, Rebecca Ewing. "Annie Steward Schwind Youle." Find a Grave. Added to website February 6, 2012.

Peterson, Rebecca Ewing. "Peter Youle." Find a Grave. Added to website February 6, 2012.

Ramer, Richard C. "Inventory for Early Brazilian Photographs, Including a Daguerreotype View and Two Daguerreotype Portraits Signed by Charles DeForest Fredricks," 1995.

Skinner, Thomas. The Directory of Directors, 1881. London: Gresham House, 1881.

Weeks, Alexander B. Alexander B. Weeks: A Daguerreotypist's Journal: Brooklyn, Recife, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Toledo, Detroit, transcribed by Catherine A. Murray. Mt. Pleasant, Mich.: Catherine A. Murray, 2014.

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