WThe New York Public Library  /  Photographers’ Identities Catalog
PIC ID: 2225

Charles Milton Bell

American, 1849-1893

Male

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Charles Milton Bell was a photographer in Washington, DC by 1868, when he when he worked in the studio of his father, Francis H. Bell. The Bell family included many photographers, as well, including William H. Bell, his uncle, and J. Wood Bell, a brother.In 1878, he received a contract from the Police Board to furnish photographs for their "Rogue's Gallery." The practice of taking mug shots was still somewhat in its infancy at that time. On July 2, 1881, an aggrieved and delusional lawyer, Charles J. Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield. Three days later, with Garfield alive but badly wounded, Bell was contracted to make photographs of Guiteau. Of the session Bell said, "I never took a man who sat so willingly. He said he did not want to appear too stiff." When a police sergeant attempted to shoot Guiteau in the jail, Bell made a request to take his portrait as well, but was denied permission. Garfield died from the wounds eleven weeks later, and Bell photographed the casket lying in the Capitol Rotunda. Guiteau was hanged.Bell was often called upon to photograph civic or government events, and political figures and socialites regularly sat for their portrait. When the bachelor President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in June, 1886, Bell was requested to make her full-length portrait. In 1890, Bell sued the Henderson Archer Krebs Lithographing Co., who were found to have printed 34,000 copies of the image, infringing his copyright.In 1885 he partnered with brothers James E. and J. Wood Bell as Bell Bros., photo-lithographers. That firm continued until 1890, when it changed its name to the Bell Lithographic Co. Meanwhile Bell expanded his photo studio, adding a second location in 1888. While attending a naval review at Fort Monroe in May, 1893 he caught a severe cold, from which he did not recover. He died May 12 at the age of 45. His wife continued the photo studios after his death, and the Bell Lithographic Co. was bought out by the National Lithographing Co. She sued National and her husband's former partners in 1894 for his share of its assets. Creditors of the Bell Lithographic Co. sued the partners, including Annie Bell, in turn. The outcome of those suits are not known. Annie Bell continued as a photographer at least until 1899.

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Locations

Charles Milton Bell has 8 locations.

Birth (1849)

Fredericksburg, VA
USA

Studio or Business (1868-1869)

98 F Street
Washington, DC
USA

Studio or Business (1871-1872)

713 F Street Southwest
Washington, DC
USA

Studio or Business (1873-1883)

459 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC
USA

Studio or Business (1884-1893)

463 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC
USA

Studio or Business (1885-1890)

461 C Street Northwest
Washington, DC
USA

Studio or Business (1888-1893)

701 15th Street Northwest
Washington, DC
USA

Death (May 12, 1893)

Washington, DC
USA