Thursday, August 17, 2017

Samuel Carter: 
The Drive He Couldn’t Escape
A Princeton and Oxford man who numbered F. Scott Fitzgerald among his friends, Samuel Carter started out as an American magazine writer in Europe during the 1930s, became a Madison Avenue advertising agency executive in the 40s and a radio-TV scriptwriter  in the 50s before turning to books in the 1960s.
Samuel Thomas Carter III was born in 1904 in New York, a son of a prominent New York City attorney. He studied at the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut and, like his father and more
than 35 other members of his family, graduated from Princeton University. (The university called the Carters “probably the largest Princeton family on record.”) As a senior in the late 1920s, he was managing editor of The Daily Princetonian.
He went on to study at Oxford College in England.
During the 1930s, Carter lived in Paris with his French wife, writing for the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune and for several American publications. In 1936, he even wrote a 95-page, how-to guide on sailing, published by the Leisure League of America.
“Then, without knowing what was going on after a particularly dreary winter, my wife and I decided to go down to southern France and hike over the Pyrenees into Spain,” he recalled in a 1974 interview. “We took four weeks doing that, then we got to Spain and suddenly, we were in the middle of the civil war.”
After being stuck for five months in Spain, he and his wife escaped to Africa and decided the future of Europe was looking dim and to move to the United States.
“The Spain experience was good because I came back with a lot of material and started turning out short stories,” Carter said.
His varied career always focused on writing. Back in the States he wrote broadcast copy for two advertising agencies, J. Walter Thompson and then Stauffer, Colwell & Bayles, where he became a vice president. Eventually he left advertising, moved to Hollywood, and began writing for radio, mostly for the Lux Radio Theater, where he turned popular movie screenplays into one-hour productions that often featured the original film’s stars.
“That was a lot of fun because radio was so easy,” he said. But he also confessed that it was “awfully bad for you, simply because it was so easy. You had to turn it out in great quantities and do it hurriedly.”
He returned to New York and began writing for the new medium, television. Mostly he did screenplays for The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse. But he was also writing non-fiction pieces for magazines, especially Reader’s Digest. Around 1960, an editor there suggested that the topic of one of his articles could make the subject of a good book. A publisher agreed and a new career began.
By the time of his death in 1989, Carter had written 20 books of nonfiction, almost all of
them on subjects of American history, many of them related to the Civil War and several of them aimed at teenagers. For many years he was turning out a book a year, a pace that annoyed him but that he felt was needed to support himself and his family.
“I don’t suppose I handle my budget very well,” he admitted, “but I live on my advances. When I sign a contract, I get $5,000 ($25,000 in 2017 dollars) so there’s a great temptation to sign contracts and get money quick.  Then you’re faced with the problem of having to produce the book.
“I’ve been producing about one book a year, but I’d much rather not. I’d like to have two, maybe three years to do it. You’re always under pressure. It has its moments of exhilaration, but on the whole, it’s just grind, grind, grind.”
Among the best known and best reviewed of his 20 books was “Cherokee Sunset,” about the travails of the Cherokee Indian Nation of Georgia.
“The Cherokees were extraordinarily civilized,” Carter said when he was writing the book in 1974. “They had a government long before the state government, they had a supreme court long before Georgia, they had very enlightened law, and they had their own newspaper, an Indian language newspaper, which was the only one of its kind in existence.
“The net result of that was that it outraged the Georgians,” he said. “Here were these ‘savages’ outstripping them in every department — the way they dressed, the horses they rode, the houses they lived in. So the Georgians wanted them out of there.”
The fact that gold was discovered on Cherokee land in Georgia didn’t help the natives and when Andrew Jackson, no fan of the Indian, became president, the Cherokee were driven from their homeland. “They sent them out to Oklahoma on what was called the Trail of Tears,” Carter said. “A quarter  of them died on the way.”
Other books included “The Incredible Great White Fleet,” about a two-year, around-the-world voyage of 16 ships from Theodore Roosevelt’s refurbished Navy; “Cyrus Field: Man of Two Worlds,” a biography of the man who laid the first Atlantic Cable; “The Siege of Atlanta, 1864,”  “Blaze of Glory: The Fight for New Orleans, 1814-1815,” which was written for teenagers; “The Last Cavaliers: Confederate and Union Cavalry in the Civil War,” “Rebel: The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby,” about one of the Confederate Army’s top officers; and “The Riddle of Doctor Mudd,” which deals with the man who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth just after Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln.
Carter was proud of the fact that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a friend. 
“I met him when he was down in Baltimore at the Turnbull estate — I roomed with his cousin,” he said. “He and I got very interested in the horse races and we used to go down to Chevy Chase, then we’d come back and stay at Scott’s house.
“It was a weird Charles Addams kind of place in the middle of a swamp,” he added. “Zelda was there for a while; then, finally, they carried her off to the sanitarium.”
He once considered writing about his experiences with Fitzgerald, but decided not to. “It sounded a little ghoulish,” he said. “It would have been capitalizing on a friendship I rather prized.”
Samuel Carter lived on Silver Hill Road in the 1970s and eventually moved to Heritage Village in Southbury, where he died in 1989 at the age of 84.
 Carter believed writing is a native talent — and not something at all romantic. 
“I think you're just born with that — it’s sort of a potential itch,” he said. “For people that ask your advice about writing, I say, ‘Don’t do it if you can possibly help it, but if you can't help it, you’re going to be a writer.

“I still have that feeling. I get so fed up and yet even though I’m fed up, I know I’m going to go on doing it. It’s just a drive you can’t escape.”

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Marie H. Kendall: 
Early Woman Photographer
Ridgefield was blessed to have Joseph Hartmann photographing its people and places from the 1890s into the 1930s. But even before Hartmann turned his camera’s eye on Ridgefield, a remarkable woman began recording “glimpses” of the community — from streetscapes to house portraits to farmers plowing their fields.
And it all started because Marie Kendall couldn’t afford to pay a professional to take portraits of her children.
Marie Hartig was born in 1854 in the German-speaking Alsace section of France, an area of some turmoil in the 19th Century. In 1872, when she was 18, her parents decided to immigrate to the United States. Almost immediately Marie enrolled in the School for Nurses at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, a pioneering nursing school that used Florence Nightingale’s rules for hygienic cleanliness.
There, she ran into a problem: She fell in love with Dr. John C. Kendall, a resident at Bellevue. Hospital rules forbade “liaisons” between doctors and nurses and she was, in modern parlance, kicked out. 
That didn’t deter Ms. Hartig, who continued her studies and completed her nursing requirements at Charity Hospital on Blackwell’s Island in New York. 
She also married the doctor. But she did so in ways that were rather unusual in the 1870s. Marie told John Kendall that she did not want a wedding ring, which she considered a symbol of enslavement. Instead, she thought a watch would be a more practical symbol of love. 
What’s more, she did not wish a church wedding. Both the couple’s parents were shocked, especially John’s father,  a staunch Congregationalist and leader of the First Congregational Church. 
John Calvin Kendall had been born in Ridgefield in 1847, a son of another doctor, Calvin H.
Kendall, one of the handful physicians in Ridgefield in the 19th Century. Dr. Calvin Kendall lived and practiced at what is now 85 Main Street, a few doors south of where the First Congregational Church is now (and, back then, the Big Shop, a carriage factory, stood). Of pioneering New England stock, Calvin Kendall was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale who earned his medical degree from the predecessor of  Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was a pillar of the local church, serving for many years as a deacon.
After their civil ceremony marriage in 1878, Marie and John Kendall are believed to have spent some time living in Ridgefield, probably with John’s parents on Main Street, while John practiced medicine in Norwalk. One of their four children was born here in 1884; Claude Roy Kendall was given his middle name to honor Marie’s mother-in-law, Jane Roy Kendall, who had died two months earlier. During this period of living in Connecticut, three of their four children were born.
      And it was her children that drew Marie Kendall to photography. “Unable to afford photographs of her three children,  Marie saved money to buy her own camera,” reports Ann  Havemeyer, a historian of Norfolk, Conn., and director of its library. To earn the money for the camera, she knitted and sewed clothing to sell, “using skills she had been taught as a child in Europe,” said American Heritage magazine in a 1989 article. 
      Ann Havemeyer has studied Kendall  because in 1884, John and Marie moved with their
children to Norfolk, on the Massachusetts border in the northwest corner of the state. At Bellevue Hospital, one of John Kendall’s classmates had been Dr. William Henry Welch, a son of Dr. William W. Welch, a local doctor in Norfolk. (Dr. William H. Welch went on to found the medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore). The Drs. Welch encouraged John Kendall to locate in Norfolk.
It’s not clear exactly when Marie Kendall began taking pictures. There are prints of Ridgefield scenes dated in the late 1880s and initialed M.H.K. By then she was living in Norfolk and probably visiting her husband’s family here. 
Marie taught herself how to use the camera which, in the 1880s,  meant a large-size box  fashioned of wood and using a bellows for focusing. Into this, a delicate glass negative, encased in a carrier, had to be inserted for each picture. The heavy and rather awkward device was mounted on a tripod. To take a picture, a cover was removed from in front of the lens for a brief period, exposing the 4 by 6 inch negative inside the camera. The photographer had to have a good sense of how long to expose the negative in order to get good results.
Kendall not only took the pictures, but also developed the negatives and prints herself in a darkroom set up in the cellar of her home. This was a lengthy, complicated and even dangerous process involving chemicals that were caustic and poisonous. Kendall would have to mix the i
ngredients for the developers herself, using such chemicals as sodium sulphite, potassium bromide, hydroquinone, and metol, a caustic substance that can lead to chronic dermatitis. After the plate was developed in those chemicals, it got a bath in a fixer that included even worse concoctions composed of extremely caustic sulphuric acid, sodium thiosulfate or “hypo”, and chrome alum, which can irritate both skin and eyes. 
After these treatments, each negative had to be washed for five to 10 minutes, and dried over a stove. Then began the process of making prints from the negatives, which involved more chemicals and more steps. Unlike most photographers of the era, Kendall preferred the more expensive and difficult-to-use platinum photographic paper for her prints because it was more
permanent than silver papers and could better handle subtle tones of gray. 
In a 1930s letter, Kendall said she had by then long ago stopped developing negatives and did not sound the least bit sad about it. She seemed pleased to point out that her old developing room was turned into a coal bin.
By 1893, Kendall had become such a skilled photographer and print-maker that her work was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where her pictures were given an award of merit. The judges praised her “for a series of photographs displaying a pleasing variety as to subjects, artistic taste, and marked skill in development and finish.”
In 1904, she showed her work at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (commonly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair and inspiration for the 1944 Judy Garland movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis.”) 
 Kendall published two “souvenir” books in 1900. “Glimpses of Ridgefield” and “Glimpses
of Norfolk” were printed by the Albertype Company in Brooklyn, N.Y., which was well known for its thousands of postcards of communities in the Northeast (many of them from 1915 onward were hand-colored by “starving artists” in need of supplementary incomes). 
Gravure-printed on heavy paper, “Glimpses of Ridgefield” contains more than 100 pictures of Ridgefield taken in the late 1880s and the 1890s, including Main Street views, many mansions and historic buildings, schoolhouses and churches, farm scenes, and a number of scenics including a series on West Mountain that clearly took some hiking — carrying many pounds of equipment in dense Victorian clothing —  to obtain.
In 1907, Kendall published a copy of Tennyson’s poem, “Song of the Brook,” illustrated with pictures she had taken. (Her work also appears in Naomi Rosenblum’s 2010 book, “A History of Women Photographers.”)
From the 1880s into the early 1900s, Kendall was also doing commercial work to supplement the family income, taking many portrait pictures, and producing postcard images, calendar pictures, and other shots for various businesses. One of her customers was the local railroad. However, by around 1910, she gave up commercial photography, largely because the advent of inexpensive Kodak box cameras and roll film had made taking pictures easy, and almost everyone was doing their own photography. She sold off some 30,000 glass negatives at a penny apiece,
probably to people who wanted the glass, not the pictures emulsified on it. She kept only “a small group” that were “personally interesting,” most of which are now in the archives of the Norfolk Historical Society.
The fact that Marie Kendall had 30,000 negatives reflects how many thousands of hours she must have spent at photography over three decades. At the same time, she was raising a family of four children and was a doctor’s wife who, as a nurse, probably helped with the practice. She also endured tragedy— her 21-year-old, Yale-educated engineer son was electrocuted by a wire while he was working for General Electric.
Dr. Kendall, who had been active in the civic life of the Norfolk community, died in 1921. Marie lived until 1943. Clearly, her extensive exposure to photographic chemicals did not affect her longevity — she was 89 years old at her death.
For decades after she stopped taking photographs, the work of Marie Kendall had been almost forgotten, except among a few historians of Norfolk, Litchfield County, and Ridgefield. However, in 2013-14 the Connecticut Historical Society mounted an exhibit, “Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers,” that featured her work and two other pioneering women. 

In 2018, major Kendall events are planned including a Norfolk Historical Society exhibit of  her pictures, the digitizing of many of her images that will be placed online, and the publication of a book about her life and her photography.