New Jersey Photographers of the Civil War and Postwar Era: John P. Doremus


  • Gary D. Saretzky
  • Joseph G. Bilby



Of the more than 3,000 photographers active in New Jersey in the nineteenth century, a number of them were itinerant camera workers at some point during their careers, operating with a horse-drawn wagon. Some photographers, especially those taking views, circulated locally even when they had a gallery where they did portraits and sold other kinds of photographs. Like many other American photographers who did not always wait for customers, John P. Doremus began working in the medium during the Civil War, when there was a strong market for portraits. Doremus is distinguished in that, for much of the latter 1870s and 1880s, he lived and worked on a floating gallery on the Mississippi River while his business back home in Paterson, Passaic County, was managed by his family. For this remarkable episode in his career, he was inducted into the National Rivers Hall of Fame in 1991. He is also exceptional in that he kept a journal in which he recorded fascinating details about his experiences. This essay provides a case study of an able and ambitious photographer and entrepreneur whose career, characterized by both typical and unique experiences, sheds light on photographic and business practices of his era. You can find additional John P. Doremus photographs here: