A Biography of
~ George Bucher
Born February 12,
1829, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Died About 1906 –
Probably Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Samuel and Margaret Ayres arrived in the Philadelphia area about
1645. From them issued forth a family line of Ayres that mostly
remained in Pennsylvania – especially in earlier times in the general
vicinity of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One of the descendants of this
couple was a fellow named William Ayres.
On May 6,
1817, William had married Mary Elizabeth Bucher Swift in Harrisburg –
the minister being named Frederick A. Rahauser – of the Salem German
Reformed Church. The fruitage of the union amounted to eight children
– five sons and three daughters – of which the fourth son was George,
born February 12, 1829 in Harrisburg. Thus began a life that would
take in many interests – vocations and avocations – that included
telegraphy, music, singing, orchestral conducting, art, photography,
family history, journalism, and authoring textbooks and other
publications. He was the earliest of cadets in a military school
envisioned in part by his father, known as Partridge’s. William’s
active life doubtless played a major formative role in his son’s
development. Here is a quick synopsis of William’s life:
Born at homestead in Middle
Paxtang township, Dauphin Co., PA.
Quit farming for more
congenial pursuits. Became citizen of Harrisburg.
Justice of Peace, Gov.
Findlay, 1819. Again Justice of Peace by Gov.
Hiester, 1824. Admitted to
bar of Dauphin Co., April 7, 1826. Elected
to PA Legislature for years
1833, 1834, 1835 and was prominent in
political party to which he
was attached, and persistent advocate for
establishment of free-school
system of PA. 1841, elected a director of
the United States Bank, at
Philadelphia. 1850, organized the Harrisburg
gas company, and became its
first president. 1853, became President
of Huntingdon and Broad Top
railroad. 1854, projected and organized
Harrisburg and Hamburg
railroad company, and as president, was
engaged in the field with engineers at the
time of his death.
Cemetery, Harrisburg, PA.
Little is known of
George’s childhood, beyond the fact that he had a father who was very
active in civic efforts. A bit is known about his schooling – his
attendance at the “North Ward public school –
“In the spring of
1844 I was a boy fifteen years of age attending
the North Ward public school at
This was kept in the
old "Lancasterian school house," on Walnut
street, between Fourth
and Fifth streets. I had a number of teachers,
Guyer, Joseph Allison (now judge in
D. Ingram, J. M. Eyster and Charles A. Wyeth.
I was at the above
date, and I think during Mr. Ingram's
administration, that I
obtained the names of my schoolmates, and I
give them herewith, copied from
Charles Edward Fisk,
Matthias B. Stees.
John F. Caslow.
John J. Maglaughlin.
Andrew J. Foster.
John Q. Adams.
Henry Stewart Wilson.
Philip Andrew Keller.
John Wesley Awl.
J. W. Piper.
J. K. Greennwalt.
William Simon Holman.
Jno. B. C.
Erasmus G. Rehrer.
A. J. Geiger.
Joseph Henry Bowman.
A. J. Fager.
Henry Augustus Sims.
John P. Keller.
Christian K. Keller.
Andrew David Elder.
John Andrew Krause.
T. J. Black.
Augustus S. Templin.
A. J. Griffith.
George Bucher Ayres.
however, would only represent the school at
the time; because
scholars come in, every few months, from the
school below, then
taught by Mr. Eyster. The primary school
always had but one
teacher, the venerable William ("Daddy")
How many of this roll
are still living, where are they, and what
are they doing? I could
answer some of the questions for a number
of them, and yet there
are others I had quite forgotten until I came to
signatures. Those who chance to see this list may
thus recall their
schoolfellows of April and May, 1844, nearly a half
followed by his
attendance at a military school that his father had a part in
"As was the case
respecting the introduction of water and gas
into Harrisburg many
years in advance of the times, I must
be pardoned in
claiming for my father, William Ayres, the
leadership of the
movement which resulted in establishing
Literary, Scientific and Military Institute"
who subscribed my
name as the first one offered to make
up its roll. From
his correspondence with Captain Partridge
and other gentlemen
of military proclivities, I glean that the
matter was first
proposed during the winter 1844-5. Captain
Alden Partridge, who
had been Superintendent of the United
Academy at West Point, having resigned,
conceived the idea of
associating military instruction and
discipline with the
usual collegiate education, and had made
a successful test of
this course at Norwich, Vermont, and
where his military schools had attained
an article, which describes in detail this school, and provides a list
of the first graduates, some of whom later become involved in the
Civil War, and which even lists those losing their lives during that
tragic event in history. It should be noted for future reference that
George did not list himself
those involved in the conflagration. Hence, it would appear that the
references so freely found of a George B. Ayres in that war would have
to apply to another so-named.
just after his schooling, George began at least occasional, temporary
work involving telegraphy for the railroad in the Harrisburg area.
Very soon after that, he begins working in a permanent capacity, as he
"In the Winter of
1848-9, I engaged there [Harrisburg telegraph office]
permanently, and in
March we received the first Presidential message
(Zachary Taylor's) ever
sent to Harrisburg--or perhaps anywhere else--
by telgraph!--I well
remember the immense pile of paper required for
this purpose; how often
it was run through the machine, and what ado
when it happened to
catch or get torn. ..."
By the year
1850, GBA (he often used initials to identify himself) was to be found
in Montour County, Pennsylvania, and the census for that year places
him in Danville Borough, living at the premises of Cornelius
Garretson, aged 58, Tavern Keeper. Fellow boarders included a
teacher, clerks, a printer, a physician, a tailor, and one described
as “nothing.” George was listed as telegrapher. That was not the
total of his secular duties, as will be seen by the following
information taken from Egle’s Notes & Queries:
“THE PASSENGER DEPARTMENT,
Pennsylvania Railroad, who
organized it, is given by
our friend William B. Wilson, who edits
the "Pennsylvania Railroad Men's News."
Mr. Wilson writes:
"Mr. Lewis L. Haupt and Mr.
George B. Ayres, now residing in
Philadelphia, organized the
Passenger Department, the former
holding the position of
General Ticket Agent, and the latter as
Assistant. Up to 1852 these
gentlemen handled the entire passenger
ticket account without
assistance. In that year the business had
increased to such a point
that a third person became necessary.
They were highly educated,
Christian men, standing high in the
communities in which they
resided, and worked indefatigably for
the success of the road.
Mr. Ayres, in addition to being a
thorough business man, had
quiet literary tastes, many musical
accomplishments, and was an
artist of more than ordinary merit.
His brother, Colonel Bucher Ayres, also
residing in Philadelphia,
who made a broad reputation
as a railroad manager, was the first
person appointed a passenger
conductor for the Pennsylvania
Railroad. The Messrs.
Ayres' father was William Ayres, of
Harrisburg, noted in his day
as leading in all progressive
movements in his locality." “
ought to be noted here, based on the above paragraphs, and in view of
those to come. Colonel Bucher Ayres, listed here, is Jacob Bucher
Ayres, GBA’s brother. This older brother apparently never used Jacob
in addressing himself. He always went by Bucher alone. The only
times I remember seeing the use of Jacob is in an early census, before
Bucher had much to say about the name he preferred to use. The other
item of interest is that it mentions in the above paragraph that
Philadelphia, thus implying his brother George was residing in
Philadelphia, and not in Danville. It may be that George had more
than one residence (as I have suspected from time to time as his
occupational affairs dictated), perhaps the primary residence being
Philadelphia; likely, though, he had not altogether left his
connections with Montour County, as we shall see later.
venture in George’s life at this time – while employed as telegrapher
– is involvement with the famous Swedish operatic singer, Jenny Lind.
Informed ones will recall that P. T. Barnum, the great showman, had
contracted for the singer Jenny Lind to come to the states. She broke
her contract with Mr. Barnum, yet continued to appear before the
public in this country. George Bucher Ayres was apparently asked to
get involved in booking her for the city of Harrisburg. He wrote an
article explaining how he accomplished the feat, and since it will
both demonstrate his writing style and encase a particularly busy time
period in George’s life, thus providing both details and insight, I
include the complete article here…
Fourth Series Volume I, Notes and
Queries - LIV, p 152:
WHEN JENNY LIND WAS HERE.
The visit of Mad'lle
Jenny Lind, the great singer, was a conspicuous
event in the musical
history of the State Capital.
It will be remembered
that she came to America under contract with
Mr. P. T. Barnum, the
celebrated manager, who had engaged her for a
stipulated number of
concerts, to be given in our principal cities.
She was not to appear in
opera, although her European reputation was
based largely on her
success in operatic singing.
She sailed from
Liverpool--I think it was in the old Collins Line
steamer Atlantic, Capt.
West--August 21st, 1850, and arrived at New
York September 1st. She
gave a concert on shipboard for the benefit
of the crew.
No such furore as
Barnum created respecting the advent and musical
abilities of this famous
songstress has ever been known in this
country; that ovation
remains unparalleled in the reception of foreign
notabilities. All the
newspapers seemed as if owned by Barnum, and
were kept filled with
Lind-praises, and with unexampled skill and tact
possible in the establishment of public opinion
was enlisted in admiration
of "the Swedish Nightingale." Fortunately,
in this instance, the
great showman furnished a genuine attraction,
rare and unequalled.
engagement with Mr. Barnum was designed to cover one
hundred and fifty
concerts. After a most triumphant welcome and
success in New York, she
sang in Philadelphia, October 16th, at the
Chestnut Street Theater,
and six times thereafter at Musical Fund
Hall during November and
She sang again at the
then National Theater, Chestnut street,
adjoining the Museum, June
9th, 1851; but upon learning that the place
had been used for a "horse
show" or, as she called it, "a circus"--she
indignantly abrogated her
contract with Barnum, and finished the
American tour on her own
account. Right here we have an exhibition of
her innate nobility and
independence of character; she could submit to
the pecuniary loss
involved, but never (as she doubtless regarded it)
the offense of humiliation
to herself or her art.
According to the adage,
however--"it's an ill wind that don't blow
good to somebody"--this
unlooked for incident proved a happy
circumstance to the people
at large who had not been able to journey to
the cities and pay
Barnum's high prices, in order to see the wonderful
Deviating from the lines of her
tour as proposed by Barnum, she
visited many of the
smaller cities, and stopped at some towns en route.
Among the latter was the
then Borough of Harrisburg.
I was at that time
engaged with Mr. Samuel H. Brooks, in the
telegraph office, the
business of which was comparatively small, and we
had time to spare. Jenny
Lind's advance agent, who bore the famous
name of Samuel Johnson,
came along, and enlisted my assistance in
securing a place for
holding the proposed concert.
There was really no
audience room in the old town musically suitable,
or even fit to receive
such a distinguished vocalist. A dancing hall
in the Shakespeare
building, on Locust street; a dingy room in Masonic
Hall, which had been
occasionally used for theatrical purposes, negro
minstrels, and tramp shows
of various kinds; and the old Court House,
comprised the list to
But I deemed them all unsuited and
unworthy of the extraordinary
purpose in view, if it was
in anywise within the range of possibility
to secure one of our
churches. I had heard Jenny Lind sing in
Baltimore, during the
previous April; I knew the quality of the treat
in anticipation, and hence
I considered that the very best room in the
whole town was none too
good for this rapturous singer and noble woman.
My application to the
various church authorities was not encouraging,
however, for the reason
that the Whig National Convention, which
nominated President Wm.
Henry Harrison, in 1839, had been held in the
original Lutheran church, on Fourth
street, and had abused the room
somewhat; and this created
a traditional prejudice against the use of
churches for any secular
Still I did not
despair, for I had gained a foothold at least with
the Methodists by urging
the admitted excellence of Jenny Lind's
character as a woman, her
well-known beneficence, and that she was a
devout Lutheran; while at
the same time I offered a tempting
compensation for the use
of their room. Rev. Frances Hodgson was
pastor at that time, and
the church was a rather small and plain
structure, located on the
south side of Locust street, just below
I required several
interviews before I succeeded, and then only after
wrestling with objections
which we would ridicule to-day. Among other
things they wanted to
insist on their old custom of seating the men and
women on opposite sides of
the center aisle--and this was indeed the
chief rock of offense--but
I somehow managed to get over it. They
wanted to know, too,
whether all the performers would stand on the
pulpit floor; not that
they had the least objection to Jenny herself,
but through fear that the
rest of the company might be an ungodly set.
I met this obstacle,
however, by agreeing to cover the entire pulpit
out of sight by erecting a
platform in front of the desk. Would
tickets be sold and money
taken at the door? No; that could be
done elsewhere. Would the
audience make any demonstrations of applause
by clapping "in the house
of God?" Well, I could not guarantee
everything, and our
negotiations became critical.
But I kept my "best
wine" until the last, and so far I had withheld
that which I believed
might prove the most effective and practical
argument. After extolling
Jenny Lind, and recapitulating other reasons
for their approval, I
reminded them of the gain to accrue to their
church treasury, and that
we would bear all expenses in restoring the
room to its proper
condition. "More than that, too, gentlemen, I am
authorized to offer free
tickets for yourselves and wives; now's your
chance to hear Jenny
Lind!" The effect was magical, and those saintly
brethren were still human
enough to see that they were only hesitating
upon pecadillos, and it
was soon fixed that the loveliest voice then
known on earth was to be
heard within that old Methodist church.
Mr. Johnson had with
him a draughtsman, whose function it was to take
dimensions of the halls
engaged for concert purposes, make diagrams,
and apportion the
sittings, which were numbered and priced according to
location. The seats were
rated at two, three and four dollars, and
(I think) were all sold in
our telegraph office. In recognition of
my services Mr. Johnson
requested me to help myself to the first
Under the experienced
supervision of Mr. Johnson, the familiar
church-room was speedily
metamorphosed into a concert hall, barring the
pews; the pulpit being
completely screened by drapery of white muslin,
the rear of which was made
to serve as a sort of "green room" for the
troupe. Of course the
church was at best entirely too small for the
sway of such phenomenal
voices as Lind and Salvi, while the space was
even further restricted by
the necessity of the temporary stage, which
extended to the front
Jenny Lind arrived in
Harrisburg via Pennsylvania railroad from the
West and stopped at Herr's
Hotel--now the Lochiel--on Monday, November
7th, 1851, and the concert
took place in the evening.
Her company consisted
of Signor Lorenzo Salvi, who came to America by
way of Havana, as leading
tenor of the great Marti grand opera troupe--
the best ever heard in this
country--and who as a singer ranked with
Mario; Signor E. Belletti,
an excellent clarionette soloist, who when
younger had played among
the "negro serenader" companies, and
consequently missed the
education which might have made him an artist;
and Mr. Otto Goldschmidt,
a pianist of no unusual merit, but who was
supposed to be the
accepted lover of the fair cantatrice, and who did
subsequently marry her, in
Boston, February 5th, 1852.
In point of musical
ability, Harrisburg had never seen such a
combination, although the
distinguished singer, Mad. Anna Bishop, had
appeared there only a
short while before--like an aurora, preceding the
dawn of her brighter and
more illustrious contemporary.
[It may be noted, in
passing, that Mr. Burke had filled the position
of violinist under the
previous management of Barnum. The male vocalist
was Signor Belletti, a
graceful baritone, and Mr. Jules Benedict,
an English musician, who
served as accompanist and conductor
of the orchestra which
The audience which
gathered in that plain old church to welcome the
unrivaled Queen of Song,
never had its counterpart on any previous
occasion in Harrisburg;
while it also contained delegations from
Carlisle, Chambersburg and
other neighboring towns. The house was
well-filled; the ladies
were out in full dress, and did themselves
honor. The venerable
fathers who had been so reluctant in giving me
the use of the room, could
not but admit that everything had been done
"decently and in order"--although the scene
presented no semblance or
suggestion of the
primitive style of gatherings usual in that place.
The concert opened
with a Fantasia by Mr. Burke. Sig. Salvi followed
with the tenor Romanza "Una
Furtiva Lagrima," from Donizetti's opera
L'Elisir d'Amore--and it
is needless to add that Salvi made it
Now came Jenny Lind!
The easy and tripping graceful entre, as I had
seen it elsewhere, was
impossible here for want of stage room; but as
she stood before us, her
wining smile, and unaffected sweetness and
simplicity of manner won
all hearts. She seemed the very soul of
girlish modesty, and as
she cast her generous glances over the
audience, the impressions
of sincerity and pure womanhood were
She was attired in
white satin, embroidered; with double overskirt
of exquisite lace; low
neck and short sleeves; and a broad white satin
sash encircled her waist.
She wore a choice bouquet on her breast,
white kid gloves and a
number of bracelets and ornaments circled her
wrists. Her hair was, of
course, a la Lind--her own special fashion
which she then popularized
and maintained thoroughout her life.
Her introductory solo was "On Mighty
Pens" (Wings), from the
oratorio of The Circation,
in which, it will be remembered, Haydn
adapts his music to the
flight of the eagle, the song of the merry
lark, the cooing dove,
"the nightingale's delightful notes." No
language can describe the
wonderful fitness of Jenny Lind's voice for
the requirements of this
solo, nor the delicious ease with which she
seemed to repeat the very
warbling of the feathered creatures
themselves. The effect was one
not to be forgotten.
After Mr. Goldschmidt
had given his contribution of a piano solo
Jenny Lind displayed her
powers in the sphere of operatic composition
by a rendition of "Casta
Diva," from Bellini's Norma. This adagio
(prayer) of the ill-fated
Priestess--which I was delighted to find on
the programme--was given
with remarkable pathos and delicacy of
expression; while its
closing--allegro--was a glorious display of
brilliancy and vocal power,
affording the consummate artist a
sufficient opportunity to
reveal her technical ability, as well as the
easy freedom and
naturalness which characterized her peculiar style
Part second opened
with a clarionette solo by Signor Belletti, on
themes from Lucrezia Borgia.
Jenny Lind followed with the "Gypsy
Song," from Meyerbeer's
opera, Camp of Silesia. If, as the programme
said, this song, so full
of sprightly and rippling music, was "composed
expressly for Mademoiselle
Jenny Lind," her singing of it proved the
fact. It was exquisitely
well done--and it lives in my ear to this
Signor Salvi's solo
came next; it was "A Fra Poco," the pathetic
scene and aria of Edgardo,
which closes the opera of Lucia di
Lammermoor. It is not for
me to say whether that audience appreciated
the truly and noble
artistic interpretation Salvi gave of this number;
but it was superb, and I
recall distinctly its effect upon me. Salvi
was a prince of tenors; we
have not seen his compeer, except in Mario.
The well-known Scotch
ballad, "Auld Robin Gray," was our next gift
from Jenny. [It will be
noted that, having first shown her great
capabilities in the higher forms of
oratorio and opera, she now takes
up the lesser and plainer
style of ballad and song--the music of the
From her very heart's
core she seemed to feel every line of her song.
Her mild blue eyes were
deeply expressive of grief, and her tones were
sadly sweet. The varying
sentiment of the ballad was intelligently
portrayed as only such a
pure hearted singer could and she gave the
concluding lines with
"So I will do my
best a gude wife to be,
For auld Robin
Gray is very kind to me."
But the greatest treat
of the evening, to the largest portion of the
audience, was Jenny Lind's
singing of "Home, Sweet Home." In this she
has had many imitators,
but no equals; because it requires something
in the singer apart from
the song. Here, then, was a noble woman,
whose good name was "far
above rubies," and one whose tender and
sympathetic nature could
appreciate the meaning of "Home" while she
sang of it! As might be
expected every heart responded to the
inexpressible feeling with
which she emphasized her words in tones
while her listeners were scarcely able to
suppress until the proper
moment the rapturous applause which gave vent
to the emotions she had
"Home, home, sweet
There's no place like home."
Thus she sang it; the
audience was greatly moved, and the remembrance
of that song was the theme
for unending praise.
Without retiring from
the stage, the inimitable Jenny seated herself
at the piano to give her
farewell number, "The Herdsman's Song," her
most popular Swedish melody,
commonly known as "The Echo Song." Her
position at the instrument
made a very interesting picture--easy,
This song was
peculiarly her own; she never had a rival. Its
particular merit lay in
its echo parts, which no one else ever produced
with such truth and
effect. The composition represents the herdsman
calling in his cattle as
"night in her shade creeps darkening on," and
only an adept at musical
ventriloquism dare attempt its rendition. But
this child of nature,
Jenny Lind, had heard it a thousand times in her
native land, and she had
the imitative ability to reproduce it with
The echo seemed so
true to nature that the audience was astounded at
its apparent reality. In its
conclusion the singer-magician fairly
sported with it; and then
turning her face to the audience her tones
grew fainter and fainter
still. On, on bounded the diminishing echo,
until the enchained
listeners seemed breathless. The singer maintained
her steady gaze on the
wrapt audience, whose imagination continued the
dying echo, although it
had really ceased! Jenny Lind's victory was
complete and she
gracefully bade us good night and farewell.
Mr. Johnson was
pleased with their visit and success at Harrisburg,
the receipts having
reached about three thousand dollars. He presented
me with Jenny Lind's
autograph--a priceless memorial of the interesting
event I have endeavored to
describe, as a contribution to the musical
history of my native town.
GEORGE B. AYRES.
In the first
half of 1859, George Bucher Ayres acquired a newspaper called the
Montour American. The concern had been the possession, heretofore, of
Mr. D. H. B. Brower. In an article written by Mr. Brower, he relates:
"In 1859 I sold the
American to George B. Ayers, of Harrisburg.
During his ephemeral
editorship, he called it Montour Herald.
After a few months he
abandoned it and returned to Harrisburg,
having lost the greater
portion of its patronage. In October
of the same year I
repurchased the material, and resumed its
Hence, it can
be seen, that of the many things GBA turned his attention to,
newspaper journalism was not to be his “cup of tea.”
I have not
yet succeeded in finding a listing in the U.S. Census of 1860 for
George. Thus for the purposes of this biography, we will have to note
that it is uncertain just where GBA took up lodgings in the 1850’s to
early 1860’s. Was it in Harrisburg? Danville? Philadelphia?
Possibly in Chambersburg (see below)?
and Transcript, February 15, 1860, p.7, c. 1
The Franklin Railroad.
--At length this highway is
opened up for the accommodation of the travelling
public. After being cursed for
nearly seventeen years with horse cars and a worn
out Railroad, we were not
surprised to find that the good people of our native
town, Greencastle, were highly
pleased to see the regular passenger train of
cars entering their beautiful,
thriving Borough, on last Monday, the 6th day of
On Wednesday, the last day of May,
1843, the last train of cars, propelled by
steam, passed over the old
road. On Thursday, June 1st, 1843, the first
horse-car traveled over that
old flat-bar, no-rail, rickety concern.
A few years since the people in
the Southern part of this county, petitioned the
Legislature for, and obtained,
the passage of an act authorizing the sale of the
dilapidated old road, the jest
and by-work of the whole country, for the purpose
of having it reconstructed. It
was sold, but not re-laid. Within a year or two,
in pursuance of further
legislation, it was again sold. This time it fell into
the hands of A. J. Jones, Esq.,
of Harrisburg, and others who have rebuilt it
-substancially. To the
indomitable perseverance of Mr. Jones are the people of
this Valley indebted for the
present substancial thoroughfare -full blasted,
heavy railed, it is one of the
best roads in the United States.
The Road is not yet completed to
its terminus -Hagerstown, Md. The arrangement,
therefore, for running to
Greencastle is not of that permanent and satisfactory
character which will be made as
soon as the Road is finished throughout. There
is but one train per day,
leaving Chambersburg at 11.25 A.M., and, returning,
leaves Greencastle at 1.40 P.M.,
remaining an hour and a half at the latter
Col. Lull, the polite
superintendent of the Cumberland Valley Road, desirous of
affording facilities for the
transportation of freight, and for passengers to
travel with comfort to and from
Greencastle, made the above described
arrangement -the only one that
could be made for the present.
The gentlemanly conductor on the
C.V. R.R., Levy McCormack, Esq., who served an
apprenticeship on that same route,
under the horse car arrangement; George B.
Ayres, Esq., the polite, efficient
general Agent for the Company, and Geo. W.
Simmons, Esq., the unequalled Agent
for the Adams Express Co., constitute a trio
of good fellows, noble and true,
all of them, upon whom devolve the duty of
serving the public on the highway
-The Franklin Rail Road. The more intercourse
the people along the line of the
road have with these gentlemen the better they
will like them.
The first Train which passed over
the road to Greencastle, consisted of nine
heavily laden freight, and two
passenger cars. The firm of C. W. Eyster, &Co.,
forwarding merchants of this
place, have the credit of bringing down from
Greencastle, the first loaded car
-which was done by Monday's return trip.”
Note that, in
the latter reference, an A. J. Jones is referred to. Quite likely
this refers to GBA’s brother-in-law, the husband of Susan Bucher Ayres
– Andrew J. Jones.
The very next
time I find George is in 1864…
The "Old Folks"
first Grand Concert, Franklin Hall, Chambersburg
on Friday Evening,
June 17th,: 1864.
For the benefit of
the U. S. Christian Commission.
- George B. Ayres.
1. Chorus -
Song of the Old Folks.
2. Song -
Happy be thy Dreams - George B. Ayres.
3. Quartet -
Evangeline - Miss Snider, Mrs. McClure, Mr. McClure and Mr. McLenegan.
4. Solo -
The Kiss- Miss Maggie Barnlitz.
Solo -La Fille du Regiment - Nelle Halm
Song - R. A. McClure.
Violincello (Left hand, without changing strings) Last Rose; Old Folks
at Home - R. N. McClure.
8. Quartet -
"Oh, Gently Breathe" Misses Barnitz and Roberts. Messrs. McClure and
2. Solo and
Flute - The Echo Song Miss Snyder and Mr. Ayres.
Song - Mr. McFinnigan, Mr. Monyer.
Solo - Lee Somnambuler - Nelle Halm.
5. Duet -
Two Merry Girls - Miss Barnitz and Miss Roberts.
6. Quartet -
Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming
7. Song -
I'll be no Submissive Wife - Miss Maggie Barnitz.
8. Song -The
Ivy Green - George Ayres.
Finale - When this cruel War is Over - Solo - Miss Abbie Rankin.
year, I find an entry that looks as if it
be GBA, but I have
no verification of it. In a Chicago City Directory, I discovered:
1865 - Ayers George,
salesman R. B. Appleby, bds. 155 Monroe.
Richard B., whol. dealer in ambrotype and photographic
artists materials, 120 Clark, r. Washington, cor.
ask, “Why do you consider Chicago the year after George is conducting
a musical concert in Pennsylvania? For the simple reason that I
discovered this reference:
"In 1866 George B.
Ayres became the proprietor of Hesler
turn, is supported by these entries from Chicago city directories:
ALEXANDER, photographer, 113 Lake, h. 595 W. Lake.
C., photographic stock and materials, 113 Lake.
1867-8: Ayers George
B., photographic artist 113 Lake, h 242 LaSalle
N. C., photographic goods 113 Lake.
motivated this sudden move? I cannot say. Was George, who apparently
dabbled in photography before this time, suddenly drawn to make a
change in occupation? Was he thus moved to be near such natural
delights as the Niagara Falls? The Great Lakes? Did his marriage
have anything to do with this? Ah! His marriage… We find that GBA
married Mary Robbins Smith, the daughter of Mary V. Robbins and
Spencer C. Smith of Hunterdon County, New Jersey, on October 10,
1867. The marriage was performed by the well-known Presbyterian
minister of that county, Joseph R. Van Dyke, at the bride’s mother’s
house. Yet, in one place, reference is made to the marriage, listing
it as involving Buffalo, Erie County, New York!
Early Settlers of
New York State, Volume I, May 1936, Marriage Records, Avery - Ayres,
Records, copied from Buffalo Newspapers, are published through the
courtesy of the Buffalo Historical Society.
Ayres, George B.
and Mary Robbins Smith, Oct 10 1867
George B. Ayres
New York City,
1600s-1800s Marriage Index Spouse: Mary Robbins Smith
Buffalo and vicinity
State: New York
Early Settlers of New York State, Their Ancestors and Descendants,
Extracts from Vol.2, No.11 (May 1936)
Page: No page
Published: Akron, NY
quickly, see three more geographies tossed in to confuse matters.
Fortunately, there was not an abundance of George Bucher Ayres’ so we
are able to definitely assign these facts to the George of this note.
Suffice it to say, at least for now, that these events all occurred,
and were to be a key factor in the historical remembrance of George
What was the
sequence of events in the purchase and selling of the studios on Lake
Street under discussion? Taken from a brief copyrighted article by
John S. Craig, concerning Daguerreian Nathaniel Clinton Thayer, we
“He was listed … in
1859, and in 1859-1860 was listed as Thayer & Co.,
with William M. Thayer.
The business was listed at 113 Lake Street, and
both Thayers lived at
264 West Washington Street. In 1883, an article
noted him as "the oldest
stock dealer in the West. His house has always
sustained its reputation
for upright and honorable dealing, holding the
respect and admiration
of all." He sold to William Thayer in 1865, who
in turn sold out to
Ayres, in turn bought the studios from Mr. Hesler, in 1866.
says that GBA left within a year after his purchase of the studios for
Buffalo, New York. Maybe that is so. Certainly, he is found there
apparently at his primary residence, a few years later. But did he
actually leave Chicago in 1867? Well, if so, according to the 1867
Chicago city directory referred to above, it was not at the very
beginning of the year. I list no actual reference before 1870 that
demonstrates where exactly George lived for that timeframe. Since the
Thayer brothers (there had been two initially involved) and Hesler and
George had all owned that business at one time or other, and since
there was no clear moving away of the parties involved, it is not easy
to say exactly who owned the property at the time of October 8, 1871.
Yes, this was the time of the infamous Great Chicago Fire! Had George
previously sold the property. A reference we will consider later on
would seem to indicate he had. The only thing that can be definitely
stated by me at this time is what is found in the Buffalo city
1870: George B.
Ayres artist, boards at 387 Washington
repeated efforts, I have never had success in locating George Bucher
Ayres in the 1870 U.S. Census. George had not yet had any children,
and it would be difficult to attribute any Mary Ayres to being his
wife based on the census alone, unless the address matched that in the
above city directory entry.
It should be
noted that there is no Hesler, no Thayer, and no Ayres entry in the
1871 Fire Edition of the Chicago city directory. Since the area of
Lake Street had been devastated by the fire, this is no surprise. In
fact, Lake Street had had a number of photography-related businesses
along its path, but not one photographic business is listed in that
directory! So now, we switch our attention to the post-Chicago life
George Bucher Ayres lived – that is – we switch our attention
very important detail. George Bucher Ayres, during the ownership of
the Hesler Studios, discovered some negatives that Alexander Hesler
had made of Abraham Lincoln. Hesler was a photographer par
excellence, and the images of Lincoln he left behind would eventually
become very popular with the public. One was of a beardless Lincoln,
one of a tousled-hair Lincoln, etc. Concerning the beardless image of
Lincoln, we read:
“[The] picture of Abraham Lincoln
is the one he used during his campaign
for the presidency in 1860. It was
taken on a Sunday, June 3, 1860, in the
state capitol building, (now the
Sangamon County courthouse)…”
George had taken
these with him to Buffalo. Speaking of Buffalo, George is again found
in the city directory for 1872:
1872: Ayers, George
B. 308 Main [Buffalo, NY]
claims GBA moved to Philadelphia in 1872 or 1873. The address is
reputed to have been: 1232 North 6th Street. Whether that is true or
not, it is certain his wife, Mary Robbins Smith Ayres, died February
1, 1878. She had left behind two small children. They were Edith
Lyon Ayres, born February 5, 1875, and Annie Smith Ayres, born
September 15, 1876. What their mother, Mary died of, is, at this
point, unknown. That information should be easily available, however.
two separate 1880 Census entries for the family. George had placed
the tiny girls in their grandmother’s care in New Jersey. Mary V
Robbins Smith was a widow with other family members living with her.
They would be in a better position (this was the standard
point-of-view at the time) to receive a proper raising in their
earliest years by an interested female family member. George,
meanwhile, moved in with the his older brother Jacob Bucher Ayres
(always known as just Bucher) and his family, in Philadelphia.
begun publishing books on his photographic artistry before 1880. He
especially wrote about the art of water-coloring photographs. For
instance, there exists:
Ayres, George B.,
How to Paint Photographs in Water Colors (Philadelphia: Benerman &
How to Paint
Photographs, George B. Ayres, Appleton & Company, 1878.
Ayres had relocated his choice of publishers to New York from
Philadelphia. As was shown above, he himself lived in Buffalo during
part of the 1870’s.
that George Bucher Ayres remained in his final home, Philadelphia,
until the end of his life – probably around 1906 – at the age of about
seventy-seven. Here are some of the last Philadelphia city directory
entries for GBA, as well as for his brother, Jacob Bucher Ayres:
[Jacob] Bucher Ayres (B. Ayres & Co[mpany]), h 455 N 7th
George B. Ayres, artist, h 2021 N 12th
Ayres (B. Ayres & Co[mpany]), h 631 N 12th
entry for G B Ayres----
Bucher Ayres, h 805 N 17th
G. Ayres, h 1916 Mt Vernon
ß Who is
this? No other possible entry for GBA.
Bucher Ayres, h 805 N 17th
B. Ayres, artist, 1816 N 16th
----[J Bucher Ayres deceased]----
Geo B. Ayres, artist, 1710 Oxford
----no relevant entries----
There are no
entries for the years thereafter, thus appointing to the apparent
demise of George Bucher Ayres.
George Bucher Ayres had had two children, both daughters. Their names
were Edith Lyon Ayres and Annie Smith Ayres. There is a non-specific
reference to one of them on the worldwide web. Making reference to
matters discussed earlier in this article, events decades after GBA’s
death are referred to:
“In those days, photographers
used wet, glass plates, and it was common
practice for them to reclaim the
glass by dipping it in an acid bath to remove
the collodian which carried the
picture. Somehow, the Lincoln picture
escaped that fate.
In 1866, about a year after
Lincoln was assassinated, Hesler's studio passed
into the hands of George B.
Ayres. The full impact of Lincoln's legacy had
not yet dawned on people, but
Ayres decided to keep the negatives as
mementos. A year later he sold
the studio and moved East, taking the
negatives with him. Five weeks later the studio
Ayres left the negatives to
two daughters, and in 1932, a Philadelphia
lawyer accepted them in lieu of a
fee and debt on the estate of one of the
daughters. When the attorney
attempted to send them by mail to St. Louis,
the negatives were broken, making
it impossible to obtain any further prints
from them. They were turned over
to the Smithsonian Institute.
These were believed to be the
only existing negatives of the historic picture
until the fall of 1952, when King
V. Hostick, Springfield collector of historical
documents, found a duplicate set
of negatives in an assortment of effects he
bought in Philadelphia from the
Ayres estate. This print was made from one of
discussing the main implications her discussed, consider the possible
clarification of events before this time by statements made in this
quote. It lays claim that George had sold the studio before the Great
Fire – even spelling out a timeframe of five weeks. The above quote
also makes it appear that GBA likely possessed no insight as to the
future value of the photographic plates he had acquired, but kept
them, apparently, more out of interest in the subject of the
photographs, than in any intrinsic value they might later have.
also says George’s estate was in Philadelphia. Hence, it adds a bit
of weight to the argument that George likely died in Philadelphia.
made a duplicate set of negatives. Hence some information might yet
be found if knowledge of the affairs of King V. Hostick can be
determined, and the source of the current possessor of the duplicate
plates can be questioned.
George to do something with the plates and when did he do it? Yet
another quote on the web says:
“In 1866 George B. Ayres
became the proprietor of Hesler Gallery in
Chicago were he found the
negative of the young Lincoln. 25 years later,
triggered by a beardless
Lincoln picture in Harper's Magazine, he
remembered his photographic relics and
brought the negative to light again.
It was used as the
frontispiece in John Hay and John Nicolay Lincoln
biography which first appeared
in The Century in November 1886.
time until the 1890’s and possibly later, George Bucher Ayres made
prints from the negatives and colored those prints, and they can be
found at several well-known institutions. They have been located at
the Paul Revere House, Franklin-Marshall University, the Norton Museum
of Art, and elsewhere, including private collections. From time to
time, one even sees a sale of one of the prints in public auction.
did George Bucher Ayres meet, and when did it come, and where is the
place of his interment. Unfortunately, at this point in time, I am
unaware of the answers to these. I merely speculate, perhaps with a
bit more insight than mere guessing, that he likely died in 1906 or
briefly thereafter, and is buried in what surely was at the time
considered a highly-respected cemetery, perhaps alongside his
daughters and wife, most likely in the hometown he knew best and last
– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
October 23, 2002