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Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins (1847-1922)

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  • Collection of Antique Maritime Photography and Art

Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins Biography

Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins (1847-1922) is recognized as one of the leading American maritime photographers. He had roots in Massachusetts, but he was born on January 9, 1847 far from blue water in Meadville, Pennsylvania. The son of an influential Unitarian minister, Stebbins became fascinated with the sea at an early age and made at least one ocean voyage to South America as a passenger in a sailing vessel. He took up amateur photography about 1882 and became so involved that he gave up his regular business to become a photographer in 1884. He moved his family to the Boston, Massachusetts area to engage in this field, and joined yacht clubs in Boston and Marblehead. It is not known whether his photography business was his sole income; there are indications that either he or his wife had independent means, but little is known. Like his New York contemporaries, James Burton and Charles E. Bolles, and the somewhat younger Morris Rosenfeld and Edwin Levick, Stebbins accepted a wide variety of photographic commissions, but about 15,000 of his negatives apparently were of maritime subjects. Yachting was Stebbins's particular interest. He joined the Corinthian and Eastern Yacht Clubs of Marblehead, as well as the Boston, Hull, and Massachusetts Yacht Clubs. He owned or chartered a number of yachts, including a 40-foot sloop, the 60-foot steam yacht Ella in 1890, and the 26-foot yawl Penguin in 1901. EllaTo photograph important races or commercial vessels he might charter a tugboat as a platform for his camera. Nathaniel Stebbins worked up until his death in 1922 in West Somerville, Massachusetts, aged 75.

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