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W.H. Mumler (1832-1884)
USA: Massachusetts, Boston
Photograph on paper mounted on board
overall: 4-1/4"h x 2-1/2"w
Gift of the Supreme Council, 33º, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. [Found in Library Supreme Council Collection]
Carte-de-visite shows man identified as Theodore Ross with ghost-like image of woman superimposed above him; written on back, "Portrait of Theo. Ross 33rd degree / Taken by a spiritualistic / photographer and he made / Ross believe that was / his wife's spirit standing / behind him"; also on the back is text, "Specialty / By / Mumler / 170 West Springfield St. / Boston, Mass." Ross has a mustache and wears a dark coat and vest with white shirt and dark bowtie.
Called "spirit photography," images like this one were often created by unscrupulous photographers who claimed that they had captured the likenesses of deceased loved ones. W.H. Mumler of Boston, who took this photograph, produced this type of image for eight years, claiming all the while to be uniting the dead with the living. However, other photographers worked to debunk Mumler's claims, even publishing descriptions of techniques that could be used to make these pictures. Photographers used additional living people as part of the process, not visitors from the spirit world. Honest photographers sometimes used the "ghost" techniques for sentimental or humorous reasons, without claiming that they were in contact with the spirit world. The subject, Theodore Ross, was born in Duchess County, New York, on November 23, 1827, and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, at a young age. He was made a Mason in Cleveland's Iris Lodge No. 229 and became a member of both the York Rite and the Scottish Rite. He received the Scottish Rite's honorary 33rd degree on May 23, 1862. At some point, Ross moved to New York City, where he died on May 30, 1875.