Frederick de Bourg Richards

(American, 1822 - 1903)

The photographer and landscape painter Frederick De Bourg Richards was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Nothing is known about his early training, and he may have worked as an artist in New York in 1844 and 1845. He had settled in Philadelphia by 1848, where he opened a daguerreotype gallery at 144 1/2 Chestnut Street, opposite Independence Hall. Richards operated the gallery until 1855, and was noted for his “life-size” daguerreotypes. His account book indicates that he sold photographs to such prominent Philadelphia artists as James Hamilton, William Trost Richards, Peter F. Rothermel, and others.¹ Around 1853 he began to take photographs that documented the appearance of Philadelphia’s historic buildings. An article in The Journal of the Franklin Institute discussed improvements Richards had made to the stereoscope.² He exhibited daguerreotypes at the Franklin Institute’s annual exhibitions and may have printed copies of paintings and engravings. During the middle 1850s Richards traveled extensively in Europe, where he executed commissioned paintings of the Swiss Alps and Italian countryside. In 1857 he published Random Sketches, or, What I Saw in Europe (Philadelphia: G. Collins). A wood engraving after one of three photographs that Richards took of President-elect Abraham Lincoln raising the flag before Independence Hall appeared on the cover of Harper’s Weekly on March 9, 1861. Around 1865 his interest in photography began to wane, and he devoted himself to painting landscapes, most of which were of the Pennsylvania countryside and the New Jersey seashore. He exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts between 1848 and 1891, the National Academy of Design from 1865 to 1876, and the Brooklyn Art Association in 1875 and 1876. He was also active in the Artists’ Fund Society, the Philadelphia Society of Artists, the Art Club of Philadelphia, and the American Art Union in New York. Richards, who was a member of the Society of Friends, died at his residence at 1827 North Twelfth Street and was buried in West Laurel Hill cemetery.³ Notes 1. Richards’s account book is owned by the Schwarz Gallery. 2. The Journal of the Franklin Institute, vol. 5 (February 1853), pp. 285–87. 3. The majority of the biographical information is from Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art  (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1976), pp. 363–64.