Facts about the life of historic Allentown photographer Benjamin Lochman
His carte de visite portraits can be found all over the Internet, in places like Flickr, Pinterest, and eBay. His portraits identify him variously as Benjamin Lochman, B. Lochman, and Benj’n Lochman. But what else do we know about this 1800s photographer whose work is still so present in the digital age?
I became curious about the work of Benjamin Lochman after randomly discovering this lovely portrait (below), bearing Benjamin’s name, in an antique shop in Tennessee. What I didn’t expect was that researching this story would reveal a crazy personal twist. Be sure to go all the way to the bottom to find out what it is.
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The life of Benjamin Lochman
Benjamin Lochman was born in Hamburg, PA to parents Christian Lochman and Catherina Leithiser, both of German heritage (2). He was 35 years old at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census, which verifies that he was born in 1825. Sources differ on the exact date of his birth, with one claiming January 26 (4) and another June 25 (2), but his obituary (bottom of this article) confirms the January 26 date.
Benjamin was sickly as a child — one source claiming he suffered from tuberculosis (5). The ongoing illness may have been a factor in his decision to take up photography as a career, expecting it to be less physically demanding than previous endeavors. One source said Benjamin also had a fascination with studying the daguerreotype process (5).
Marriage and family
Benjamin married Catharine Troxell of Allentown in March of 1850. She’s listed as “Kate” in the 1860 census listing (above). At the time of the census, the couple had three children: Ugene, age 9; William, age 8; and Ella, age 9 months. Also listed in the household was a 14-year-old girl named Barbara Troxell, a relative of Catharine.
Benjamin and Catharine’s son William Jerome Lochman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school in 1871 and practiced medicine in Allentown.
In 1883, Benjamin and Catharine encountered legal problems surrounding the correct ownership of some real estate property going back to 1873. Their case went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. A section of the decision in Lochman v. Brobst by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is included below (10). The entire affair seems to stem from Benjamin’s failure to make payments on a property, a sheriff’s sale, and whether Catharine actually owned the deed separately from her husband at the time of the sheriff’s sale.
A family of photographers
Benjamin Lochman was one of three brothers who were all photographers. Older brother Charles was a chemist and druggist, but also operated a photography business in Carlisle, PA. Charles was notable for his photographs of the Civil War damage at Chambersburg from 1864 (3), and seems to have earned the most acclaim for his photography work. Brother William J. Lochman was a photographer in Hamburg, PA, 30 miles from Allentown.
Prior to photography, Charles and Benjamin operated a business in Allentown making and selling shoes and boots, which is shown in the photograph by William Lochman below. Benjamin also worked as a school teacher and a clerk.
While he is outshined historically by older brother Charles, Benjamin was a photographer for more than 50 years (4) and is thought to have taken some of the earliest — if not the very first — photographs of Allentown.
Studio locations in Allentown
Benjamin operated a photography business in Allentown from the 1850s – 1910s (4). In that time he occupied many business locations. The photograph I discovered in Tennessee was taken at 707 Hamilton Street, which he occupied from 1885 – 1905. Below is a list of known business locations and the source of the information, identified by LangdonRoad.com:
- 9 West Hamilton, Allentown, PA (1861 – late 1870s) Boyd’s PA Business Directory, Reilly’s PA Business Directory
- 709 Hamilton St, Allentown, PA (late 1870s-1880) cabinet image
- 707 Hamilton, 239 N 6th, Allentown, PA (1885) City Directory
- 707 Hamilton, Allentown, PA (1899) City Directory
- 707 Hamilton St., Allentown, PA (1890s-1905) cabinet image
A search of Google Street View shows that where the 707 Hamilton studio once stood is now a modern office building that houses a Tim Horton’s restaurant (below).
What types of prints did Benjamin Lochman make?
Even though his initial interest in photography may have stemmed from a love for daguerreotypes, it seems most of his extant images are albumen prints, which was the most popular type of photographic print of that era. One of the advantages of albumen prints over daguerreotypes is the use of a negative to make multiple prints.
Death of Benjamin Lochman: Oldest photographer in Pennsylvania
In a death notice for his brother Charles, Benjamin was listed among the surviving relatives and was referred to as “Allentown’s oldest photographer.” Apparently the “oldest in Allentown” slogan was a thing for Benjamin. It surfaced again in notices when he died.
Benjamin lost his wife Catharine in 1894. It’s odd that although she was married to a photographer for 44 years, I’ve been unable to locate a portrait of Catharine. In later years after Catharine’s death, Benjamin lived with the family of his daughter Ella, and with his son William, the doctor (2).
Benjamin Lochman died on May 3, 1912. A death notice in the Bulletin of Photography said, “Benjamin Lochman, said to be the oldest photographer in Pennsylvania, died May 3d at Allentown, Pa., at the age of eighty-five years.” A screen capture of the actual typeset notice is below.
Benjamin’s age in the death notice appears to be incorrect, since he born in 1825, he would have been 87 years old in 1912.
Part of Benjamin’s obituary in Allentown’s newspaper is quoted below and focuses on his Revolutionary War-era German roots:
“He (Benjamin Lochman) was born in Hamburg, Berks County on January 26, 1825 and his ancestors fought on both sides in the Revolution. His paternal grandfather (Wilhelm/William Lochman) was an officer in the Hessian army, while his mother’s father (Hartman Leitheiser) was an officer in the Continental army. The latter took part in the battle in which Mr. Lochman’s Hessian ancestor was made a captive by the American army. After his capture Captain (Wilhelm) Lochman vowed that he would never return to his native land and settled in Berks county near where the American officer, Captain Leitheiser also lived. The bitterness entendered by the war was forgotten as the families were cemented by the marriage of Mr. Lochman’s parents.” Allentown Morning Call, May 4, 1912. (9)
An unexpected personal family connection
And now, here’s the crazy, random twist in this story that I didn’t see coming. Remember — I decide to research the photographer Benjamin Lochman simply because I spotted one of his lovely carte de visite portraits in an antique store in Tennessee. I knew nothing about the man. However, his wife Catharine was a member of the Troxell family in Pennsylvania. My mother’s maiden name is Troxell, and our family tree goes back to Pennsylvania as well.
As it turns out, Benjamin married a woman who is probably one of my distant relatives.
Thanks for reading!
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Chemical Pictures: Making Wet Collodion Negatives: Albumen, Salt, & Collodio-Chloride Prints by Quinn B. Jacobson (Amazon)
Allentown (Images of America) by Ann Bartholomew and Carol M. Front (Amazon)
1. Bulletin of Photography, Volume 10, 1912, Pg 632
2. Flickr: A posting by user Mudra51
3. Gardner Digital Library: “Charles Lochman, Cumberland County’s First Premium Photographer”
4. Getty Museum
5. HistoricCamera.com, “Benjamin Lochman“
6. Langdonroad.com: Photographer Lists lo – to – ly
7. Library of Congress: “W. Lochman Boot, Shoe, Cap & Hat Store“
8. Photographers: A Sourcebook for Historical Research, edited by Peter E. Palmquist, Carl Mautz Publishing, 2000
9. Peggy Lyte Tyrrell on RootsWeb.com
10. Pennsylvania State Reports Containing Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Volume 102, 1884, Lochman v. Brobst
11. U.S. Census (1860) accessed via FamilySearch.org
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