Stanley, John H. Stephen (1800–1872)

By: Kendall Curlee

Revised by: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 25, 2020

John H. Stephen Stanley (also known as John Holt Stanway and John H. Smythe Stanley), photographer, was born in Manchester, England, on May 31,1800. Aboard the Great Western, Stanley met Ashbel Smith, who convinced him in December 1845 to immigrate to Houston, Texas, where he made daguerreotype portraits. Though he was reported to be an amateur at the time he moved to Houston, he opened a portrait studio sometime after his arrival. A few years later his photographic work won praise in The Photographic Art-Journal and Humphrey's Journal. In December 1851 Stanley announced the completion of the Daguerreian Sky-Light Gallery and his partnership with FitzGibbon and Bourges of Galveston, an association that apparently had dissolved by April 1852. In November 1851 Stanley publicized his ability to take portraits and views on glass, ivory, or paper, "with duplicates to any required extent," indicating that he was experimenting with a negative-positive process at an early date. In an advertisement dated May 27, 1852, he announced that he had "succeeded in taking pictures on glass," probably using the collodion process. However, he made no mention of the glass-plate process in later advertisements. Stanley's experiments with advanced techniques are plausible in light of his contacts with an international network of photographers. He was a correspondent of the Daguerrean Journal in 1851 and was acquainted with London photographers Robert Hunt, author of A Popular Treatise on the Art of Photography (1841), and Antoine François Claudet, a successful portraitist who experimented with a number of photographic techniques. Stanley pursued other scientific endeavors, especially astronomy, which he taught in Houston. In 1857 he was a correspondent of the United States Commission of Patents on agricultural topics, and from December 1869 to October 1870 he made meteorological observations for the Smithsonian Institution. In the 1870 census, Stanley reported his occupation as “photographist.” Stanley and his wife Eliza had at least three children. He died in Houston on February 25, 1872, and was buried at Glenwood Cemetery.

Lawrence T. Jones III, Lens on the Texas Frontier (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014). Photographic Art-Journal, March 1852. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Texas Collection, October 1941. Telegraph and Texas Register, October 24, December 19, 1851, June 25, 1852.

  • Peoples
  • English
  • Visual Arts
  • Photography
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kendall Curlee Revised by Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes, “Stanley, John H. Stephen,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

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January 25, 2020

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