16 February, 2010

Item 48: Berkley Vanderzee Cabinet Card

Item 48: Cabinet Card of Berkley Vanderzee. Early 1882. 

Shortly after establishing the Society of the Mechanical Sun in January of 1882, its four founding members posed for formal portraits at Deakin Bro's Studio to commemorate the organization's inception.  The cabinet card of Timothy Deakin (HS Item 47) was the first of these four photographs to be discovered within the Hawkins Strongbox.  We will feature the cabinet cards of Geoffrey Hawkins and Falynne Hyperion in the near future.  Today we present Collection Item 48, the cabinet card of Berkley Vanderzee.

Berkley and his twin brother Nicholas were born on the Missouri frontier on 13 November, 1841 to parents Miles and Gillian Vanderzee.  Shortly after the boys' sixteenth birthday in 1857, their mother was killed by a stray bullet from a gunfight between rival outlaw gangs in Kansas City.  Disillusioned and distraught, Berkley and his father, a British emigre, returned to England in early 1858, where Berkley was apprenticed to a London watchmaker.  Nicholas remained in the states, working on a cattle ranch owned by his maternal uncle Giles Ainsworth.

Berkley Vanderzee became publicly renown for his timepieces and also for his mechanical automata.  With his close friends and associates he shared his more elaborate and complicated constructs, such as the mechanical spider posed on his shoulder in this particular portrait.  In his hand he holds a newly crafted emblem of the Mechanical Sun, similar to the brooch Timothy Deakin wears in his own portrait.

1 Observations:

Jane said...

His name is Dutch - is there any indication of a connection to the Netherlands?
The mechanical spider seems a bit sinister for these guys - it makes me wonder if Berkley has a darker side to his nature.