16 February, 2010
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 British 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 returned to England in early 1858, where Berkley was apprenticed to a London watchmaker. Nicholas remained in Missouri, 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 toys. 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.