Dr. George Blackham was born in Jersey City New Jersey in 1846 and died in Chicago in 1928. He came to Dunkirk at the age of four, He entered the engineering corps and in 1864 enlisted as a private in Company I of the 187th New York State Volunteers and went to the front. After fighting in several battles with the Army of the Potomac he served as regimental hospital steward. He returned to Dunkirk after the war and worked with the Erie Railroad as an office boy and then chief clerk. He then studied medicine, receiving his degree from the University of Buffalo in 1870. He was one of the first physicians in the country to specialize in a certain specialty--opthalmology and ontology, serving in Dunkirk as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist. He was also an early president of the American Society of Microscopists.
Blackham was a founding member of the Young Men's Association, a group of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the city. They undertook various projects such as assisting in establishing Brooks Memorial Hospital, creating a public library and improving Washington Park. One way they raised funds for their projects was to create "lantern lectures"--a early form of slide show using negatives that Blackham, an amateur photographer who used a view camera, had taken over the years, some going back to 1886. After some time it was suggested that these images be printed and assembled into a scrapbook. Local photographer George A. H. Eggers agreed to assist him by printing and mounting the images. The album was completed in 1924 and was luckily preserved over the years, for a period of time in the Dunkirk Free Library, until it was donated to the Dunkirk Historical Museum.
George A.H. Eggers operated a photographic studio at the corner of Fourth and Eagle Streets starting in 1889. He was born in Bremen, Germany, came to Dunkirk in 1853, and started his commercial photography business in his home until he purchased a property next door to use as his studio. Eggers was the father of the nationally known artist and director, George William Eggers.
The Blackham-Eggers Collection includes images of businesses, homes, scenes along Lake Erie's shores, hotels, parades, and fire halls, as well as mundane scenes such as street paving and families picnicking. It is a unique collection that reveals the life of the city at that time.
This image taken from the collection of photographs produced by the pair includes George A.H. Eggers (left) and Dr. George Blackham (right.
This is a copy of the Forward page from the scrapbook of photographs compiled by Eggers and Blackham. The reprinting of what is written appears below.
This Album of Dunkirk, N.Y. had its origin in a lantern lecture which I gave in one of the Young Men’s Association courses many years ago and repeated later before the Chamber of Commerce. Some of the members of the Chamber felt that these pictures should be preserved as a permanent records of some historic value.
A committee consisting of Mr. Harry T. Monroe and Professor F.R. Darling was appointed and funds placed at their disposal to defray the expense of printing and mounting the pictures from my negatives some of which date back to 1886.
We were fortunate to secure the cooperation of Mr. Geo A.H.Eggers, a very skillful professional photographer, himself an old citizen, who made the prints.
In addition to the prints from my negatives are several made from, negatives taken by Mr. Eggers and a number of portraits of old citizens of Dunkirk who have now passed on. These latter are copied from old miniatures and photographs kindly loaned for the purpose by friends ands relatives. Some of these old portraits are more or less faded and yellowed by age making the task of getting good copies a difficult one but Mr. Eggers’ skill and care have secured good results in almost every instance.
Of course the collection makes no pretense of completeness as portraits of many old citizens are not now available.
The frontice piece is a photograph from an old painting made in 1835 and is believed to be the oldest picture of Dunkirk extant.
George E. Blackham
May 14, 1924