professional photographer, elder brother of Freeman , Benjamin and Nathaniel Batchelder , was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His surname was commonly spelt 'Bachelder’ and he was possibly a kinsman of R.G. Bachelder, a touring showman who brought several popular panoramas from New York to the Australian colonies in 1867-68. In the early 1850s P.M. Batchelder worked as an itinerant daguerreotype photographer on the Californian goldfields, organising a chain of studios on wheels that could easily be moved from site to site. A splendid quarter-plate daguerreotype showing him standing in front of his 'Daguerrian Saloon’ at Vallecito, California (Oakland Museum, California), was taken in the summer of 1853 by one of his pupils and agents, Isaac W. Baker, whom Batchelder had sent in a van that year to Murphy’s Camp, Vallecito and Mokelumne Hill. Meanwhile, brother Ben was at Jamestown and 'David’ and 'Patch’ (Freeman Batchelder?) were also on the payroll, one training to go to Mexico the other possibly at Stockton. On 2 September 1853 P.M. himself was (temporarily) at Sonora.
The Victorian goldrush inspired Perez to extend the chain to the antipodes. He opened a Melbourne branch of P.M. Batchelder at 57 Collins Street East in 1854 and exhibited two photographs of Toorak houses and a portrait of the town clerk at the 1854 Melbourne Exhibition. The firm was soon very successful. The photographer Walter Woodbury , who worked there for £4 week for a few months late in 1855, called it 'the head dagguerotype [sic] establishment in Melbourne’. The photographs he noted there included a portrait of the notorious dancer Lola Montez, displayed with 'all the [other] celebrated characters hung out at the door’. On 14 October 1855 Woodbury sent a small parcel of photographs to his mother in England, mainly his own but including a Batchelder stereoscope because it was 'I think the best thing in the photographic line I ever saw’.
Freeman, Benjamin and Nathaniel turned up in February 1856 and joined Perez. Batchelder’s showed portraits, two views of Melbourne and one of Geelong at the 1857 Victorian Society of Fine Arts Exhibition. Sands & Kenny’s Melbourne Directory for 1857 lists Perez and Freeman as joint occupants of the Batchelder daguerrean and photographic rooms at 57 Collins Street East, but later that year, after Daniel O’Neill had been taken on as a partner, Perez left Victoria. The Batchelder partner in 'Batchelder & O’Neill’s Daguerreotype and Collodion Portrait Rooms’ operating from P.M.'s former premises between 1858 and 1862 was Freeman.
In 1859 Batchelder & O’Neill announced that having recently added 'another large Operating Room to their former extensive premises, with an excellent Sky-light for the taking of Collodion or Glass Portraits, They are now prepared to execute either the Daguerreotype or Glass Pictures in a style surpassed by none in the Colonies’. They were offering: 'Correct copies taken from Paintings or other Daguerreotypes – The trade supplied with every description of Apparatus and Materials. – The goods imported by Batchelder and O’Neill are from the best houses in England and America. – The chemicals are prepared EXPRESSLY for photographic purposes and superior to those sold by Druggists – Price Lists…[and] Goods carefully packed and forwarded to any part of Australia and neighbouring Colonies.’
It is not clear how many of the photographs were taken by any name partner, but Batchelder & O’Neill exhibited portraits and photographic views at a number of exhibitions. Cato mentions that Batchelder’s sold cartes-de-visite of actors and actresses at a shilling each in local theatres between acts, surviving examples including Madame Carandini, G.V. Brooke (whose carte by Batchelder’s was reputed to have sold 50,000 copies), Mr and Mrs Charles Kean, George Coppin and many others (LT). Many were taken by the later firm, which had no Batchelder brother connections, although the initiative seems to have been theirs. Batchelder’s (and its successors) was exclusively a photography firm. When Rev. J. Buckland exhibited Portrait of a Gentleman by Batchelder & O’Neill in the watercolour section of the 1862-63 Hobart Town Art Treasures Exhibition it was doubtless a hand-coloured paper photograph or chromatype, presumably of Buckland himself.
Batchelder & O’Neill were awarded a first-class certificate for 16 hand-coloured portrait photographs of officers of the Metropolitan Volunteer Brigades when these were shown at the 1861 Victorian Exhibition. When sent on to the 1862 London International Exhibition, the collection was awarded an honourable mention. Freeman Batchelder may have accompanied the photographs to England; Batchelder & O’Neill’s photographs on sale at the 1863 Ballarat Mechanics Institute Exhibition included 40 views of Melbourne and vicinity, reproductions of paintings—and 12 views of the London International Exhibition.
By the end of 1864 Batchelder & O’Neill was at 27 (or 28) Swanston Street with O’Neill as sole partner. Perez had long returned to Boston; in 1860 he opened a studio there in partnerhsip with James Wallace Black (1825-96). He died in North America in 1873. By 1866 the old firm no longer existed, the Swanston Street premises having been taken over by their erstwhile manager, Charles Johnson, while the name 'Batchelder’s Portrait Rooms’ (and, presumably, the firm’s negatives) now belonged to F.A. Dunn , J. Botterill and J.N. Wilson . Listed at 41 Collins Street East in 1865, the latter operated as Batchelder & Co. from 1866 to 1895, mainly under W.J. Stubbs . Collections of photographs (mainly on paper) from the studios of P.M. Batchelder and Batchelder & O’Neill are in the La Trobe, Mitchell and other libraries.
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