one of the prominent members of
Edinburgh Photographic Society
- West Indies - USA
John Nicol was born in
Scotland on July 4, 1828 (not 1830!).
- He graduated from Edinburgh University in 1852.
- He married Elizabeth Urquhart in 1857 (or 1860?).
- They had five children. Elizabeth died 1876.
- John is reported to have spent 12 years in the West Indies -
- He married Elizabeth Ransom in 1877. She died, 1905.
- In 1885, he emigrated to Chicago, USA, and moved to New York in
- He died in New York on March 13, 1910.
Details above have
been taken from a web site giving the
of men from Tioga County, New York where John Nicol settled, and from
the May 1910 edition of the journal, American Photography.
Tioga County web site gives birth details:
near Edinburgh, July 4, 1830.
The American Photography journal, May 1910 says: Forfarshire,
July 4, 1828.
Sherrilynn Nicol-Taylor (See 'Descendant'
below) confirms the details in the American Photography Journal
Tioga County web site says 1860: American
Photography says 1857.
 The Tioga County biography of John NIcol says
that he returned to Edinburgh in 1877 after spending 12 years in the West
Indies. Was he really away for 12 years? Further investigation
is needed as according to his own accounts, he was resident in Edinburgh
around 1861 when Edinburgh Photographic Society was established.
Sherrilynn Nicol-Taylor writes:
"I agree that he couldn't have been in the West Indies for 12 years.
He married Elizabeth Frances Ransom in 1878 in the family home in Tioga
Center, New York not in Scotland. There is a family letter
describing the wedding there.
It would make sense that if he married Elizabeth U. in 1857 or 1860
that he was in Scotland and not the west Indies for 12 years. After all
she had 5 kids during that time so I wonder how he could have been away 12
years and returned in 1877."
Salina, Utah, USA February 3, 2008
Thank you also to Sherrilynn
Nicol-Taylor, great great grand-daughter of Dr John Nicol for providing
comments. Sherrilynn tells me that her information comes from her
father Robert R. Nicol, Jr. and a cousin's publication entitled "The
Ransom and Latimer Families" by Judith R. Collens.
"The cousin who wrote that book has several of Dr. John's photographic
plates and my father has his chemist box as well as a metal daguerreotype
metal plate of his son Robert A. Nicol."
Salina, Utah, USA February 3, 2008
The Life of Dr
John Nicol's portrait appeared
on the cover of the May 1890 edition American Photography, shortly
after his death.
An account of his life
appeared inside the journal. Here are some extracts from this
"He (John Nicol) was a devoted student and
became a teacher of science in the Edinburgh High School in the seventies.
We find him, in 1876, announcing himself as consulting and analytical
chemist, having erected a new laboratory and studio, for private
instruction in chemistry and photography at 16 Warriston Crescent."
"A statement is also made that arrangements
have been perfected for the preparation of dry plates, a stock of all
ordinary sizes of which will be kept on hand, and that plates by any
special process can be obtained at a few hours' notice. (This
was before the commercial production of the present-day gelatine plate.)"
In fact, John Nicol placed an
advert for his dry plates in The
Scotsman newspaper as early as 1859!
- Peter Stubbs
"He was prepared to execute commissions in
different departments of photography, such as printing in silver or carbon
from amateurs' negatives, copying paintings, drawings, works of art
generally, make landscapes and architectural photography in any part of
the country, make enlargements from small negatives for paintings in oil
or water colour on paper or canvas.
His announcement states further
that he will continue the manufacture of the rarer chemicals that may be
used in photography.
His studio was erected mainly for the
convenience of those of his friends who might wish to practice portrait
"A well-known physician in Edinburgh, Fellow
and Treasurer of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, speaks
highly of Dr Nicol as having had the sole management of the laboratory
department of the royal Public Dispensary of Edinburgh, the duties of
which he was thoroughly competent to perform."
Chemist then Scientific
"Another friend says of him, 'After conducting
for a series of years the business of a chemist and druggist in Edinburgh,
he became enamored of chemical science, more especially in the department
of photography, relinquished business then gave himself wholly to
He concludes with the words, 'Altogether, he
is a man possessed of great ability, pleasing manners, aptness in
teaching, and an excellent pharmacist.'
"Dr Nicol was a member of the Pharmaceutical
Society of Great Britain, also of the Edinburgh Photographic Society, of
which he was correspondent secretary in 1877.
In 1873, he was treasurer of St Stephen's Ward
of the High Constables of Edinburgh, instituted in 1611. He was a
regular contributor to the 'British Journal of Photography', and an
intimate friend of J Trail Taylor, the editor of that publication.
John Traill Taylor was one of the founding
members of Edinburgh Photographic Society in 1861.
- Peter Stubbs
"After leaving Scotland, Dr Nicol made his
home in the United States and located in the city of Chicago, Ill., where
he became connected with the photographic journal, named 'The Beacon'.
The first number appeared in January 1889."
Chicago Camera Club
acted as a judge in several photographic competitions.
In Chicago in 1889, he was chosen president of
the Chicago Camera Club."
Thank you to Richard
Holzman, Michigan, USA for sending me copies of pages from American
Photography, May 1910.