Fiction: A 19th Century Bachelor Abroad – Part 2

A 19thCentury Bachelor Abroad – Part 2

Beauchamp A. Pettibone, Esq. in Constantinople

By Paul Baker

To recap our story, Beauchamp A. Pettibone, Esq. has traveled from London to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in 1893 for education, adventure and photography. His cameras were stolen on the steamer trip over, so he has built himself new ones from material he picks up in the bazaars around the city.


Beauchamp A. Pettibone, Esq.

At first Beauchamp figured he’d just take pictures for himself…the monuments, the mosques, Hagia Sophia and picturesque streets. However, the city has something better in store for him. We see him here in the only surviving portrait, a tintype:


Turns out, he has become quite the social hit at the British Consulate afternoon tea parties and the evening sherry soirees. He’s courteous, tall and cuts a good figure on the dance floor. Furthermore, thanks to his mother (who studied acting in Paris for two years), he speaks fluent French. His father had him learn German, and B. studied some Turkish on the voyage over. As a result, he can converse easily with almost everyone he meets – diplomats, army officers, gentlemen of international business and aristocracy of any country.

He realizes he can make good money by shooting portraits of this diverse but tight-knit community. To promote his growing business, he has cards printed:


(Note: I had these printed in letterpress at a great local store, The Wishing Well on Clement Street. Ask for Jake, he really knows his stuff)

The cards help spread the word of Beauchamp’s talents and his income rises. He decides to build a few more cameras.

One model is made of white boxwood and Italian glove leather. Beauchamp casually calls it “The White Camera.” In an interesting twist, Beauchamp’s granddaughter in June, 1968 is friends with a rising band called The Beatles, who are preparing to record a new album, but don’t yet have a title for it. They come over for dinner one evening and she shows them this, recounting its background. John Lennon is quite struck with the camera. In November 1968 their latest album comes out. Its name: The White Album. Coincidence? who can say!


Paul would also like to point out that Steve Jobs felt he invented the idea of high tech objects being all white instead of the usual black and silver (cameras, phones, stereos). Yet it’s clear that Pettibone beat him to this concept by more than a century (The White Camera ostensibly from 1894).


A stereoscopic camera. The two lenses take simultaneous photos. When viewed together the dual pictures create a surprisingly 3-D effect. Stereoscopic views were popular with Victorians. This iron doll’s head was easily converted.

His final camera is made from an ibriki, a long-handled copper pot specifically used to brew Turkish coffee. The handle is ebony with a silk cord to trigger the shutter. A single sheet of round film is placed in the back panel.

Readers will not be surprised to learn that our man Beauchamp actually invented the selfie – in 1895. His copper camera is most useful for placing oneself in landscape shots, or getting a photo with friends.



vintage selfie camera rozie wong

Local writer and resident, Ms. Rozie Wong demonstrates this camera’s special – and innovative – design for Richmond Review readers.

More of Paul Baker’s art can be seen at


End of Part II  ###


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