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The adventurous and tragic life of Jacob Granat

We just found in Paris around twenty nice Mexican photographs, mostly tipos and views
of the City of Mexico, titled and signed « J. Granat » – a name unknown to us. We quickly discovered that these photographs were widely produced as offset post card – but the
original photographic prints are rare. Included in the lot of prints was an unsigned street
view of calle San Francisco in Mexico City, with a Granat shop in the foreground, its likely
owner in the doorway. As good a clue as it gets.

Jacob Granat was born in 1871 in Lemberg (today Lviv), a city in Western Ukraine, at the
time part of the Austrian empire. In 1900, at the invitation of his uncle Jacob Kalt, he
moved to Veracruz in Mexico, and a year later in Mexico City. We know that he had an uncle
or a cousin working at the casa Boker, one of the most successful German owned business
in Mexico. Interestingly, Guillermo Kahlo worked at casa Boker during the last years of
the 19th century, and probably took his first photographs during the construction of the
new Boker shop in 1898-1899.

We also know that Jacob Granat became rapidly the « curio king » of the capital, selling luggages, post cards and other souvenirs from his shop in calle San Francisco, in the
Historical center. But the bulk of the business was apparently luggages, and we are
inclined to think that Jacob Granat was not the photographer, but the distributor of
these images, either in photographic prints or in post cards.

Guillermo Kahlo and Jacob Granat were born the same year (1871), were both German
speaking and both had strong connections with the Boker family. It is therefore almost
certain that they knew each other. It is tempting to speculate that when Granat opened
his « curio shop » he asked Kahlo for some tipos photographs. We will need further
research to validate this hypothesis.

Jacob Granat credits

Tipos Mexicanos

Calendario Azteca

Evangelista, Mexico

Tortillera, Mexico

Su Chata

Mercado

Los Consentidos de la casa

Ruinas de Mitla

Indias Amatecas

In 1906, Jacob Granat sold his shop to purchase the old Borda palace, where he opened
the first movie theater of the city, the famous Salon Rojo. Salon Rojo rapidly became the
most luxurious and successful theater in the city, and a center of night life for Mexico rich
and famous. It attracted politicians, notably Francisco Madero, who used to hold political meetings in Salon Rojo, and became a friend for Granat. In 1911, Madero was elected
president, and did probably reward Granat for his support.

In June 1912, Jacob Granat was one of the founder and the first president of Alianza Beneficencia Monte Sinai, the first Jewish charitable organization in Mexico.

in the mid 1920’s, Granat sold the salon Rojo and moved back to Europe, settling in Austria.
The reason of this exile are unknown. Some of Granat descendants speculate that he could
not deal with the grief from his friend Madero’s assassination.

Little is know of Jacob’s whereabout in Austria. Some of his relatives still living in Mexico
wrote recently that he tried to move back to Mexico after the Nazi invasion of Austria,
but could not, or was not allowed, to travel.

Jacob Granat was murdered by the Nazi regime at Auschwitz in 1943.

So let’s go back to the photograph of the Granat shop, and zoom in : here is the moving
image of a man I like to think is Jacob, the « curio king » in the doorway of his shop,
his face sadly in the shade of his straw boater.

Jacob Granat, Calle San Francisco, circa 1903

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http://www.enlacejudio.com/2012/10/25/la-historia-de-jacobo-granat-amigo-de-presidentes-pionero-de-la-comunidad-judia/

http://www.boker.net/html/edificio_boker.html

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Borda

http://msinai.mx/nosotros/historia

We just acquired this rare set of early views of Tachira state. Mostly mountainous, the andean state of Tachira and its capital San Cristobal were almost cut off from the rest of the country until the early 20th century, mostly due to the lack of roads – and 19th century photographs of the Venezuela Andes are extremely rare. It is therefore a pleasure to share this discovery with you.

These prints come from Germany and depict a couple of German shop or warehouse. German immigrants were especially active in coffee trade in Los Andes state at the time, as well as in Maracaibo. All the prints are captioned on verso in Spanish. Most of them are in stunning condition.

View of San Cristobal

View of San Cristobal

Plaza Paez, San Cristobal

Plaza Paez, San Cristobal

The slaughterhouse, San Cristobal

The slaughterhouse, San Cristobal

German shop in San Cristobal

German shop in San Cristobal

Detail of the previous photo

Detail of the previous photo

Storehouse of the casa Blohm, San Cristobal

Storehouse of the casa Blohm, San Cristobal

Detail of Casa Blohm, with a poster about "cuestion guyana"

Detail of Casa Blohm, with a poster about “cuestion guyana”

A German family house in San Cristobal

A German family house in San Cristobal

San Cristobal, the electrical power plant.

San Cristobal, the electrical power plant.

The electrical power plant from the outside

The electrical power plant from the outside

Barrio Guzman, San Cristobal

Barrio Guzman, San Cristobal

The barrio Guzman was built in the early 1880’s after the 1875 earthquake almost destroyed San Cristobal.

Torbes river, San Cristobal

Torbes river, San Cristobal

Barria de la Guaira, Rubio

Barria de la Guaira, Rubio

The City of Rubio, is ten kilometers South-West of San Cristobal, close to the Colombian border.

Main street of Rubio

Main street of Rubio

Merida and the Sierra Nevada

Merida and the Sierra Nevada

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Merille : photographer ? Publisher ? Pirate ?

We previously wrote about issues of authorship in early Mexican photography. But a set of cartes de visite, recently discovered, shed a new light on this complex subject.

Most of these carte de visite sized prints are mounted on board. On the verso, they are stamped with the name and address of “Merille, fotografo, 2da calle de San Francisco, n° 8, Mexico”. In itself, a wet stamp on the back of a carte de visite is unusual, as most studio photographers would have their cards printed by a typographical printer. Even more curious is the carte bellow.

mex-cdv335

 

Merille just stamped a Julio Amiel card ! On most of the other cards, the Julio Amiel name have been carefully erased, but is still visible…

 

mex-cdv336 mex-cdv337

Julio Amiel (certainly a French Jules Amiel) is known to have been active in Mexico city from 1860 to 1864. His studio was at n°7, 2da calle de San Francisco – so just next door or in front of the future studio or shop of Merille. It is believed that Amiel sold his studio in 1864 to François Aubert. Of Merille, we know almost nothing : only  the address of his studio. His first name is controversial : one source names him as Auguste, an other one as François. According to Palmquist and Kailbourn, in their hugely useful Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide, he was active in Mexico city from 1864 to 1867. As we know with more certainty that François Aubert was active in Mexico from 1864 to 1869, that would place Merille and Aubert at the same time in Mexico city, facing each other, quite literally, in the calle de San Francisco…

But here is the rub : Merille is a well known name, and a lot of images bearing his stamp can be found in museum in the US or Mexico. But I have never personally seen a Merille photograph that was not actually by Aubert or an other photographer, including from now on Amiel. And all the photographs bellow, stamped on the back by Merille, fit pretty well in this theory : Merille was a publisher, not a photographer. (All titles are the original in Spanish inscribed in ink on the versos).

Indians

Indians

Tortilleras

Tortilleras

Emperatriz Carlota

Emperatriz Carlota (probably by Disderi, and dated 1868, after the death of the emperor).

Cocinera

Cocinera

Calle de Plateros

Calle de Plateros

Tortilleras

Tortilleras

Esquina de las calles Empedradillo, Escalerillas y Tacuba.

Esquina de las calles Empedradillo, Escalerillas y Tacuba.

Cupula de Santa Tereza à Vera Cruz

Cupula de Santa Tereza à Vera Cruz

Portail des marechaux

Portail des maréchaux

Catedral al Poniente

Catedral al Poniente

Chapultepec

Chapultepec

Templo de Santa Gertrudis en Orizaba

Templo de Santa Gertrudis en Orizaba

Cathedral

Cathedral

Calendario azteca

Calendario azteca

La Profesa

La Profesa

Looking forward to hear from my Mexican friends : do you know of any photographs that you can, without doubt, attribute to Merille ? Or is he an early and shameless photographic pirate ?

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The album of the baron d’Huart, circa 1863-1867

We just acquired a very interesting album of just ten prints that is the perfect follow up to our last post, as it includes one photograph featured in the collection of the comte de Germigny. All the prints are approximately of the same size, and obviously from the same photographer.

River crossing at poso del Marcho.

River crossing at poso del Marcho. The other prints of this image in our collection are titled “paseo del Diablo”

Luckily, the ex libris of the baron d’Huart is pasted on the first page of the album.

Ex libris of the baron Charles d'Huart

Ex libris of the baron d’Huart

But here’s the rub. TWO barons d’Huart participated in the Campagne du Mexique.

Arguably the most famous is Frédéric d’Huart, aide de camp of the count of Flanders. Frédéric was send to Mexico in January 1866 from Bruxelles to officially notify the empress Charlotte of the death of her father Leopold. On his way back from Mexico City to Vera Cruz, in march 1866, Frederic was killed by the Mexican guerilla. It is unlikely that he had time, on such a short and rushed stay, to gather photographic prints, even less to photograph himself.

We found a trace of the other d’Huart in the archives of the Commission Scientifique du Mexique (again…).

Charles d’Huart, a distant cousin of Frédéric, is from the French branch of the Huart family. Born in 1823 in the castle of Bélange, in eastern France, he graduates from école Polytechnique in 1846. In 1864, he is mentioned as a “capitaine d’artillerie” and a member of the Commission du Mexique, section 1, Zoology and Botany. In November 1867 he receives the medal of the order of Guadalupe. He is killed in 1870 during the siege of Strasbourg. He is probably the former owner of our album – and quite probably the photographer. We will soon check his records in the archive of the French army to learn more about this new name in the history of Mexican photography.

Vera Cruz, view from the sea

Vera Cruz, view from the sea

Vera Cruz, view of the beach and the pier.

Vera Cruz, view of the beach and the pier.

Vera Cruz, the hospital

Vera Cruz, the hospital

Soledad fort (?)

Soledad fort (?)

The gorge of the Soledad river

The gorge of the Soledad river

The road from Vera Cruz to Mexico city

The road from Vera Cruz to Mexico city

The Gallifet mentioned in the caption is certainly Gaston de Gallifet, a colorful character who will later be Minister of War. (cf en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaston_Alexandre_Auguste,_Marquis_de_Galliffet)

Oak tree in Medellin, near Vera Cruz

Oak tree in Medellin, near Vera Cruz

An hacienda, near Medellin

An hacienda, near Medellin

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A few views of Mexico, circa 1863-1866

This is the last of our post on the Germigny archives – this time, the photographer will, for the moment, remains an anonymous French soldier. The photographs are dated around 1863-1866 and follow the road from Veracruz to the city of Mexico. Some of them are remarkably charming… They were taken using glass plate negatives and are printed on albumen paper, most of them unmounted and untrimmed.

Port of Veracruz

Port of Veracruz

Veracruz

Veracruz, the custom house

 

A factory, Mexico

A factory, Mexico

Construction of a bridge for the railway, probably from Veracruz to the city of Mexico

Construction of a bridge for the railway, probably from Veracruz to the city of Mexico

A dog's nap...

A dog’s nap…

Factory in Mexico

Factory in Mexico

French soldiers posing outside of a farm.

French soldiers posing outside of a farm.

Pueblo

An other dog’s nap.

Paso del Diablo, near Vera Cruz

Paso del Diablo, near Vera Cruz

Paso del Diablo, near Vera Cruz

Same as previous image, but unmounted and untrimmed.

Colonial courtyard, City of Mexico

Colonial courtyard, City of Mexico

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And we take this opportunity to wish you all happy holidays…