Sunday, June 26, 2011

Josiah True Langley

DAY THIRTY-THREE: I've been caught up today in sending things to the Epsom, NH Historical Society webmaster.

Josiah True Langley is my children's great-grandfather, the father of my late wife Shirley's mother, Florence Langley Harris. According to a memoir that Florence wrote, her father was a photographer, sculptor and inventor, and something of a genius in his own right. He owned and ran a photography studio at 780 Elm Street, Manchester, NH, for many years, and produced beautiful portraits. Here are some of his family:

If my memory serves me correctly, I was told that Josiah sculpted the bust of the then Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. I have no idea if that is true, and if so, where that bust is today.

As an inventor, according to Florence, he invented the equipment needed to photograph snowflakes, but he refused to take out a patent on that invention, or any of his other inventions. That's very interesting, because the credit for that achievement traditionally has gone to "Snowflake Bentley," i.e., Wilson A. Bentley of Jericho, Vermont. Bentley photographed his first snowflake in 1885. Josiah was 29 at the time. I don't know when Josiah made his invention.

Florence relates that in 1902, Teddy Roosevelt was a national idol (having become President of the U.S. the year before) and was coming to Manchester. Her father "invented" the comic souvenir postcard for the occasion - a portrait of a furry black bear, labeled "The Teddy Bear." They sold very well. Her family went to meet the President, but when Teddy bounded toward Florence, who was four years old and in her mother's arms, all she could see were those famous teeth, and she shrunk back in horror. "Someone else got the historic handshake," she writes wistfully.

Josiah died of pneumonia in 1916, when Florence was a freshman in college, his lungs having been weakened for some time, she says, by long exposure to photographic chemicals. He was only 59 years old. I wish we knew more about him, but what we know makes me want to believe that he was related to Samuel Pierpont Langley (see the post titled, "The New Astronomy.")


  1. I found this blog while searching out info about this photographer.I recently picked up a few cdv portraits and will be posting them to my blog
    What a wonderful Photographer your Grand relative was!!

  2. If you want to see more Langley photos go to and click on Langley Family Album