I spent time over the last two weeks making a web page that may or may not be of help in dating old photos taken at photography studios. Photographers of Rochester; 1861 – 1946 was created from lists of that were in the business section of the Rochester city directories. I couldn’t find any photographers in the directories before 1861. I stopped at 1946 because that was the last directory that is online.
A good share of old studio photos have the name of the photographer on them. Some also have an address for the photographer. You can search for the name of the photographer or studio on the web page. Then if your photo also has an address it would help to narrow down the time period when the photo was taken. That is because some photographers moved their studio often. Take a look at George Wright who was at 9 different addresses over the first 19 years of his career. Some photographers were only listed for just one year while others had a career of as long as 30 years.
There were lady photographers. Some took over after their husband died. Some worked along side of their husband. There are some single ladies that were photographers too.
I checked out some photos I had to see if the web page was helpful in dating them. I have a couple of photos taken at the Smith-Curry Studio. That studio existed for 28 years years so it wasn’t that helpful. The photo on the upper right was from Union Photographic Co. I don’t have that name on the web page but the address does show up for other photographers from 1892 to 1906. I have some pictures of construction in downtown Rochester that appear to be from the 1920s. The name of the photographer on the back is “H. Manzler.” That name doesn’t show up on the photographer list. I have a nice picture taken by “McMahon & Nelson” (see picture). It turns out that they were only listed in 1887 and 1888. That really helps to date that photo.
From my small collection of Rochester photos, the photographer list was only able to date 25%. Maybe not as good as I would have hoped. It may help you date some of your family photos but not all.