John Jabez Edwin Mayall was born in Oldham, to a West Yorkshire manufacturing chemist, John Meal, and his wife Elizabeth (see Schaff). He first achieved success when he went out to America and opened a daguerreotype portrait studio in Philadelphia, early in the 1840s. He had experimented with this earlier, but now he went far beyond portraits: J. M. W. Turner later praised his 1845 panorama of Niagara Falls (see Hargrave). Mayall was a lively character and when he returned to England, and helped set up the American Daguerreotype Association in London, many people (including Queen Victoria herself, who patronised him) assumed he was American. He set up his own studio in London, not only photographing Queen Victoria and members of the royal family, but making daguerreotypes of the Great Exhibition of 1851, when the Crystal Palace was still at its original Hyde Park location. He won great acclaim with these, having used "large plates that allowed daguerreotypes to show the depth and grand spatial atmosphere the visitors to the exhibition must have felt. The normal daguerreotype was about 2% x 3'4 inches; the imperial plate needed a special camera and lens to record the image on the almost 12 x 10-inch plate. This image, and others like it, were acclaimed as technical feats" (Hargrave). But it was "his cartes-de-visite of the Queen and H.R.H. the Prince Consort, which sold tens of thousands of copies," that made him most famous ("John Jabez Edwin Mayall").

Mayall left London in the mid-60s, and then operated from Brighton, where he took an active part in local politics. He died in Sussex in 1901. The National Portrait Gallery holds more than 160 of his photographs, it also describes his second son, Joseph Parkin Mayall (1839-1906), whose studio was on Queen's Road, London, as an "[a]rtist associated with 32 portraits" ("Joseph Parkin Mayall (1839-1906)"). — Jacqueline Banerjee

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Hargraves, Michael. "John Jabez Edwin Mayall." Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Photographs, by Gordon Baldwin et al. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum and Thames & Hudson, 1999. 16.

" John Jabez Edwin Mayall (1813-1901), Photographer." National Portrait Gallery, London. Web. 1 June 2023.

" Joseph Parkin Mayall (1839-1906), Photographer; son of John Jabez Edwin Mayall (née Jabez Meal)." National Portrait Gallery, London. Web. 1 June 2023.

Schaff, Larry J. "Mayall, John Jabez Edwin [formerly Jabez Meal] (1813–1901), photographer and local politician." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 1 June 2023.

Last modified 1 June 2023