The work rate of J R M Sawyer



From time to time during the 1860s, Sawyer’s advertisements referred to the rate at which he was producing cartes de visite.


Norfolk Chronicle, 13th April 1861:

Claims an output of 200-300 cartes de visite per week.


Norfolk Chronicle, 26th October 1861:

‘500 per week sent out’.


Norfolk News, 26th July 1862:

‘2000 portraits sent out every month.’


Norfolk Chronicle, 3rd October 1863:

‘Sixty thousand of his Cartes de Visite in the last two years.’


Norfolk Chronicle, 18th June 1864:

‘J R Sawyer has to acknowledge a much larger and increasing amount of commissions and orders.’


Ipswich Journal, 11th November 1865:

‘J R Sawyer’s issue of approved cartes de visite is upwards of 1,000 per week from his studios in Norwich and Ipswich.’


Norfolk Chronicle, 29th February 1868:  

'Mr Sawyer now has the enormous number of 24,417 negatives.'

(The Ipswich studio was taken over in 1867 by Walter Smith, who seems likely to have acquired its negatives as part of the business. The figure of 24,417 probably, therefore, represents the archive of just the Norwich studio.)


Norfolk Chronicle, 11th April 1868:

'… about 25,000 negatives.'


Norfolk Chronicle, 26th June 1868:  

'… upwards of 25,000 negatives.'

Attempts to assess Sawyer’s work-rate accurately are made more complicated by a change in the units by which it was measured. The earlier figures relate to the cartes themselves (which were sold by the dozen or half-dozen), while the later figures relate to the negatives from which the multiple copies were made. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt about the fast-growing success of both Sawyer and the carte market.



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