Ezra H. Alley (1828–1908)

The earliest Artist of Toledo to be discovered yet
photographer in the collection of the Getty Museum
Ezra H. Alley (American, 1828 – 1908), photographer
H. F. Bond & wife in dining room at Toledo, Ohio, about 1865–1875
Albumen silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XC.729.208

Provenance of this stereograph: It was in the collection of one of 20th Century’s most important collector of photography, Samuel Wagstaff, Jr. (American, 1921 – 1987), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

E.H. Alley label on back of stereograph
Toledo city directories, 1879–1882:
Thomas W, (col’d), lab, res 553 Wisconsin
Thomas W, (col’d), sleeping car porter, res 168 Wisconsin
Thomas W, (col’d), sleeping car porter, h 116 Erie

Ezra H. Alley is the oldest artist I have discovered yet for this website. He was a very early photographer who happens to be in the prestigious collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

I serendipitously came across his name just today, 14 years after searching for the earliest black artist I had found of Toledo, Frederick Douglass Allen, born 1886 (finding Frederick’s father Thomas before Frederick was born in these city directories.) Incidentally on these same pages is Thomas S. Parkhurst (1853-1923) with his business partner George H Allen.

It was Thomas Parkhurst who gave us the great story about exactly how artists started the Toledo museum – they would sit rich patrons down on a “filched” chair with a painting on the floor in front of them and encourage them to help fund the beginnings of a museum so that the painting could be hung on the wall.