H Marshall Gardiner – Hand-Colored Photographs

Posted on

H. Marshall Gardiner (1884-1942) was born on September 18, 1884 into a photographic family led by his father, W.H. Gardiner. Apparently some sources list his first name as “Harry“, other sources list him as “Henry“. Born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada his family immigrated to the United States circa 1890. Once the family was settled W.H. Gardiner opened two photographic studios, one in Detroit, Michigan during the winter months and a second at Mackinac Island, Michigan during the more tourist-oriented summer months. Recognizing the potential of Florida’s rapidly growing tourist trade, around 1894-95 H. Marshall Gardiner moved with his family from Detroit to Daytona, Florida which proved much more accommodating to the family’s photographic business during the colder winter months.

H. Marshall Gardiner learned many of his photographic techniques from his father prior to going out on his own at a relatively early age. Whereas his father generally used wet collodian negatives, technology had advanced to where H. Marshall Gardiner was able to use gelatin dry plates in his earlier years. And in the later years he was able to utilize the less expensive and much more convenient roll film.

Another very important lesson Gardiner learned from his father was that one of the keys to operating a successful photographic business was to set up shop in a tourist resort. Early in his career Gardiner traveled to Bermuda. There he shot a series of beautiful Bermuda scenes that he hand-colored and sold to the Bermuda tourist trade. Sold there over a considerable period of time, these Bermuda scenes provided a nice revenue stream as the years went on. They proved so popular that we have even seen some with pre-printed (vs. hand-signed) signatures suggesting a significant-enough sales volume to justify the considerable expense of pre-printing mats.

Around 1910 he first traveled to the island of Nantucket, just off the coastline of Massachusetts’s Cape Cod. He was around 26 at the time and the year-round population of Nantucket was just over 2500, not nearly enough to sustain a photographic business for the entire year. On Nantucket Gardiner opened a joint Photography and Art Supplies Store. Working as Nantucket’s exclusive agent for Eastman Kodak, his business expanded to include the island’s only photo-finishing service. However, with such a small year-round population, even the addition of a Gift Shop to compliment the hand-painted photographs, general portrait & photographic services, and art supplies couldn’t sustain him on Nantucket year round.

So during the winter months he helped with the family’s photographic businesses in Daytona and Mackinac Island. And upon his father’s death in 1935, Gardiner took over the family business in Daytona on a full-time basis.

H. Marshall Gardiner was married twice. His first marriage was to a Nantucket “Macy” who was a descendant of one of the founding families of Nantucket. She died after eight years of marriage and he then married Bertha Coffin Chase, a descendant of another Nantucket founding family.

H. Marshall Gardiner’s hand-painted photographs are very similar to those by Wallace Nutting and the other leading New England photographers. That is, most are matted, usually on white mat board having a platemark indentation around the image, signed “H. Marshall Gardiner” lower right beneath the image, and titled lower left beneath the image. And most are framed in thinner frames, also in the style of Wallace Nutting.

From the perspective of a hand-colored photography collector H. Marshall Gardiner produced works in three primary locations…NantucketFlorida…and Bermuda. And the desirability of Gardiner’s work with collectors generally ranks in that order.

H. Marshall Gardiner’s Nantucket hand-painted photographs are undoubtedly his most desirable works. Money generally lives on Nantucket and both full-time and part-time residents, as well as visitors and tourists, love to collect Gardiner’s hand-painted Nantucket photographs. Scenes with buildings and people are often the most desirable. Seascapes and location-specific Exterior scenes are also highly collectible. His more generic Exterior scenes are probably the least collectible of his various Nantucket views. Although for a short period of time around 2000-2002 prices were topping $1,000 for the rarest Nantucket scenes in the best condition, the high-end market has softened somewhat and today the better Gardiner Nantucket scenes will more commonly bring in the $250-$500 range. Apparently the Gardiner Nantucket market on eBay was driven by only a small handful of collectors and, once they either acquired a desired title or dropped out of the market, top prices started to fall back into line. More common Nantucket titles and those in damaged condition can bring considerably less.

Gardiner’s Florida hand-painted photographs are becoming increasing collectible to both hand-painted photography collectors as well as general-line Florida collectors. Most of Gardiner’s Florida scenes are more generic (palms, coastlines, hanging moss, streams, sand, etc.). Location-specific pictures will generally bring stronger prices than will the more generic Florida scenes and you can typically expect Gardiner’s Florida hand-colored photos to bring in the $100-$250 range.

And his Bermuda scenes, although the least collectible of the three primary Gardiner categories, are still highly prized by collectors. However, since we have seen fewer “Bermuda” collectors than “Florida” or “Nantucket” collectors, prices for Bermuda scenes will generally run $75-$150 at our Auctions.

Gardiner’s postcards are also widely collected. Unlike his hand-painted photographs which can command a premium price today, his Nantucket postcards are much easier to locate and are much more affordable. And if you like the photography of H. Marshall Gardiner, you will be able to find considerably more views in postcards than in hand-colored photographs. Most of Gardiner’s postcards were produced by the Detroit Publishing Company using their “Phostint” patented printing process. Although some B&W postcards may be found, his most popular and numerous postcards are color. Generally H. Marshall Gardiner postcards will bring $2.50-$10.00 each although certain ones may bring somewhat higher prices.

H. Marshall Gardiner died on December 4, 1942 and is buried on his beloved Nantucket

RECOMMENDED READING: For further information on H. Marshall Gardiner we would refer you to a book by his daughter, Geraldine Gardiner Salisbury titled H. Marshall Gardiner’s Nantucket Postcards: 1910-1940.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *