He (Alexander Gardner) remained in Scotland until 1856, when he emigrated to this country and landed in New York in the spring of that year. He was at once employed in the leading photographic establishment of that city, and introduced, for the first time, “Imperial Photographs.” They were a new sensation to the professions as well as to the public, and soon became very popular.
In February, 1858, he came to Washington, where he soon attracted public attention by the excellence of his work.
In his profession he was an experimentalist, and never hesitated to spend time and money to secure any device which might enable him to reach the best results and thereby elevate the taste of the public in behalf of photography, which he ever held to be one of the fine arts, ranking with painting and sculpture.
His thorough knowledge of all the scientific demands of his profession and of all its branches, led to his being called into the service of the Government of the United States in connection with the Department of the Interior. The Union Pacific Railroad Company secures his services in photographing important points on that continental highway to the Pacific coast, prior to the building of the road.
During the early years of the Civil War he was the photographer for the Union Army, and became a member of the military family of General George B. McClellan, for whom he ever had the highest regard, not only as a military chieftian, but as a devoted patriot. He remained with him during all of his campaigns in Virginia, and on the General’s retirement from the command of the Army of the Potomac, Mr. Gardner returned to Washington.
From A Eulogy on the Life and Character of Alexander Gardner, delivered At a Stated Communication of Lebanon Lodge, No. 7, F. A. A. M., January 19, 1883; by JOSEPH M. WILSON, Of Lafayette Lodge, No. 19.
For more on Alexander Gardner, check out our republication of his historic 1866 photographic manuscript, “Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War”.