Seneca Ray Stoddard, Adirondack Icon

By Patricia Martin of Home Farm Antiques
at the Antique Market Place

Seneca Ray Stoddard – the name conjures up the essence of Adirondack life. Stoddard spent a lifetime as a naturalist, writer, artist, cartographer and photographer of the Adirondacks. His images were an inspiration for the formation of the Adirondack Park in 1892.

Born in Wilton near Saratoga in 1844, educated in a common school, Stoddard was largely self-taught in map-making, photography and journalism. He began his career as a decorative painter of railway cars for the Gilbert Railway Company in Watervliet, NY. He moved to Glens Falls shortly after the Civil War, establishing himself as “Mr. Stoddard, Photographer.” Stoddard used the wet-plate technique, popular in that day, and carried a 50-pound camera along with a myriad of chemicals for developing his pictures. He succeeded in recording the beauty of the region in photos that resembled the Hudson River School of painting in their composition. Stoddard went on to write guidebooks; the first in his popular series was entitled “Adirondacks: Illustrated.”

A goodly part of Stoddard’s success can be attributed to timing. He was active during the Victorian period when people relished the study of nature, and when wealthier members of American society came to the Adirondacks to build their summer “camps.” These mansions dotted the Adirondacks, where previously there had been only hunters, logging camps and bark huts. Grand mountain houses and hotels were built in response to the influx of summer visitors. This was the perfect time to develop photographs showing the glory of the Adirondacks and travel guides suggesting places to see. The more books and pictures Stoddard published, the more tourism grew, thanks to his work which depicted so well the natural wonder of the Adirondacks.

Stoddard’s early guidebooks included only a few maps due to the fact that there were few current maps in existence at the time. To enhance his books, Stoddard turned to cartography, and in 1880, after four years of work, published his Map of the Adirondack Wilderness. His famous map of Lake George was based on his research for the Wilderness Map. This map of Lake George is famous, and reprints are still popular today.

Stoddard lived in this area throughout his life. He had a studio and home on Elm Street in Glens Falls, and this is where he remained until he died in 1917.

Stoddard’s photographs, books and guides are highly desirable and very collectible today. To ensure that you are purchasing an original and not a reproduction, use a reputable antique dealer. The Antiques Market Place (1066 Rte. 9, Queensbury, NY) has knowledgeable dealers who can help you find an authentic Stoddard. What a wonderful collectible for anyone who loves the Adirondacks!