Author Michael T. Keene to Host “Talking Hart Island” Podcast

Posted August 29, 2019 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Uncategorized

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Michael T. Keene is my kind of guy. He has written some really interesting, and macabre, books with titles like Question of Sanity: The True Story of Female Serial Killers in 19th Century New York and Mad House: The Hidden History of Insane Asylums in 19th Century New York. These are just a few of the truly fascinating books he has written, signed copies of which are available for sale in the Fairport Historical Museum gift shop.

Now Mike has branched out and will debut his new podcast on September 15, 2019. “Talking Hart Island” is a half hour weekly podcast that explores the history of Hart Island, America’s largest mass graveyard, which has been used as New York City’s potter’s field since 1869. It is estimated there are over 1,000,000 people buried there.

Talking Hart Island

Because of recent advances in DNA and fingerprint technology though, we now have learned who some of these previously forgotten and anonymous people were. The results are truly shocking.

“Talking Hart Island” will interview a special guest each week selected from an extraordinary assembly of scholars, authors, and scientists in the fields of history, law, medicine and the arts as we unravel a secret kept hidden for over 150 years.


Michael T. Keene’s “Talking Hart Island podcast goes live on September 15, 2019. Don’t miss it! It’s sure to be a spine-tingler.

Additional information about Mike, his books and his podcast can be found on his website,

Fostering a Love of History with Children

Posted March 12, 2019 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Civil War, Civil War Soldiers, Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Museum, Perinton NY, Pittsford NY, Rochester NY, Uncategorized

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One of my favorite jobs as an historian is sharing local history with children. Throughout the months of April and May, Perinton Town Historian Bill Poray and I welcome over 550 fourth graders to the Fairport Museum. The children arrive from all the Fairport

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Brooks Hill Fourth Graders

elementary schools and from Thornell Road Elementary in Pittsford. Two classes visit the museum at a time. While one class is wonderfully engaged by Bill with a PowerPoint about local history, the other class is upstairs with me taking a tour of the museum and then doing a scavenger hunt. Halfway through the morning, I ring a vintage school bell, signaling “the old switcheroo”. The classes then switch places and we do it all over again.

The best compliment we receive is when those fourth graders return to the Fairport Museum a week or a month or six months later. Then they give their own version of a tour to their families. The kids that have that spark, a burgeoning love of history, are always visible during the tours. They are the ones asking questions and staring at the artifacts like most kids ogle an ice cream sundae. They want to learn more about the Fairport Museum and its operator, the Perinton Historical Society.

1982 Vicki & Lou Gehrig's locker049

Vicki Masters Profitt at Lou Gehrig’s locker in Cooperstown, NY

I recognize that look because I was one of those children. Fortunately, I had parents who fostered my love of history and supported my interests. After watching Pride of the Yankees starring Gary Cooper, an incredible movie about baseball legend Lou Gehrig, my family traveled to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown so I could see his locker. Another family vacation brought us to Concord, Massachusetts, allowing me to visit author Louisa May Alcott’s family home, Orchard House.

In fact, my job as an historian is due to the fact that, in fifth grade, I checked out a book about the Civil War from the school library. The

McCook, Robert L photo

Brigadier General Robert Latimer McCook

photographs of these soldiers who had lived so long ago fascinated me. One photo in particular caught my attention.  It showed Brigadier General Robert Latimer McCook of the 9th Ohio Infantry. I don’t know what spurred my interest in Robert specifically, but that was the beginning of my interest in the Civil War, which led to me researching Monroe County, New York, Civil War soldiers, which led to me being named Director of the Fairport Museum.

If you are a parent of a history-loving child, foster that love. Support that child. Encourage them to take historical books and biographies out of the library. Bring them to visit your local museum. Wonderful treasures fill the many museums in the Rochester vicinity. Visit the Fairport Museum, the Greece Historical Society and Museum, the Webster Museum, Historic Palmyra’s five museums and the Colby-Pulver House Museum on the west side. These are just a few of the many phenomenal museums in this area.

The Fairport Museum is open for the 2019 season Sundays and Tuesdays from 2-4pm and Saturdays 9am-1pm. Free admission and free parking. We hope to see you and your kids!

Illuminating Benedetto Ansuini

Posted September 7, 2018 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Perinton NY, Uncategorized, World War I

Tags: , , , , ,

Ansuini, Benedetto 1942 photo from Certo 25 anniversaryOn June 13, 2017, Illuminated History held its sixth annual cemetery tour in which volunteer actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.  St. Mary’s Cemetery in the town of Perinton, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.  Benedetto Ansuini was portrayed by Doug Whitney.

Hello, friends.  My name is Benedetto Ansuini.  I came to Fairport from Italy when I was a young man.  Although I only had a second grade education, I was fortunate to get a job in the Certo factory here in the village. 

People have called me a hero.  I’m no hero.  I was just doing my job as a soldier.  When the Great War began, I left my new home to fight for the United States.  You see, I was with Company K of the 307th Infantry, 77th American Division.  Our group became known as the “Lost Battalion”, but that was just a phrase coined by a sharp-shooting reporter.  First of all, we knew where we were all the time.  We didn’t get lost. Second, we weren’t one battalion, we were two. 

So here’s what really happened.  After seven days of continuous fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in the Argonne forest, about 600 of us were cut off behind enemy lines.  On October 2, 1918, we’d advanced into the forest under the belief that French forces were supporting our left flank and American units were supporting the right.  We moved beyond the rest of the Allied line not knowing that the French advance had been stalled, and found ourselves cut off from the Allies and surrounded by German forces.  After locating a good defensive position, we started digging in to an area that became known then, and ever after, as “The Pocket”.  On October 3, the Germans attacked us with trench mortars, machine gun fire and grenades. Sniper fire was ringing out all around us.  They even had a flame thrower decimating our ranks like a cookout on the 4th of July.  We suffered many hardships, as our food supply was low, fresh water was difficult to procure and ammunition was in short supply.  At times, we were bombarded with shells from our own artillery.  It was hell on earth.

To make matters worse, every runner dispatched to get help became lost or ran into German patrols and was killed or captured.  The only way we could communicate with headquarters was by carrier pigeons.  Each of the pigeons we sent out was shot down.  Finally, we were down to our final pigeon.  The pigeon’s name was Cher Ami.  He was dispatched with a canister on his right leg with a message from our commanding officer, Major Charles Whittlesey.  The message read: “Our artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us.  For heaven’s sake stop it.”  Right after releasing Cher Ami, a shell exploded directly below the bird, killing five men and stunning the pigeon.  Despite being shot in the breast, blinded in one eye and losing a foot, Cher Ami got through the lines, flew 25 miles to headquarters in just 25 minutes and delivered Major Whittlesey’s message.  It took several more days before we were saved.

From October 2nd through October 8th, the Germans continued a relentless attack against us.  The attack wasn’t only physical, but mental.  A demand to surrender was received.  “The suffering of your wounded men can be heard over here in German lines, and we are appealing to your humane sentiments to stop.”  You see, they wanted Major Whittlesey to give up, but he knew how important it was to the war effort to forge ahead.  Reporters say the Major’s response to the Germans was, “Go to hell!” but that was just to sell newspapers.  Major Whittlesey actually didn’t send a response.  He didn’t feel it was needed.  We had a job to do, and we were damn well going to do it.  All of us knew it.

Well, relief finally arrived at 15:00 hours on October 8, when the Allied reinforcements broke through the line.  They arrived in the nick of time.  We went in as a force of 600 men, but only 194 came out unscathed.  The rest were captured, missing, wounded or dead.  Among the dead were three out of the eight men in the group from Rochester.  Homer Rayson, from Pittsford, survived, only to die a hero 10 days later trying to obtain water for the regiment from a spring that was under heavy machine gun fire.  In fact, the guys from Pittsford named their American Legion Post the Rayson-Miller Post in part after Homer Rayson.

I continued serving with the military until May, 1919, when I was honorably discharged.  Life pretty much went on as if the war had never happened.  I came back to Fairport and married my sweetheart, Concetta Rinaldo, and went back to work at the Certo plant.

Concetta and I had two sons, both of whom were born in Fairport – Louis in 1921 and Salvatore in 1924.  Salvatore, who liked to be called Sam, was an all-star athlete and graduated from Fairport High in 1942.  Both boys served during World War II.  I’m proud of both of my boys.  They married and gave me wonderful grandchildren.

Another highlight in my life came in 1942, when I was brought to New York City and honored for working 25 years in the Certo division of General Foods.  I was awarded a gold lapel emblem, a $100 defense bond and an extra week’s paid vacation.  That was an honor, to be there with the other men who had worked for Certo for so long and to be recognized for it.  But, by far, the best part of the trip was when I was asked to speak about my experiences with the Lost Battalion in a radio broadcast to a nationwide audience.  That was really something. 

Lost battalion survivor Benedetto Ansuini died in 1971. He is buried at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Perinton, New York.

(c) 2017 Vicki Masters Profitt

Illuminating Madalena Carlomusto

Posted June 18, 2017 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Perinton NY

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On June 13, 2017, Illuminated History held its sixth annual cemetery tour in which volunteer actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.  St. Mary’s Cemetery in the town of Perinton, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.  Madalena Carlomusto was portrayed by MaryAnn Cady.

Madalena and Antonio Carlomusto with their daughters. Photo courtesy of Krista Biancucci Jamison.

Buona sera! I am Madelena Carlomusto, and since I am from Italy, I’ll greet you in Italian. I started out this life in Ponte Corvo, a small village about halfway between Rome and Naples in western Italy. My husband Antonio was from the same area. We moved to the United States in the early 1900s, living in California for a while before setting in Fairport in 1910. We opened a shoe and leather store on the corner of North Main Street and High Street, where we remained the rest of our lives. We rented space from Mr. Ryan, and Antonio made and repaired leather harnesses and all kinds of leather goods, as well as shoes.

But in the nineteen-teens, horses were on the way out, and cars were coming in. By 1915, we decided groceries might be a more profitable business, and we opened a grocery store. Over the next few years, we sold off all our shoe and harness stock, and then expanded to add a butcher’s counter.

Business was brisk, and we expanded several times after that, adding to our offerings. Eventually we bought the building from Mr. Ryan, and it was known as the Carlomusto block for many years.

In addition to helping with the store, which was a family affair, I raised our four daughters: Anna, Lucy, Margaret, and Ida, who were all born here. We walked to church at the Assumption of Our Lady, and the girls went to school. In fact, two of them went on to college. I was active at church, helping with the guilds and other projects. Our end of town was mostly recent immigrants, and many of our neighbors were Italian like us. If you came into the store, it sounded like the old country most of the time; everyone was speaking Italian. It was comforting to hear, and much easier than conversing in English for me. We Italians stuck together.

In fact, Antonio was a founding member of the San Sebastian Society, a mutual-aid society for Italian immigrants.

North Side Market. Photo courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

The group started in 1915, and members paid in dues. We also raised money by holding dances at the Osburn Hotel (Mr. Cary’s fine establishment), as well as pig roasts and other social events. Socializing was one of the things the group did best, helping the younger ones retain some of their Italian heritage while they were growing up American. The San Sebastian Society also provided food and shelter to those in need, especially recent immigrants, and medical and dental care to members.

Antonio was a savvy businessman. In addition to our store, he had other ventures, as well. He bought some land on Elm street in 1915 and developed 11 houses there. In the 1920s, he ran the Fairport Chevrolet dealership next to our store. He was very hardworking, and quite an entrepreneur. He had a lot of …how should I put it?…my Antonio was feisty. There’s no other way to describe him. He worked hard, and he fought for everything we ever had. Nobody handed us anything. As immigrants, many people looked down on us, and we had to grasp and struggle for everything at first. But we worked hard, and it paid off. There were setbacks, for sure, but overall, we did alright.

There are a few events that stand out in my mind as tough times, though. First, in 1916, Perinton voted to become a dry town, as Mr. Cary mentioned. Antonio was arrested in 1917, supposedly for selling liquor in our store. He was eventually cleared of the charge by a jury, but not before being hauled off by the police and having to post $500 in bail. That was a wild time.

Also, over the years we experience not one, but three, fires! Fires were not uncommon, as Mr. Cary mentioned, but I don’t know that anyone else in the village was beset by flames as often as we were. Our first fire was in 1917, when Mr. Ryan owned the building and lived on the second floor. We lived on the third floor, and our store, as well as others, were on the street level. During the night, we were all awakened to flames and smoke. The cause was not definitively determined, but seemed to come from either a stovepipe or a cigar left smoldering from an election board meeting held in Mr. Ryan’s apartment earlier that evening. Luckily, no one was injured, but we lost much of our clothing and furniture, to say nothing of the stock in the store. We did have some insurance, thank God, but it was a terrible, scary time. It was also a lot of work to clean up.

In December of 1932, just before Christmas, we had another fire. By this time, we owned the building, and there were ten of us living in the floors above the store. Smoke woke up one of the grandbabies about 4 o’clock in the morning. Antonio ran to fire box in his underwear to call the fire department. There was a lot of smoke, but no flames. The firemen thought they had it out and left, only to be called back several times the next day. Smoke kept starting up again, although we couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from, as no flames were visible.

 Finally, to be sure they had all the flames out, they had to chop holes in the roof and walls. Between that, and the smoke and water damage, our building was a mess. We had to live with family and friends while we rebuilt. We reopened the store two weeks later, in early January, only to have another fire in February, this time in the chimney. All of this were so disheartening, but not nearly so disheartening as having the Rochester newspaper accuse my husband of arson! Of all the nerve. We didn’t start those fires, and we certainly wouldn’t have risked our lives, or those of our children and grandchildren, for some insurance money. It was ridiculous. However, the Fairport paper defended us in print, which took some of the sting out of the situation; at least our own town, and our own fire department (who ought to know, since they were the ones who fought the fires!), stood by us publicly and refuted there ridiculous charges.

San Sebastian Society. Photo courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

There were plenty of good times, as well, though. We were involved in the community. In addition to our church and the San Sebastian society, Antonio, or Tony, as most people called him, was part of the Fairport Businessman’s Group. As a merchant and businessman, he wanted the town to thrive and grow, and he did his part. He also wanted to make it a great place to live. In 1922, when the new library was being built on Perrin Street (where we are gathered right now), Antonio helped canvas the town to raise money for new books, to help make our library the modern, well-furnished establishment Fairport deserved.

By the 1950s, we were growing weary of the long hours the store required. Our daughter Anna and her husband, Thomas Biancucci, had been helping us run the store for many years, and we decided to turn it over to them completely. We lived out our golden years enjoying our family and this wonderful village. Antonio died in 1969, and I followed in 1973. We were buried in St. Mary’s, from our beloved Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, our parish for over 60 years.

Anna and Thomas ran the store well into the 1970s, until the big-chain grocery stores like Tops came in, making it hard for the Mom & Pop stores to survive. At one time, we had a dozen little markets in the village, like Messerino’s, Prinzivalli’s, and ours, and we were all making a living selling groceries, meat, and produce. But later, people preferred the bigger shops. I have fond memories of the store, though. I raised my daughters there, and Anna raised her four children there, taking care of them in the room behind the delicatessen counter, just as I did. Families lived, worked, and worshipped together when I was alive. We knew all of our customers by name. We also knew their preferences (and their business!). It’s a bygone era, to be sure.

Script by Suzanne Lee

(c) 2017 Suzanne Lee Personal Histories

Welcome Home, Wyburn

Posted October 29, 2016 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Monroe County NY, Pittsford Cemetery, Pittsford NY, World War I

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There’s a grave marker in the closet! Not too many people have the opportunity to say that phrase but, in the case of James Starbuck, it was true. James had purchased a house in Westport, New York, in 2007. While renovating his new home, James located a flat, military plaque bearing the inscription, “Wyburn Litchfield Lee, QM 3 US Navy, World War I, 1893 – 1977”. Who was Wyburn Litchfield Lee, and why was his grave marker at a house in Westport, New York? The search for answers was on!

Courtesy of James Starbuck

Courtesy of James Starbuck

The package containing the grave marker was addressed to Wyburn’s brother, Gerald A. Lee, of Elizabethtown, New York. James Starbuck hypothesizes that the grave marker was unable to be delivered to Gerald Lee and somehow made its way to Carlin Walker. Carlin was a Westport postman and local historian. James believes the Elizabethtown postmaster gave the package containing the marker to Carlin Walker to track down the owner. When Carlin was unsuccessful in that endeavor, he left it in his house, which now belonged to James Starbuck. In an interesting twist of fate, Gerald Lee used to play bridge with James Starbuck’s mother!

James spent several years pondering the mystery of the grave marker. Occasionally, he would search online for answers. On May 31, 2013, I received an email from James, who had located the Find A Grave memorial I had created for Wyburn Litchfield Lee. Wyburn’s parents, George Albert Lee and Gertrude E. Ketcham Lee, are buried at Pittsford Cemetery in Pittsford, New York. They have a nice headstone with their names and dates. Underneath Gertrude’s name it says, “Son, Wyburn L. N. Lee, 1893-19__”. No death date is listed for Wyburn.

The information about Wyburn’s grave marker was intriguing. Who was Wyburn, and why wasn’t his marker on his grave? This promised to be an interesting story. I was already familiar with Gertrude Ketcham Lee. The Ketcham family was a big name in Pittsford. They even had a road named after them! Surely we could learn something more about Wyburn.

Wyburn has proven to be as much a mystery as his errant grave marker. He was the third of George and Gertrude Ketcham Lee’s four sons, and was born April 22, 1893 in Buffalo, New York. Wyburn’s father, George Lee, had risen to prominence in the 1890s as a shrewd and calculating financier. The family lived in luxury as George, known as the “Sodus Boy Financier”, spent money lavishly. The Monroe County Mail in 1899 noted that George had purchased “the table on which the Declaration of Independence was written”. By 1900, Wyburn and his family were living in Sodus with his paternal grandparents, William and Lucy Clark Lee, quite probably to escape the notoriety of George’s alleged underhanded dealings on Wall Street.

Grave marker courtesy of James Starbuck

Grave marker courtesy of James Starbuck

When the Great War arrived, all four Lee brothers – Merwyn, Gerald, Wyburn and Lowell – served in the military. Wyburn’s abstract of service shows that he enrolled at the recruiting station in Newport, Rhode Island, on May 11, 1917 as Quartermaster 3rd Class. He served at the Newport Naval District until June 4, 1918, when he became a member of the Naval Auxiliary Reserve before officially transferring to inactive service on February 9, 1919. The July, 1918 issue of The Rural New Yorker magazine features a photo of the service flag hanging in the window of George and Gertrude Lee’s home bearing four stars, one for each son serving the war effort. All four Lee brothers survived the war.

Following his military service, Wyburn lived in the New York City area, and was employed in several different occupations through the years. The 1930 census record shows Wyburn married to a woman named Phyllis, but by 1940 they were divorced. It is unknown whether Wyburn and Phyllis had any children together. Little other information about Wyburn’s life was found. Wyburn Litchfield Lee died August 26, 1977 in Palm Beach, Florida.

That brings us back to Wyburn’s grave marker. Someone ordered the marker from the U.S. government, who shipped it to Gerald Lee in Elizabethtown. Carlin Walker became the unofficial keeper of the grave marker shortly thereafter. In 2007, the torch was then passed to James Starbuck. In spring 2016, James sent the marker to Beth Knickerbocker, secretary of the Pittsford Cemetery Association. Beth coordinated the effort to install Wyburn Litchfield Lee’s military grave marker in the family plot at Pittsford Cemetery this past August.

The mystery of Wyburn Lee isn’t completely solved, though. Burial records show that Wyburn had permission from the plot owner to be buried at Pittsford Cemetery, but the records don’t definitively show that he is, indeed, interred there. Perhaps in a few years I’ll receive an email from someone that begins, “While cleaning my house, I found an urn containing the remains of Wyburn Lee.” If that is the case, we’ll have the spot all ready for him.

Welcome Home, Wyburn

Welcome Home, Wyburn

The Pittsford Cemetery Association (PCA) took on the initial financial responsibility of paying for the marker installation for this World War I soldier. If you are so inclined to honor Wyburn’s memory, please send a check payable to “Friends of Pittsford Cemetery Association” to 155 South Main Street, Pittsford, New York 14534 and note “Wyburn Lee” on the check. The PCA will utilize the funds to pay for the marker installation. Any additional monies received will allow the PCA to continue their fine upkeep of the cemetery and the graves of its eternal residents. For additional information about the Pittsford Cemetery Association, please visit

Thank you to CAPT Steven F. Momano, USN (Ret.) for his assistance deciphering Wyburn’s military abstract of service and a special thanks to James Starbuck, who worked tirelessly to ensure that Wyburn Litchfield Lee’s grave marker found its rightful home.

(c) 2016 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Illuminating Carl W. Peters

Posted August 31, 2016 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Museum, Perinton NY, World War I

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Carl W. Peters mural, "Fairport", on display at the Fairport Historical Museum.  Photo courtesy of Keith Boas.

Carl W. Peters mural, “Fairport”, on display at the Fairport Historical Museum. Photo courtesy of Keith Boas.

On June 21, 2016, Illuminated History held its fifth annual cemetery tour in which actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.  Mount Pleasant Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.

Carl W. Peters was a renowned artist.  Born in Rochester, New York, he moved to Fairport as a child.  Carl’s love of art was apparent at an early age, and it was a passion that would last his entire life.  His “Fairport” scene, on permanent exhibit at the Fairport Historical Museum, is just one of many murals that were commissioned to him around the city of Rochester.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.  Carl W. Peters was portrayed by Craig Caplan.

Evening, folks.  I’m not quite sure why I’m here this evening.  My family wasn’t influential like the DeLands or industrious like Mr. Parce.  You see, I’m just an artist.  My name is Carl Peters.

Since I’ve been invited to tell my story, I suppose I should get to it.  I was born in Rochester November 14, 1897, the eldest child of Frederick and Louise Meyers Peters.  We moved to Fairport when I was 11 and bought a place on Jefferson Avenue, at the corner of Sandy Hill. 

After we moved here, my passion for painting went into overdrive as people started to take notice of my work.  I designed some post cards for the Stecher [pronounced STEK’-er] Lithographic Company and also some covers for McClure’s and other magazines.  In 1917, the Fairport Herald printed a story about me winning the best poster contest to advertise the pure food show to be held in Convention Hall, Rochester. 

Carl W. Peters, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Carl W. Peters, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

That was nice and all, but I didn’t paint for the awards.  I painted because I had a love for it.  Best thing in the world to make a living at a job you love.

The Great War came along just as my career was heating up.  I joined up with the 15th Cavalry and spent a year overseas.  I was fortunate to be assigned to the Camouflage Corps as a designer.  I’d like to think I saved a few lives with my camouflage painting, despite the fact that I wasn’t on the front lines.  It’s pretty ironic, though.  I had always wanted to paint in France.  It just never occurred to me that I would be painting camouflage on military equipment!  By the way, I did get furlough in the fall of 1918 and managed to get some nice sketches done while in Paris.

After the war, I settled in New York City for awhile, and then moved on to Massachusetts in 1925.  Winters were spent painting in the Rochester area, and summers in Massachusetts.  I’d built a new studio at my place in Fairport, and it was exhilarating to be out in the snow looking for bursts of color in an otherwise white landscape.  Most of my paintings have a pop of red in them somewhere.  It just helps bring the paintings to life.

My first marriage didn’t work out, but it gave me two beautiful daughters.  My second marriage, to Blanche Peaslee, lasted over thirty years.  You see, Blanche was also an artist and she understood my need to paint.

Since I’ve been old enough to hold a brush, I’ve painted every day.  I’d still paint if I could hold a paintbrush.  This

Carl W. Peters self-portrait.  On loan to the Fairport Historical Museum by a private collector.

Carl W. Peters self-portrait. On loan to the Fairport Historical Museum by a private collector.

otherworldly stuff just isn’t conducive to that.  I’m most known for my landscapes, though I’ve been known to paint a portrait or two.  Your museum actually has a self-portrait that is on loan from a local art collector.  I feel it’s an accurate representation of my face. 

Speaking of my face, there’s a legend that I painted myself into one of the people in the mural upstairs.  In fact, there’s another legend that I painted my face into each of the people in the mural, even the women!  I’ll let you be the judge of that.  I’m just the artist.

Since we’re in this museum building that used to be the library, let’s talk about that mural upstairs.  It’s something I’m very proud of, the fact that I was chosen to paint that mural through the Works Progress Administration, also known as the WPA.  I wanted it to reflect the history of our community, the farmers and the laborers and everyone who worked hard to make Perinton what it is today.  Throughout the city, more of my murals still exist, though the Fairport mural is close to my heart since it represents my hometown.

I died July 7, 1980 at age 82.  I’ve got a nice spot at Mount Pleasant under a large tree.  Hmm…this would be an interesting landscape to paint.  If only I could hold a paintbrush again!

Script by Vicki Masters Profitt

(c) 2016 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Illuminating Photographer Frank B. Clench

Posted April 30, 2016 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Uncategorized

On June 17, 2014, Illuminated History held its third annual cemetery tour in which twelve actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum due to inclement weather.  Greenvale Rural Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.  In this presentation, Frank B. Clench was portrayed by Charles Profitt.

I feel a photographer should be a man of the shadows, with the emphasis on the sitter of the portrait, not on the photographer himself.  My name is F. B. Clench, though you may call me Frank.  My life began in Canada in 1838, but my professional career as a photographer began upon my move to Lockport, New York, in 1863.  Let’s move from the shadows of my personal life into the spotlight of my professional life, shall we?

Frank B. Clench, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society

Frank B. Clench, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society

In Lockport, I opened my first photographic studio, and soon became known as one of Lockport’s finest regional photographers.  In fact, I commanded the highest sitting fee in Lockport – $6!   You see, it has always irked me that a good photographer could spend so much time with a patron and yet see very little profit.   I’ve learned that a too eager desire to please patrons leads them to bad habits.  These bad habits are conferred by one patron to another, and so our troubles increase.  To combat these bad habits, I have an ironclad rule of business, and it is thus: study the subject well in all the different views.  Make up your mind which is the best photograph and show only that photograph to the patron.  If the patron is unhappy, inform them they may have another sitting, for an additional fee.  And if they choose to order photographs made from more than one sitting, charge them accordingly.  I made a fine living abiding by these rules.  Why, there were some months of the year during my busy seasons when I earned over $400 per month.  With that considerable sum, and I was able to support myself and my wife, Mary, quite nicely.   I became known, not only for my cabinet cards, but also for my crayon portraits.

You may not be surprised to learn that I am the holder of no less than four patents.  Three of these patents have to do with photography and the other is a cuspidor.  As you can imagine, many of my gentlemen patrons to the photographic gallery indulge in chaw.  Since I detest cleaning the spittle from the cuspidor, I devised a removable saliva holder which serves to keep the gallery cleaner and the carpet safer from tobacco stains.

My pride and joy, however, was the invention and patenting of “the Plaque”.  What is the Plaque?  Well, it is a design that goes around the edges of a cabinet card.  I noticed that the same photographic card styles of years ago are still in vogue.  Why is it so few changes or novelties are introduced by photographers?  Every other line of business has its fashionable novelties.  We want more fashion, nicer settings for our work, and we don’t want it all in the frame.  We want the picture worth as much as the frame.  I have prepared myself to supply licenses for my patent, including presses, dies, and accessories, complete with full Instructions on how to make Plaques at reasonable rates.  I do not wish to sell exclusive licenses at present, believing all photographers should share the advantages of my patent.  For just $25, you can have the complete outfit.  The Plaque promises to be the next big thing in photography, mark my words.

I was always looking for a good business opportunity, and one soon presented itself.  After visiting friends in Fairport and finding the village to be charming, I moved here from Lockport in 1889.  I was fortunate to secure pleasant, commodious rooms in the Deal block, in which I occupied the entire second floor, the first floor being given over entirely to the newspaper.  It was the perfect location for my photographic studio, and my business increased dramatically.  However, the improvement to my bank account could not cure my wife.

She had been ill for quite some time and, in March 1896, my wife, Mary, passed on.  After a suitable period of mourning, I wed Mrs. Lucy Howard Burlingame Lewis the following March.  The fact that I was her third husband did not bother me.  Lucy and I shared a love of travel, and that is what prompted me to sell my photographic studio to William McQuivey in 1900 and remove to Georgia with Lucy.  However, I soon learned that retirement was not for me.  The next fourteen years were spent photographing patrons at my new home in Madison, Georgia, although Lucy and I often traveled back to visit our friends in Fairport.

After years of this travel back and forth, we realized how much we missed Fairport and, in July 1914, we returned to this village for good.  Sadly, I did not have much time to enjoy our return, as I died November 1st of the same year at age 76 after an illness of six weeks.  If you take anything away from our conversation this evening, remember this:  When you commence business be careful and make good rules, and then adhere strictly to them, for by deviating you will create bad habits.

Script by Vicki Masters Profitt

(c) 2014 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

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