Professional Photographer

John McManus


Photographic Studios

Studio Dates

J McManus first appears in the trade directories at 13 High Street in 1884.  However,  his cartes de visite from this period (Studio Portrait 1 below) and his cabinet print from his later studio address at 88 High Street (Studio Portrait 2 below) both refer to the business as having been established in 1852. 

This is the wording on the back of Studio Portrait 1 below.

"Portrait and Landscape Photographs  

from the studio of J McManus

 13 High Street (beside John Knox House) Edinburgh 

Established 1852"

How can this discrepancy of more than 30 years be explained?  According to the census returns below, John would have been about 18 years old in 1852, so he may well have started as a photographer then, but perhaps not working for his own business then.

Studio Addresses

The trade directories show John McManus' studios to have been at:

(a)  1884-1893:  13 High Street

(b)  1891-1904:  88 High Street

The 2-year overlap in the above dates may be the result of entries in some of the  directories being out of date around the time when the address changed.

Question 1

Was the change of address due to a move to a different studio, or was it just a re-numbering of the street?

Question 2

Do the addresses above refer to High Street, Old Town, Edinburgh or to High Street, Portobello, Edinburgh?    I know that at some time around the late-19th century, the buildings in High Street, Portobello were re-numbered.



1881 Census

John McManus was listed in the 1881 census as:

-  Photographer:  aged 47

-  Born:  Ireland

-  Resident:  28, Ashley Terrace, Edinburgh

-  Wife:  Sarah

[DR Torrance]


Studio Portrait



Victor Wallwork

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Thank you to Victor Wallwork, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, for providing a scan of this photo and allowing me to reproduce it below.

The photo comes from John McManus' studio, Edinburgh.

Carte de Visite

Portrait of a man in military uniform from the studio of John McManus, High Street, Edinburgh

Stuart Bates, who forwarded this scan of this photo to me, wrote:

Military Uniform

"This photo was posted on the Victoria Wars Forum.  We have found many anomalies', leading some of us to think that it is just a 'mock-up'.

Here is a summary of our findings to date.

In the original photo, the fellow:

1. is wearing a Rifles tunic, with braiding to the cuff which indicates a captain.

2.  has no badges of rank.

3.  seems far too young to be a captain.

4. is not wearing a sword, which would be expected of a captain

5. is wearing the pouch belt incorrectly i.e. from the right shoulder

6.  has a helmet to the East Lothian Yeomanry which should have a red/white plume or red for a bandsman.  Perhaps it is red but shows as black because of the photography of the day. (Yes, red would be likely to appear very dark or black in a black+white photo of that period  -  Peter Stubbs) 

It certainly looks lighter than the near black rifle green of the tunic, which is incorrect for the ELY anyway

7. has a sword belt that is not of the Rifle's design which was a patent leather belt 1 1/2" wide with silver/white metal snake clasp

A fellow member of the forum told me that it was not uncommon for people to ask for photos to be taken in military dress and it may well be the case here. Photographers may have had a 'store' of uniforms and accoutrements for just such occasions."

(Yes, some photographers did keep costumes such as highland dress, Newhaven Fishwives' outfits and others for sitters to wear.  John McManus would be likely to have seen a lot of tourists passing his studios in the High Street, so costumes might have been popular  -  though none of the subjects in the six cartes de visite that I have from his studio appears to be wearing such outfits.  -  Peter Stubbs)

Stuart concluded:

"OK, in conclusion I think the consensus is just that.  It is a mock-up."

Stuart Bates: SW of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia:

 December 6, 2011


Studio Portrait



Iain Davitt

Thank you to Iain Davitt for sending me this photo from his family collection, also taken at John McManus' studio, Edinburgh.

This photo  has suffered some damage but I think it's a great family photo, and I'm pleased to see that it has survived and is still in Iain's family  collection.

Cabinet Print

Cabinet Pringt from the studio of J McManus, 88 High Street  -  The group includes Iain Davitt's grandfather, Daniel Rogan

  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Iain Davittt

Back of the Cabinet Print

The back of a Cabinet Print from the studio of J McManus, 88 High Street  -  The group includes Iain Davitt's grandfather, Daniel Rogan

  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Iain Davittt


Iain wrote:

My Grandfather's Family

"Here is an old photo of my grandfather, Daniel Rogan, and his family.  Daniel is the boy at the bottom with the hoop.

I don't know when the photo was taken, but my grandfather died in 1966, aged 89.

Iain Davitt:  May 3 2013  (2 emails):  May 9, 2013


Thank you

Thank you for sending the photo to me.  I apologise for having taken so long to add it to the EdinPhoto web site.  For several months, emails were arriving here faster than I was able to reply to them, so I built up a backlog to reply to, including yours - but I never forgot about the, and now I'm beginning to catch up again!

Date of the Family Photo

Your grandfather would have been aged about 6 in 1877.  The photo may have been taken around that time.  So it seems to provide further evidence that John McManus was in business as a photographer working from 88 High Street before he was first listed in the Post Office Directories:  The directories give his studio dates and addresses as

(a)  1884-1893:  at 13 High Street

(b)  1891-1904:  at 88 High Street

The back of the John McManus cabinet print above says:
                                          "Established 1852

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  January 12, 2013


Cartes de Visite


My Cartes de Visite

I have 4 cartes de visite from the J McManus' studio in my collection, but unfortunately cannot find the time to scan them and add them to the web site, so I'll give brief details below:.  They are:


1. SUBJECT:  Couple in studio setting.
     BACK:               Style = same as cabinet print in 2 above.
       -  COLOUR:     Red
       -  ADDRESS:  88 High Street

2. SUBJECT:  Young boy. rustic fence, rural backdrop.
     BACK:               Style = same as cabinet print in 2 above.
      -  COLOUR:     Yellow
      -  ADDRESS:  13 High Street (beside Knox's Church)

3. SUBJECT:  Couple and young child. rustic fence, rural backdrop.
      BACK:              Style = same as cabinet print in 2 above
       -  COLOUR:    Black
       -  ADDRESS:  13 High Street (beside Knox's Church)

4. SUBJECT:  Two ladies, different rustic fence and rural backdrop
     BACK:              Style = picture of an artist's palate and flowers.
                                               probably a later style, serrated edges.
      -  COLOUR:    cream
      -  ADDRESS:  88 High Street (beside John Knox Church)

1, 2 and 3 (but not 4) above say:  Established 1852.


Another Carte de Visite

On 28 November I received an image of another carte de visite from J McManus studio at 13 High Street. 

It was sent to me by Shawn Gallagher, Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA, and is a photo of his grandparents.  John has always assumed that this was a wedding photograph, but they married in 1882 - two years earlier than I have given for the date that J McManus began their business.

Date the business commenced

CONCLUSION:  It seems likely to me that the J McManus studio would have started business around 1882 (rather than 1884), and that it would have taken the publishers of the Edinburgh & Leith Post Office directory a couple of years to learn about this new business and add it to the next annual edition of their directories).

Peter Stubbs:  Edinburgh:   30 Nov 2019




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