Thorne, Harriet V.S. (1843–1926)

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Thorne, Harriet V.S. (1843–1926)

American photographer. Name variations: Harriet van Schoonhoven Horne. Born Harriet Smith van Schoonhoven in 1843 in Troy, New York; died in 1926 in Bridgehampton, New York; great-grandmother of Rollie McKenna (b. 1918); married Jonathan Thorne (a businessman), in 1867 (died 1920); children: Josephine (b. 1869, died in infancy); Victor Corse (b. 1871); Samuel "Brink" Brinckerhof (b. 1873).

Photographed a variety of subjects, including Native Americans, architecture, wildlife, and flora; joined the New York Camera Club (1888–89); works exhibited posthumously, Yale University (1979).

Born in 1843 to an upper-class family in Troy, New York, photographer Harriet van Schoonhoven was privately educated. At age 24, she married a wealthy businessman, Jonathan Thorne, and began dividing her time between New York City and a summer estate, Schoonhoven, in Black Rock, Connecticut. She had three children between 1869 and 1873, two of whom survived to adulthood. At her summer home, Thorne experimented with the new artistic medium of photography, shooting and developing images in her own darkroom. She made portraits of family and friends in addition to interior scenes and images of Schoonhoven's extensive gardens and exotic wildlife. During the winters, Thorne also shot architectural scenes of New York. A member of the newly founded New York Camera Club in 1888, Thorne also worked on vacations to California and South Carolina, photographing Native Americans, botanical gardens, and wildlife.

Grief over the death of Jonathan Thorne in 1920, after 53 years of marriage, caused Harriet Thorne to give up photography and ask her sons to dispose of her equipment and negatives. She retired to Bridgehampton on Long Island, New York, where she died six years later.

Thorne's works might have been lost had it not been for the efforts of her descendants. In 1950, some negatives were discovered by Therese Thorne McLane and eventually were given to Harriet Thorne's great-granddaughter, the photographer Rollie McKenna . McKenna collected other photographs and in 1979 mounted an exhibit of Harriet Thorne's work at the Yale University Art Gallery.


Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. NY: Abbeville Press, 1994.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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Thorne, Harriet V.S. (1843–1926)

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