James Presley Ball's 79 years of life constituted an amazing personal journey that carried him across the United States from Virginia to Hawaii, from the time that the United States was a slave society through the turbulent years of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the rise of segregation.
As a photographer, Ball was a careful observer and recorder of these transformations. And as an entrepreneur and abolitionist , he was an active participant helping to transform American society.
African American Daguerreotypist, Entrepreneur, and Activist
J.P. Ball was born free in Virginia in 1825 to William and Susan Ball. His parents were listed as free persons of color at the time of their marriage in 1814 in Frederick County, Virginia.
As a young man, Ball learned daguerreotypy from the black Boston photographer, John B. Bailey, in White Sulphur Springs, Virginia (now West Virginia). After an unsuccessful attempt to open a one-room studio in Cincinnati in the fall of 1845, Ball became an itinerant photographer and traveled to Pittsburgh, Richmond, and throughout Ohio, finally resettling in Cincinnati in 1849.
1 Willis, Deborah, ed. J. P. Ball: Daguerrean and Studio Photographer New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993.