This small sepia-tinted portrait photograph mounted on heavy card shows Dr Matthew Fletcher, the delegate from Bury to the First Chartist Convention of 1839. The reverse carries what looks to be Matthew Fletcher’s signature.
Cartes de Visite such as this were patented in France in 1854, introduced into England in 1857, and became immensely popular in the 1860s as people began to collect images of friends, family members and celebrities. Fletcher was born in 1796, and he would have been in his mid to late 60s by the time of the CDV craze, so this image could well have been taken at that time. He lived on until 1878.
As the back of the card shows, the photograph was taken at Edmund Eccles’ photographic studio in Broad Street, Bury. Fletcher’s signature across the top of the card appears to be handwritten rather than printed – though whether the card was taken and shared for personal reasons or for some other purpose is unknown.
Fletcher had come to the First Chartist Convention in 1839 with a record of opposition to the New Poor Law then being imposed on the country by the Whig government.
As a General Practitioner in Bury, the Lancashire town in which he had been born and brought up, Fletcher was acutely aware of the impact of the factory system on its workers and was appalled by the treatment being meted out to the poorest members of the community. However, he soon became disillusioned with Chartism and returned to his previous life tending to the medical needs of the people of Bury.
Matthew Fletcher was profiled by The Charter newspaper while serving as a delegate to the Convention. Both the profile and the sketch portrait that accompanied it can be seen here.
The CDV shown here is in the collection of Mark Crail, who runs the Chartist Ancestors website.