William Edwin Few was born on March 27, 1847, in New York state to William Few and Frances H. Phillips Few. Few enlisted in the Civil War at the age of eighteen, joining the New York 8th Cavalry Regiment, Company K on March 23, 1865. He mustered out on June 27, 1865, in Alexandria, Virginia.
The following year, Few took up photography with a partner named Disbrow. They operated as Disbrow & Few in Albion and Barre, New York. The firm photographed six-month old Mary Allen “Daisy” Watson (1865-1944) sitting on the lap of her Black nanny in June 1866. While the 1860 and 1870 census records list servants in the household, none match up with the woman pictured.
By 1870, Few had moved his business to Independence, Iowa, and a few years later he traveled south, setting up shop in Little Rock, Arkansas. The 1880 census lists him as a photographic artist in Delavan, Illinois.
Based on Few’s Canon City street scene showing blacksmiths Hyde & Ashby, the photographer arrived in Colorado before March 1881, when Hyde took sole control over the shop. In 1883, photographer Augustus W. Dennis took Few as a partner in his Canon City studio. After 1883, there are gaps in Few’s career. He surfaces Montrose, Colorado in 1888 and in 1893 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, again working with Dennis, until his contract expired in May 1894. Later, Few moved twelve miles west to New Castle, Colorado, making cabinet card photos for three dollars per dozen.
Around 1897, Few moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, working as a caretaker at Lookout Mountain and residing in the Cravens House, a Civil War battle site. William E. Few died on May 22, 1920, in Chattanooga. His remains reside at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
Thank you to Elisabeth Parker, former assistant chief, Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C., for proof-reading this post.