I would totally disagree with this statement, at least as regards "celebrities" in the 19th century. It's true if you use people famous for being famous as a definition of celebrity, but there were plenty of stage performers, politicians, writers, just plain old rich people and military figures who would qualify as celebrities. There were certain photographers who you went to if you were famous (or wanted to be) to get your portrait done, even in the mid-19th century. In New York, there were a cluster - Brady, Bogardus, Gurney & Sons, C.D. Fredricks, to name a few. In Washington DC there were Brady and Gardner, in San Francisco there was Myron Shew, in London there was the London Stereoscopic Co., and several others whose names escape me at the moment. I have photos in my collection of actors (Henry Irving, actor and owner of the Lyceum theater in London where Bram Stoker was the manager and worked while he wrote Dracula), circus freaks (Tom Thumb and his wife, Lavinia Warren, who were two of the most highly paid entertainers of the later half of the 19th century - at the peak of his career he was pulling down $20,000/year - think Robert Downey Jr, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg kind of money), generals (most of the generals of the Civil War were photographed and their photos were reprinted and sold like 20th century baseball cards, collected by a voracious audience), royalty (Napoleon III, emperor of France) and politicians (Manuel Murillo Toro, twice president of Colombia) just to point out a few examples.
Originally Posted by batwister