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Photographer ~ Adolphe de Meyer - Watson

Updated on July 9, 2020
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I’ve always had an interest in genealogy and researching my paternal Meyer line for close to 50 yrs. Here is an interesting find.

(photo: Baron Adolph de Meyer)
(photo: Baron Adolph de Meyer)

Let's begin with the name ~ Meyer

Origin and Meaning of the name


This is just one version of the name:

Northern Germany uses more often the names Meier and Meyer...and in Southern Germany there are more Mair and Mayer. The associated word meiger which means higher or superior comes from the middle High Germans. This word was often used for the stewards of landholders as well for great farmers or leaseholders...nowadays a Meier is a Dairy farmer.

Discovering a Meyer family member...

My discovery of a Meyer family member...and how the story came together.

When I came across this man named Adolphe de Meyer on a Wikipedia page, I noticed his mother’s named was Adele Watson and his father Adolph Meyer. This sparked my interest, since these names were in my genealogy chart...

My friend Barbara included information she found on Adolphe de Meyer. She graciously helped assemble portion of my family Chart...these particular finds led me to a new way of searching.

In 2013 Barbara Vogt in Germany was researching another one of my family members. This article was about the ownership of a Park and Villa von Dietel. The property was once was owned by Adele Watson who willed this property to their daughter Auguste Müller and she willed it to her daughter Adele von Dietel. Barbara generously supplied me with information regarding my von Dietel family.

Interesting similarities

But who is he?

As I read about this talented, ostentatious story telling photographer named Adolphe de Meyer, the similarities were interesting. Like the fact he lived in Paris and studied in Dresden. His mother was Adele Watson and his father Adolph Meyer... Interesting great grandmother's name was Adele Watson and my great granduncle's name Adolph Louis Meyer. I had to remember in those days everyone named a child after a relative and it just expanded to the same names over and over, very confusing. Same places and names, but if he were related, Adele's first husband my great grandfather, should have been Ludwig Karl just didn't add up....still, what about these names...Meyer and Watson? Not a likely combination in Germany. Could Adolph de Meyer really be related to our Meyer family, or just a coincidence.

Interesting reading I father who was Baron Alexander von Meyer, a photographer who took photos of famous people in his circle of friends. Dad was born in Dresden and also lived in Paris and London, having two Photo studios, one in Berlin the other in Dresden. But then they are just similarities, no facts...especially of de Meyer who was eccentric changing his name constantly. Maybe I was just wanting to connect to Adele his mother.

I remember when we lived in San Francisco, my mother said there was an artist/photographer named von Meyer who lived in the city. She knew that one of my fathers relatives, a cousin or nephew had moved to America...although she couldn't recall his first it turns out, it was Adolphe de Meyer.

Adolphe Edouard Sigismond Meyer

His REAL birth name

A synopsis:

Let's go back and look at some of the information through Wikipedia ~ Adolphe Meyer. He was born in Paris Sept.1, 1868, reared and educated in Paris and Dresden. Became a skilled photographer while in his teens, befriending and photographing famed master artists such as....Monet, Rodin and Bernhardt. As an adult at age 21, he made a move to England, during this time he also maintained studios in London and in Dresden.

When Adolphe lived in London he called himself Adolph Meyer-Watson, adding his mothers maiden name....and at least a half a dozen other names for various reasons.

His social connections were through his widowed mother Adele, her aristocratic friends introduced him into the highest levels of London society. She was the daughter of William Watson, he supposedly was the former British Consul to Moscow and once the owner of the second largest Beer-Wine producing Co. in Moscow.

When WWI began in Germany, he came to America establishing his Fashion Photography with Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper's Bazaar, living in New York and Manhattan. After a few years he returned to Germany. Then in 1938 when World War II was beginning, he returned to the United States.

Unfortunately for him, the style of photography representing the Fashion industry had changed and his style was no longer wanted. He then moved to Beverly Hills and this is where he died from a coronary thrombosis. He was buried at Forest Lawn...supposedly penniless without recognition.

Watson ~ Meyer ~ the names ~ the connection

French registration of Adolphs birth
French registration of Adolphs birth

Similarities connected

The above document was sent to me to try and make sense of the similarities. Yes, I found my family connection with Adolphe de Meyer. As I mentioned before, his mother Adelé Watson (my great-Grandmother) was married to (my great-Grandfather) Ludwig Karl Meyer. After his death in 1860, she married his younger brother #2 Adolph Louis Meyer who was Adolphe’s actual father, who sadly died four weeks before the birth of his son Adolphe.

From the shown birth record of the 16th district in Paris from 1868 one can see that the parents lived in the most affluent and exclusive part of Paris...and Yes, their son was named Adolphe Edouard Sigismond Meyer born 1868 and indeed born in Paris, (this had always been speculation)

They moved back to Dresden, this might have been due to the possible loss of his family's fortune because of the death of his father.

There also was a second child, Adolphe’s sister named Sophia, she married a Lieutenant Commander, and a second marriage to a Hannisch/Hamsch.

I discovered that when Adolphe lived in Dresden, it was just a few houses down from my g.g.grandfather's Villa Johann Meyer...and it came to mind that Adolphe’s second middle name Sigismond was his Uncle's name Sigismund Müller married to his father's sister Auguste née Meyer, and most likely his godparents...that's more research and another story, I'm sure!


And there it is!

Adolphe de Meyer my first cousin twice removed...whatever that means!

A Lucky find - My father photographed by de Meyer

Looking through this Auction site -, I came across a photo by Adolphe de Meyer that resembled my father, there also were several other photographs, but this one very much resembled my father. It was not identified by name, only as "a portrait of a young man" I compared the image to some photos of dad when he was a more mature man. I then put these images together for comparison...and indeed came out to be my father as a young man (see below).

I was thrilled even though my decision not to bid $1200 - $2000 for the 7 images. This Auction Lot of photographs happened to be from a private party.

I just wonder how many family photos were taken...I read most were destroyed....

Photo comparisons of my dad

comparison images
comparison images | Source

Section from my own Meyer Ahnentafel

Personal property-all rights reserved (C)
Personal property-all rights reserved (C) | Source

The conclusion

Hmmm ~ fact or fiction?

An internet article quoted Adolphe mentioning his paternal grandfather Johann Meyer one of Dresden's wealthiest businessmen and philanthropists at that time. Adolphe also claimed "that Johann provided him both with the title and an inheritance of a large bank account. Articles on the internet assumed he was born de Meyer...NO, he actually received his title as an adult and not when he married Olga, which was another assumption. Adolphe's claim that he became a Baron when the Prince of Wales asked his cousin the King of Saxony to get him a title was just half the truth. I'm sure this might have been a connection to help speed up the award of title. This was for the purpose that Adolphe and his wife Olga Caracciola could attend King Edward's Coronation at Westminster Abbey (Olga was Edward's godchild, and possibly being the illegitimate daughter of King Edward VII)

Yes, he exaggerated about himself and family. However, he was right about the part of his grandfather Johann Meyer being wealthy and that Johann's deeds allowed him to receive a why all the confusing.

I found the Peerage book that showed the Proof of my grandfather Ludwig Adolph von Meyer and his nephew Adolphe de Meyer conferred...Please see image below.

Information is also listed on my German Ahnentafel about Johann Meyer's twice knighted Ritter (?) and Albrecht Order, as well as being an "Ehrenburger" for the city of Dresden...I'm working on the information of the "Order of the Rue Crown".

The title was also passed down to my father Baron Alexander von Meyer and his brother Baron Eugen von Meyer.


The conferring of Title!


Proof of the title of Baron and how it was conferred

The truth be told ....

Although I had seen portions of this in other books, this one here is in English and showed enough of the total information...yes, it informs us in this documentation.

So my guess was right... but a guess is a guess...proof is the important part. It’s a relief to finally know what is what and who is who...although I still see I make mistakes with the names of the Adolph's and Ludwig's.

Whitaker's  1910
Whitaker's 1910

In the meantime...

I’m so grateful, that Ms. Barbara Vogt gave me wonderful information on de Meyer, including the French registration of his birth and with translated information...How very kind and generous of her..I will forever be grateful to her.


Then earlier this year a nice gentleman in Germany also contacted me through one of my family pages. He actually knew one of my lost family members and had access to family items, and again this ties in with Adele... Another appreciated grateful deed...

Vogue’s First Staff Photographer

Saluting Baron Adolph de Meyer, Vogue's First Staff Photographer
Saluting Baron Adolph de Meyer, Vogue's First Staff Photographer | Source

Saluting Baron Adolphe de Meyer

Here it is 2016... and I still read the same old inaccuracies that has been written about him over and over. This article Saluting Baron Adolph de Meyer, Vogue’s First Staff Photographer is written by Lynn Yaeger on 9-1-2015 and I'm glad he is remembered as the first official Vogue photographer. However I'm sure the information was not researched for updates on de Meyer. Because of his oddity, I feel that he deserves the truth, even though he brought inconsistency to himself by telling stories...his talent is what speaks for itself up to this day.

A Singular Elegance : The Photographs of Baron Adolphe de Meyer.....

A Singular Elegance : The Photographs of Baron Adolph de Meyer
A Singular Elegance : The Photographs of Baron Adolph de Meyer
I purchased this book online and found it to be very interesting...I learned more about my distant cousin Adolphe de Meyer, things I didn't know before...his photos are a very unique style for that time period, and seems to becoming back in style by new photographers...what is old, is new. Hardcover – October 1, 1994

de Meyer

de Meyer
de Meyer
This was my second book purchase, and an eye opener for me with all the discrepancies written about Adolph de Meyer....Hardcover – 1976 I wrote a bit here on this page about some of the assumptions that are untrue...this with what I've learned through searches. I now have a better understanding about him.

My few Personal Favorites de Meyer photos...I love the lighting

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Olga Caracciola deMeyer

Olga Caracciola de Meyer
Olga Caracciola de Meyer

His Marriage to Olga Caracciolo

a convenience

Adolphe married an Italian noblewoman, a divorcee Donna Olga Caracciolo for her money and convenience, he was homosexual and she was bisexual or lesbian...

They married in the Christian 'Holy Trinity Church' Sloane Square, London England 1899.

Because of the name Meyer, the assumption seemed to always describe his father as German Jewish. My grandfather and his whole family were devote Christians...he was married in a Christian church in Russia.

When Adolph's wife Olga died in 1930 of a heart attack while being in an Austrian detoxification clinic, he moved to Beverly Hills and continued his romantic involvement with his German chauffeur Ernest Frohlich, who he later adopted as his son, giving him his name and title (actually the title was meaningless)

Other types of his photography - Still Life and Landscape

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Proud connection...

Even though Adolphe de Meyer's family connection was not a complete surprise, or the fact he was an odd duck, I'm still proud to be related because of his artistic nature...

I'm working on other relatives that where art related or collectors. Since I'm an artist myself, I find it interesting that both sides of my Paternal and Maternal have deep rooted art collecting and artist interest....more stories to come from that!

Family History Importance

Your family of the past is is who "You" are in your DNA.

One never knows what you'll find...

Have you found any surprises in your Family History research?

See results

Love letter from Adolph de Meyer ~ interesting concept

My personal story and information may not be copied or used without permission All rights reserved Delia Pacheco

Note ~ Scraper Protection: If you see this webpage anywhere else on the Internet besides here...PLEASE contact me...Thank You ~

© 2013 Delia

Comments? - Love to hear from you ~

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You do have a very interesting family history. Keep digging and do share with us as you have already done.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      I always love reading about your family research. I'm having so much fun exploring my roots too.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      It is always fascinating to learn about people who lived in times past, and I especially enjoy looking at photographs. Mr. de Meyer was quite gifted in photographing women. The portraits are lovely. Thank you for sharing a bit of his story, and your discovery, here.

    • takkhisa profile image


      6 years ago

      Just like others who enjoy reading your lenses, I am actually one of them. This one is very unique and well written lens :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A well-constructed and attractive lens, which was of interest to me because of the artistic connections and eccentric personalities described.


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