Gilded Age portrait photographer took photos of Palm Beach society

MM Cloutier

How does one spark instant rapport with European royalty or American tycoons and society aristocrats?

More than a century ago in Palm Beach, Ernest Walter Histed might have offered an answer.

The esteemed Gilded Age portrait photographer — who maintained a studio on the island for decades after establishing himself elsewhere in the United States and abroad — is said to have quickly put at ease the thousands of rich and famous people who posed for him.

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A sign (right) on Worth Avenue in the 1920s advertises Ernest W. Histed's Worth Avenue studio.

Those who have had their photo taken by him include England’s Queen Victoria; US presidents; opera and theater stars; Henry Flagler; and assorted Vanderbilts, Astors and Drexels, to name a few.

Even though he once told a Miami News reporter that President Benjamin Harrison cajoled him into a game of pool before his portrait sitting, Histed evidently sidestepped public gossip about his clients.