John Henry Day, 1840 - 1916
by Brian Stevenson
last updated December, 2014
Despite the professional appearance of the majority of John H. Day’s microscope slides (Figure 1), he was strictly an amateur in the field. His surviving slides probably come from Day’s personal collection, society members with whom he shared preparations, and from dispersed society property. He was a long-time associate of the Microscopical Society of Liverpool and the Chester Society of Natural Science, recorded as having exhibited and donated microscope slides to those societies as early as 1871. Day resigned his membership in the Liverpool Microscopical Society at some point between 1895 and 1906, suggesting that he had lost enthusiasm for the hobby. Thus, J.H. Day slides probably date between ca. 1870 and the 1890s.
Figure 1. Examples of microscope slides prepared by John H. Day. Slides with labels such as those shown at the lower right generally contain three numbers in the circle of the lower label, the third of which is known to range between 13 and 15. If those numbers indicate dates of production, then these slides would be from the last few years of Day’s life, a time at which he did not have any known involvement with microscopy. Alternatively, the numbers may be collection reference numbers – for example, the 13th – 15th sessions of the Microscopical Society of Liverpool occurred between 1879 and 1884, when Day was active with that club.
Figure 2. Arranged diatom and spicules, the specimens on the Jackson’s Well, Oamaru slide shown in Figure 1.
John Henry Day was born during late 1840 in Walsall, Staffordshire, England. He was the second child, and first son, of surgeon John Day and his wife, Fanny. The Days were evidently education-minded, and sufficiently well-off that they could send John to boarding school; the 1851 census found the 10 year-old as a pupil at Henry Hopkins’ school in Birmingham. In 1861, he was boarding in Tranmere, Birkenhead, across the Mersey River from Liverpool, and was an “apprentice to a merchant”. Day lived in that general area for the next forty or so years.
The 1871 census recorded John Day as being a “banker’s clerk”, boarding in the Everton district of Liverpool. That year also marks the earliest known record of his interest in microscopy. On March 3, “Mr. J. H. Day made a donation of twelve slides of seeds” to the Microscopical Society of Liverpool. Curiously, although he made numerous other donations and presentations to the Liverpool society, he did not become a member until 1887. There must have been a close association, however, since Day was elected to the society’s Executive Council in the same year that he joined.
Unlike so many amateur microscopists of his time, John Day does not appear to have placed exchange requests in national magazines. Presumably, he acquired a sufficient diversity of specimens through his club contacts. Thus, the records we have of Day’s interests come from society reports. Crystals predominate, but diatoms, botanical and insect specimens were also mounted.
Examples of Day’s exhibits and donations include: “microscopic crystals”, “fluid cavities in quartz”, “copper and other ores which presented a very pretty effect when viewed through the microscope”, and “rock sections (polarised)” at the Annual Conversaziones of the Chester Society of Natural Science of 1876, 1877, 1878, and 1879, respectively. A donation of “six slides, crystals” was made to the Microscopical Society of Liverpool in April, 1878, and a “section of Wigan coal” was exhibitd to the same group that October. Also shown to the Liverpool society were “diatoms, Coscinodiscus Radiatus, &c., mounted dry” (April, 1879), and “two slides of crystals of platino-cyanide of magnesium” (June 1879). Day exhibited “sections of wood, coal and fossil wood” at the 1880 conversazione of the Liverpool Chemists' Association in January, 1880. Day remained on the rolls of the Liverpool Microscopical Society through at least 1895, but is not otherwise mentioned in the society’s Annual Reports of the 1890s.
The latest known record of Day as an active microscopist is a brief note published in The Journal of Microscopy and Natural Science, 1893, “Volvox globator, To Mount - The gathering should be first strained through fine muslin and the residue placed on a glass slip while quite wet. Surround this with a ring of glycerine jelly, very slightly warmed. and finish off when cold with cement in the usual way. The secret of the bright green colour being preserved is to collect and mount at once, or as soon after collecting as possible”.
An interest in photography is evident by the early 1880s, and continued through the rest of the century. That hobby may have supplanted microscopy for Day’s use of free time. In 1883, he was elected to be a Vice President of the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association and, in 1895, the club’s President. In February, 1884, “Mr. J.H. Day passed round a beautiful transparency which had been developed in a room lit by a naked gas flame, and yet without a trace of fog”, and, that September, “Mr. J.H. Day said he had obtained good results with Morgan’s paper, and showed a print from a waxed negative, which was perfectly sharp, and could not be distinguished from an ordinary glass negative”. Later in 1884, Day was instrumental in forming the Birkenhead Photographic Association, and served as that club’s first Secretary.
The last identified non-governmental record of John H. Day’s life relates to his interest in photography. It also indicates that he was somewhat of an adventurous traveler. An 1895 report of the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association stated, “Mr. Joseph Earp gave his lantern lecture, entitled ‘Rambles in Upper Rhineland’. The slides, about 140 in number, which were from negatives taken by Mr. Earp and his travelling companions, Messrs. J.H. Day and J.W. Swinden, were very fine, and, together with the racy humour of the lecturer, which appeared to be inexhaustible, were much appreciated by the members”.
John Day was married twice. In the summer of 1879, he married Annie Isabelle Pearse, who was 17 years his junior. She was with him at the time of the 1881 census, the “banker’s clerk” and wife living in Tranmere, and employing a domestic servant. Annie presumably died shortly thereafter, although her death record has yet to be identified. Oddly, the 1891 census listed John Day as being single, not widowed. He was then boarding with a hairdresser and family in Tranmere, and was employed as a “banks cashier”. In the summer of 1897, John married Frances Hall, who was from his home town of Walsall, Staffordshire. Frances was 30 years younger than John – at the time of the marriage, he was 56 and she was 26. There were no known children from either marriage.
The 1901 census reports that John had, by then, been promoted to “branch bank manager”. He and Frances lived in a single-family house on Laurel Street, Tranmere. Day retired some time afterward, and the couple moved to Porlock, Somersetshire. John H. Day died there, on April 25, 1916. Frances did not remarry, and passed away 40 years later.
Many thanks to Steve Gill and Howard Lynk for generously sharing information.
The Amateur Photographer (1884) Report of meeting of the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association, page 140
Annual Report of the Liverpool Microscopical Society (1887) List of members: John H. Day was not included
Annual Report of the Liverpool Microscopical Society (1888) List of members: “Day, John H. 2, Carlton Mount, Allerton-road, Tranmere”. Day was also a member of the Council
Annual Report of the Liverpool Microscopical Society (1889) List of members: “Day, John H. 2, Carlton Mount, Allerton-road, Tranmere”. Day was also a member of the Council
Annual Report of the Liverpool Microscopical Society (1891) List of members: “Day, John H. 2, Carlton Mount, Allerton-road, Tranmere”
Annual Report of the Liverpool Microscopical Society (1893) List of members: “Day, John H. Crossfield, Allerton-road, Tranmere”
Annual Report of the Liverpool Microscopical Society (1895) List of members: “Day, John H. Crossfield, Allerton-road, Tranmere”
Annual Report of the Liverpool Microscopical Society (1906) List of members: John H. Day was not included
Bracegirdle, Brian (1998) Microscopical Mounts and Mounters, Quekett Microscopical Club, London, pages 30 and 130, and plate 13-G, H and J. The presumed years of Day’s slide-making are based upon an interpretation of the numbers on some slides as representing dates of production.
Birkenhead Photographic Association web site (accessed December, 2014) History - Chapter 1, http://newsite.the-bpa.org.uk/wordpress/?page_id=47
The British Journal of Photography (1883) Report of meeting of the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association, Vol. 30, pages 747-748
Cheshire Observer (1876) Report of the Annual Conversazione of the Chester Society of Natural Science, Saturday, October 7
Cheshire Observer (1877) Report of the Annual Conversazione of the Chester Society of Natural Science, Saturday, October 6
Cheshire Observer (1878) Report of a scientific conversazione at the Town Hall, Saturday, December 7
Day, John H. (1893) Volvox globator, to mount, The Journal of Microscopy and Natural Science, Vol. 12, page 326
England census, birth, marriage and death records, accessed through ancestry.co.uk
Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1878) Report of meeting of the Microscopical Society of Liverpool, Vol. 14, page 257
Liverpool Mercury (1878) Report of meeting of the Microscopical Society of Liverpool, Tuesday, April 9
Liverpool Mercury (1879) Report of meeting of the Microscopical Society of Liverpool, Monday, April 7
Liverpool Mercury (1879) Report of meeting of the Microscopical Society of Liverpool, Wednesday, June 11
Liverpool Mercury (1885) Report of a soiree of the Birkenhead Photographic Association, Thursday, December 10
The Monthly Microscopical Journal (1871) Report of meeting of the Microscopical Society of Liverpool, Vol. 6, page 114
Pharmaceutical Journal (1880) Report of meeting of the Liverpool Chemists’ Association, Vol. 10, page 590
The Photographic News (1884) Reports of meetings of the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association, Vol. 28, pages 159, 367, 638, and 783
The Photographic News (1884) Report of the initial meeting of the Birkenhead Photographic Association, Vol. 28, page 767
The Photographic News (1895) Report of meeting of the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association, Vol. 39, page 160
Probate of John Henry Day (1916) “Day John Henry of Meadowside Sparkhayes Porlock Somersetshire retired bank manager died 25 April 1916 at the Nursing Home Bristol Probate Taunton 6 June to Frances Amy Day widow. Effects £1796 12s 7d”, accessed through ancestry.co.uk
Scientific and Learned Societies of Great Britain (1885) Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association, page 72