The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

 
 
 
Joseph Patrick Dixon

Joseph Patrick Dixon, odontographist


Joseph Patrick Dixon was a diplegic young man who learnt to write using his teeth to hold a pen and then turned his skill into a source of income. This carte-de-visite shows him in the act of writing and the signature and inscription in ink across the lower margin were almost certainly written by him, using his teeth to hold the pen.

According to an advertisement placed in a Scottish newspaper in 1886, he lived at 24 Bridge Street in Inverness and would 'call at people's houses to demonstrate his powers'.

According to a report in an American newspaper: 'Joseph P. Dixon, who styled himself an "odontographist" because he did all his writing by means of a pen or pencil held in his mouth, died recently at Aberden [sic], Scotland. Deprived of the use of his arms from birth, he learned, after much perseverance, to write with his mouth. Dixon traveled as a tea merchant in all parts of Scotland, and used his handicap in advertising his business by offering a specimen of his orthodontography to any purchasers. He retired 10 years ago at the age of 66' [The Montana Standard, 31 March 1929].

He appears on the 1901 census, a 'Tea Dealer' boarding at 80, High Street, Perth. He was born in Ireland in or about 1853. He appears on the 1891 census living with his wife Mary in Aberdeen. He gave 'Odontographer' as his profession. Ten years earlier, he was living in Edinburgh and described himself as a 'dentoscribe'. According to that census, he was born in or about 1858.

Photographed by Turnbull and Sons of Glasgow.
 

Code: 122179
 
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