Jacob Frank Coonley (1832-1915) was a pioneering American photographer whose initial career as a sign and ornamental artist in New York City was cut short by economic considerations in the mid 1850s, whereupon he became a student of George N. Barnard (1819-1902), one of the earliest exponents of the daguerrotype photographic process. Following Coonley’s training he and Barnard opened a photography studio together in Syracuse, New York, and with the outbreak of the American Civil War the two men joined a team of photographers directed by famed portrait photographer Mathew Brady (1822-1896), culminating in the production of many of the war’s most historically important battlefield photographs. Near war’s end, the Union Army hired Coonley to be the photographer of record for the construction of new railroads in several southern states. Back in New York City after the war, Coonley opened a studio and a gallery, often collaborating with J.M. Mora (1849-1926), a nationally recognized theatrical portraitist. Coonley first visited Nassau in the 1870s, opening a studio on Bay Street by 1880 and eventually moving to the Masonic Temple building. While in Nassau he specialized in townscapes, landscapes, and genre pictures as well as portraiture, and made several photographic excursions to Cuba on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. By 1889 he had become a permanent resident of Nassau, remaining there for the duration of his life. The book, A History of the Bahamian People, from the Ending of Slavery to the Twenty-first Century, cites Coonley as “the most exceptional American in business” during this period of Bahamian history.