Let it Snow!

Cabinet card with snow
Dalgleish Bros., photographers. [Woman in snowstorm], Albumen silver cabinet card, circa 1889, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
March is typically Colorado’s snowiest month and it just so happens that it is snowing as I write this post.  Snow pictures, photographic portraits made in the studio, gained popularity  in the 1880s.

Wilson’s Photographic Magazine (Dec. 1900, p. 548) outlines the steps to “fake” the negative: “…take Chinese white, as sold in tubes by the artists’ colormen, and thin it with water on a palette; then take an ordinary toothbrush and touch the ends of the bristles on the palette so as to take up a little of the pigment…pass, say, the back of the knife across the bristles so as to flick the color on to the negative in fine particles.  Before doing this it is desirable to varnish the negative, as then, if the result is not satisfactory, the pigment can be cleaned off.”  Notice that the photographer carefully avoided getting “snow” on the customer’s face.

During the 19th century, photographers often posed their clients in front of painted backdrops and used studio props, such as columns and plaster tree stumps, to add interest.  To make their snow scene more realistic, the Dalgleish Bros. retouched the background areas of the negative, adding snow to the foreground, rocks and roof of the building.  By adding pigment to these areas on the negative, consequently blocking light from exposing the photographic paper, the snow appears white in the final print.

woman before snow
Dalgleish Bros., photographers. [Woman Before Snowstorm.] Albumen Silver cabinet card, circa 1889, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.
In this rare instance, courtesy of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, we are fortunate to also have a photograph showing a portrait of the woman before snow was added to the negative.

Born in Scotland, the Dalgleish Bros., George and Thomas, operated photography studios in Wyoming and Colorado.  George (1854-1933), the better known of the two, learned photography in Toronto, Canada.  Between 1886 and 1889, the brothers worked in Sheridan and Buffalo, Wyoming.  They offered portraits made in the latest styles and also copied old photographs.

In 1889 the brothers opened a third gallery in Georgetown, Colorado.  Georgetown, surrounded by high mountains, prospered as a mining town in the 1870s.  Located about forty-five miles west of Denver, George Dalgleish managed mining claims in addition to managing his photography business.  After 1890, George seems to be operating independently from his brother.  He continued his photography business in Georgetown for about two decades.  I was unable to find additional information about Thomas Dalgleish.

George Dalgleish, photographer. Georgetown, 1892. Albumen Silver print. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

While the Dalgleish studio produced the popular cabinet card portraits, they also made outdoor views including landscapes, mining scenes, and documented local events.

George Dalgleish, photographer. Parade, Georgetown, Colorado, July 5, 1897.  Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, X-1163.

In 1898 George Dalgleish organized the Georgetown Camera Club.  The Georgetown Courier  (Nov. 5, 1898, p4, c2) reported that the club would promote the “general advancement and mutual improvement in photography, and exchange of ideas with other camera clubs, through the exchange of slides and photographs.”

Swept by a Snow-Slide. Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, March 23, 1899, page 238

In February 1899, George Dalgleish photographed the aftermath of an avalanche that brought snow, rocks and trees down the steep hillside of the neighboring mining community of Silver Plume.  Cabins, some occupied by mining families, were overwhelmed by the snow’s impact and about two dozen people lost their lives.  Dalgleish’s photographs received national attention when they were published in Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.

The local press covered Dalgleish’s mining activity in great detail in the early 1900s.  Initial reports were very promising.  But in 1911, he sold all his claims and moved his family to Sterling, Colorado, on the eastern plains in northeast corner of the state.  He continued his photography business in Sterling until shortly before his death on May 13, 1933.

Now back to Thomas Dalgleish.  There was a Thomas Dalgleish active as a photographer in Texas in the early 1880s.  I suspect he was George’s brother, but I have no proof.  If anyone has additional information about the Dalgleish brothers that they would like to share, please let me know.

Want to see more photographs by George Dalgleish?                                            The Denver Public Library has a  selection of Dalgleish’s photographs













Miss Julia Skolas: An Accomplished Colorado Photographer

March is Women’s History Month.  More than eighty women worked in Colorado’s photographic industry during the 19th century, as photographers, retouchers, colorists, and print mounters.  Biographical information about these women and examples of their work are often hard to find.

Earlier this year, I received a research grant from the The Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Historical Photographic Research that will allow me to travel to libraries and museums in distant Colorado locales to learn more about the photographers, both men and women, working in their communities.  I am very grateful for this support and will share my findings in this blog, so stayed tuned.

Julia Skolas
Charles A. Nast, photographer. Portrait of Julia Skolas, circa 1893. Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District, image no. 394-46.

Fortunately, Julia Skolas,  is one of the better known woman photographers in Colorado.  She was born to Norwegian immigrants in Wisconsin on May 14, 1863.  She grew up with her nine siblings on a farm outside Cottage Grove, WI, a short distance east of Madison.

In the early 1890s, single and about thirty years of age, she moved nearly one thousand miles from her family and home to Denver.  On December 31, 1892, she attended Denver’s annual Norwegian New Year’s Eve ball. (Rocky Mountain News, Jan. 1, 1893, p. 2, c. 1)  It is very likely that she was living in Denver at this time, but she doesn’t appear in the city directory until 1894, with no occupation listed.  Her relaxed and unconventional pose in the portrait by Charles A. Nast makes me wonder if perhaps she learned photography from him.  Nast operated at the 1624 Curtis Street address between 1891 and 1893, which matches the time Skolas arrived in Denver.  Unfortunately, no records exist to confirm my suspicions.

North Cheyenne Canon
Julia Skolas, photographer. North Cheyenne Canon, hand-colored photograph. Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District, image no. 394-17.

By 1896, Skolas lived in Colorado Springs, where she ran a photographic studio for a decade.  She was a member of the Monday Progress club, a women’s social and educational organization.  The members would give talks on current events and the arts.  The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jan. 29, 1905, p23) reported on  a debate about “Labor organizations,” with Mrs. C. L. Smith  of Manitou, taking the union side, Skolas, the non-union.  In 1903, at the club’s annual day-long picnic, held among the wildflowers in North Cheyenne Canon, “Miss Skolas…presented each guest with a puzzle, which proved to be a little sketch illustrating the name of the individual.” (Colorado Springs Gazette, June 28, 1903, p. 16, c.6)  She was also a founding member of the Colorado Springs Badger club, a group of ninety-one residents of the Springs who claimed Wisconsin as their former home.

Madonna and Child, Taber-Prang Art Company Illustrated Catalog, 1923, p. 162

In 1906, Skolas sold the copyright of her photograph “Madonna and Child” to the Tabor Prang Art Company, a well-known producer of art prints based in Springfield, MA.  Prang continued to offer this print for sale well into the 1920s.  Skolas submitted a several photographs to the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office between 1907 and 1912, but they do not appear in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.  In 1911, James Alexander Semple, singled out Skolas for inclusion in his book Representative Women of Colorado.


In 1907, Skolas moved her business to the mining town of Cripple Creek.  She photographed the interiors and exteriors of mines extensively, even making and selling real photo postcards that were just gaining favor as souvenirs. She remained there until around 1920, leaving many of her glass plate negatives behind.

Julia Skolas, photographer. Elton Mine, circa 1908, gelatin silver postcard.Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District, image no. 394-29.

In her sixties, Julia  moved temporarily to Madison, Wisconsin, but she was back in Denver by 1924, working  as a photographer. She placed the following advertisement in the January 18, 1925 Denver Post: “ONE 8 x 10 view camera, 1 8 x 10 portrait lens, cheap.  Skolas, Apt. 29 1/2 1720 Logan.” signaling the end of her photographic career.

In later years she worked as a milliner, candle maker, and in candy sales.  This list of careers may show how difficult it was for an older woman to make a living.  By 1931 she had returned to Madison, Wisconsin, where she lived until the end of her life.  She died of a heart condition on December 31, 1934, and is buried at the West Koshkonong Lutheran Church Cemetery, in Stoughton, Wisconsin.  

Additional resources:

See more Julia Skolas photographs online at the Pikes Peak Library.

Here’s a podcast that features information about Julia Skolas and a few other early Colorado women photographers.

Bathke, Nancy and Brenda Hawley.  “Searching for the Early Women Photographers of the Pikes Peak Region.”  in Film and Photography on the Front Range.  Colorado Springs:  Pikes Peak Library District, 2012.

Thank you to Beverly Brannan, recently retired curator of photography at the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, for editing this post.