Wellington O. Luke: From Pennsylvania to Colorado and Back Again

Wellington O. Luke was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania on February 9, 1847.  He married Nancy “Nellie” E. Russell on September 7, 1869.  In the early 1870s, he operated a photography studio in Meshoppen, Pennsylvania.  In 1874, the Luke family moved to Colorado Springs.  He partnered with another Pennsylvanian, possibly his brother-in law, Bentley B. Russell.  They specialized in scenic stereoviews.  After his young wife’s death of  consumption in 1874 and his brother-in-law’s passing a few months later, W. O. Luke departed Colorado and set up a photo studio in Abilene, Kansas.  

W. O. Luke, photographer. [Ravine, Rocky Mountains]; 1870s; Albumen silver print; Getty Museum collection.
In Abilene, Luke managed a portrait studio and occasionally took his outfit on the road to neighboring communities.  In 186, he married Laura V. Chronister.  In 1879, Luke moved his studio into Putnam’s new block, outfitting his rooms with new furniture and backdrops.  However, a few months later, the Luke family, encouraged by Leadville, Colorado’s silver boom, moved west where Luke would continue his photo business.   

stereo prospectors
Luke & Wheeler, photographers. {Prospectors], 1879-1881. Albumen silver stereoview. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

In July 1879, Luke worked together with Danforth N. Wheeler as Luke & Wheeler, producing cabinet cards and stereoviews.  Their work included scenic views and local events, including former president U. S. Grant’s 1880 visit to Leadville, the hanging of two men, showing a large crowd of spectators, street scenes of Leadville, and miners and mining operations.  Luke and Wheeler maintained their partnership until December 1881.  

W. O. Luke, photographer. Flume for hydraulic mining near Leadville, Colo., between 1879-1892,  albumen silver print. Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, Z-14166.

In 1888, Luke and one of Colorado’s earliest photographers, Frank W. Grove, joined forces as Grove & Luke.  Their studio resided at 425 Harrison Street.

Luke worked in Leadville for more than twelve years.  Virginia Luke filed for divorce in November 1894, alleging non-support.  After their divorce, Luke left Leadville for New Castle, Colorado and later Arizona, where it has been reported that he made identification cards for Chinese people living in the U. S., as required by the Geary Act.  After a brief time in Auburn, California, Luke returned to Pennsylvania.  He spent the remainder of his photographic career in Wilkes-Barre, calling his business the San Francisco Studio.  Located in the Weitzenkorn building on Main Street, it was the only photo studio in the city with an elevator.  

Wellington O. Luke suffered a stroke and died on January 8, 1907. 

Thank you to Beverly W. Brannan, former curator of photography at the Library of Congress for proof reading this post.

Charles Henry Clark in Salida

A native of Oxford County, Maine, Charles Henry Clark’s parents Thomas Green Clark and Martha Bumpus Clark worked as farmers.  Born in October 1847, Charles Clark was the youngest of five children.  By 1860, the Clark family had settled in Eagle, Illinois.  In June 1864, C.H. Clark mustered into the 138th Illinois Infantry, Company I, serving 100 days on garrison duty at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 

After the war, Clark worked as an artist in Streator, Illinois.  In 1880, he took charge of Albert Barker’s photography gallery in Ottawa, Kansas.   

C. H. Clark, photographer. [Donkey Foal], 1884, Salida.  Albumen silver print.  Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.
His exact arrival in Colorado is disputed, but in December 1881 he purchased  L.K. Oldroyd’s gallery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He published oversized stereoviews  of Denver, Colorado Springs, and scenes along the Denver & Rio Grande Railway.  In 1883, Clark worked out of Gunnison. He published and was the general trade agent for George Mellen’s photographic views.

In June 1884, he set up a studio in Salida, where his life-size, hand-colored portraits were consistently praised in the press. A display of his views and portraits was included at the 1887 Saguache County Fair.  In January 1888, a devastating fire broke out in Salida, just as Clark was moving his studio to new quarters.  The studio sustained $1300 in damages, and all of Clark’s early negatives of Salida were ruined.  

Mining scene
C. H. Clark, photographer. Shamrock Mine, Taylor Gulch, near Garfield, Colorado, 1887. Albumen silver print.  Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

In the fall of 1888, Clark formed a partnership with C. W. Erdlen.  Clark & Erdlen worked as partners until April 1889 when Clark left Salida, and Erdlen took over the gallery. Clark’s departure followed the death of his young daughter, Ada. The Clark family practiced the Christian Science religion and were criticized in the local press for not providing adequate care of Ada during her illness. The Clark’s settled in Manitou, Colorado. His future whereabout are unknown until 1919 when Civil War records indicate he was living in a home for disabled soldiers in Los Angeles.  He died in 1925 in San Diego.

Thank you to Elisabeth Parker, former assistant chief, Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C., for  proof-reading this post.