George Stephan, Photographer, Attorney, and Lieutenant Governor of Colorado

George Stephan was born in Cleveland, Ohio on March 30, 1862, to John C. Stephan and Elizabeth Watson Stephan.  His father worked as a dentist.  George attended Cleveland public schools, graduating from high school in 1878.  George moved to Denver four years later, where his uncle Henry W. Watson ran a photography studio.  George likely learned photography from his uncle.


George Stephan, Photographer. Portrait of Ernest N. Petersen, circa 1885. Collection of the author.

For about six years, George Stephan earned his living as a photographer in Denver.  When he departed Denver for Salt Lake City in 1888, Stephan left Elmer E. Pascoe in charge of his studio. Pascoe continued to run the business (Stephan & Pascoe) until 1892 when the firm was shuttered.

In 1890, George Stephan returned to Colorado, residing in Delta.  He was active in banking and real estate.  By 1900 he had been admitted to the bar and established a large practice.  He held many local and state offices in Colorado.  Stephan was elected  Lieutenant Governor in 1918 and a U. S. district attorney in 1924.  He retired to California and died in La Jolla, California on September 9, 1944.  He was interred in the family plot at Delta Cemetery.

Thanks to Cindy Motzenbecker for gifting me the studio portrait, which inspired this post.  Kellen Cutsforth, Denver Public Library (DPL), provided scans from DPL.

Amos Bennet, “The Snake King of Colorado”

Amos Snuffin Bennet was born on December 20, 1869 in Omaha, Nebraska to Elisha Bennett III and Esther Ann Snuffin Bennett.  The family moved to Arapaho County in Colorado Territory a few months after his birth.  By 1892, Amos Bennet lived in Axial, Colorado, a town that no longer exists in Moffat County.  Like his peers, A. G. Wallihan and his wife, Mary Augusta Wallihan, Bennet specialized in making photographs of wild game, landscapes and portraits.  Bennet often served as a guide to hunters and fishermen visiting the area, photographically documenting their adventures.  His  work won second prize in a contest offered by Forest and Stream magazine.  

Amos S. Bennet, photographer. “Wild Game Photos taken expressly for Overman Wheel Co., Denver, 1890s.  History Colorado. Accession #92.11.20.

Bennet excelled as an athlete, riding his bicycle nearly 200 miles over the mountains from Denver to Axial, an early instance of mountain biking.  He wrote an essay about his journey for the August 1893 issue of Sports Afield.  He often took his camera and his rifle along on local rides.  One day while out photographing elk, he later shot an antelope with his rifle.  He slung the more than 200 pound beast over his shoulder, and then rode seven miles back home on his bicycle.  

On another occasion, Bennet crawled on his hands and knees to sneak up on a herd of antelope with his camera.  Bennet reported in Cycling West that “I had crawled about half the distance necessary when suddenly I dimly perceived something gliding right out from under my hand seemingly, and the next instant heard the sharp whir-r-r of a rattlesnake. It is needless to say I stopped right there! When I got my eyes mopped out and could see plainly I was glad I did. To my startled vision the ground ahead of me seemed alive with the reptiles. The whole prairie was one writhing, twisting mass and the air was vibrating like a buzz saw with the alarum of their tails.”  He used his Kodak to courageously capture images of the snakes.  

During the summer of 1897, snake charmer, Harry Davis, hired Bennet to provide rattlesnakes for a Denver display during the festival of Mountain and Plain.  Bennet captured twenty snakes at Fortification Rocks, a location north of Craig, known for its substantial snake population.  Bennet used a five-foot long pole to handle the snakes but Davis wrestled the snakes with his hands, receiving a non-lethal bit on his finger.

On September 28, 1898, Bennet married Alice Belle Caster.  On their wedding trip, the couple visited Meeker and Denver, Colorado.  There is no further mention of Bennet’s photography in the local press.  After his marriage, he worked as an engineer and carpenter.  In 1903, the Bennet’s departed Colorado for points west, settling in Klamath Falls Oregon in 1909.  Two years later, Amos S. Bennet died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the young age of 41.  He left his wife and two young children.  


Thank you to Keegan Martin, Digital Imaging Assistant, History Colorado for providing the scan and Elisabeth Parker, former assistant chief, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress for proof-reading.  


Charles E. Emery: A Fifty Year Career in Photography

Charles Eckland  was born on December 3, 1859 in Sweden.  He arrived in the United States as a young boy.  After the death of his father, Charles was adopted by Ard Godfrey Emery, a Michigan photographer.  Charles Emery attended schools in Michigan and Illinois.  He started working in his adopted father’s studio by the age of sixteen. 

At age twenty, Charles Emery arrived in Silver Cliff, Colorado with a solid background in photography.  He opened a studio on the corner of Main and Mill Streets,  beginning a distinguished photography career that would span more than five decades in multiple cities and encompass a wide range of photographic processes.

By 1880, Silver Cliff had become the third largest city in the state due to its silver mines.  Soon after Emery’s arrival, smoke from a forest fire in a nearby gulch looked like snow on top of the mountains.  The scene so captivated the city’s population that they closed stores and offices in order to view the sight.  Emery made stereoviews of the mountain scene, which he later sold by the hundreds for fifty cents apiece.  This brought his work to national attention.  He immediately submitted one stereoview to the U. S. Copyright Office housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Chas. E. Emery, photographer. A Sublime Picture, copyright, June 8, 1880, albumen silver print. Library of Congress. LC-DIG-stereo-1s11428.

Not content with limiting himself to studio portraits, Emery traveled to many locations around Colorado, including Garden of the Gods, Manitou and Pike’s Peak, Glen Eyrie, Denver, Clear Creek Canon, Ute Pass and Rainbow Falls, Grand Canon of the Arkansas, the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Range, producing stereoviews and landscape views printed on boudoir cards.  (Boudoir cards are prints slightly larger than cabinet cards.) He offered the views for sale at his gallery and through a catalog which is no longer extant.  

Girl with cat
Chas. E. Emery, photographer. Unidentified girl with cat, between 1885 and 1892, History Colorado, accession # 98.33.13.

On June 11, 1884, Emery married Bertha Alba Francis.  Bertha’s brother, Gowen D. Francis,  worked as Emery’s assistant. Bertha was a notable musician who  played the organ for services at the local Methodist Episcopal church.  After the wedding, the couple traveled by train to Manitou and Denver, and then to Kansas to visit Emery’s parents.  Charles and Bertha would have seven children, only five living into adulthood.  

In 1885, Emery moved his studio to Canon City, Colorado, but made monthly visits to Westcliffe, just west of Silver Cliff, to make studio portraits.  Emery photographed prisoners in the original State Penitentiary located in Canon City, including images of  prisoners in the chapel and a prisoner posed seated at a desk in the warden’s office.

Warden's office
Chas. E. Emery, photographer. Warden’s Office, State Penitentiary, albumen silver print on boudoir mount, 1885-1892. Courtesy of Museum of Northwest Colorado, Craig, CO.

In 1892, Emery purchased the photographic studio of D. B. Chase in Colorado Springs.  He worked in the Springs for nearly forty years.  At this studio, he specialized in portrait photography, often making class portraits for Colorado College. On request, Emery made portraits in people’s homes.  He also sold Kodak cameras and photographic supplies for amateur photographers.  

Exterior of Studio
Exterior of Chas. E. Emery’s new studio, corner of Kiowa and Cascade avenues, Colorado Springs. Notice the large skylight in the middle of the building, circa 1901. Charles W. and Bertha Francis Emery Family Collection, ch134pdm.jpg, Colorado College Special Collections.

Emery attended  the 1898 convention of the National Photographers Association of America, held at Chatauqua Lake, N. Y.  The meeting provided an opportunity for him to learn new skills and see new equipment that might benefit his studio.  Whenever in the East, he would also visit the leading studios to see their operations first-hand, to acquire ideas for his business.  In 1901, Emery opened a studio custom designed for his needs, at the corner of Cascade and Kiowa Streets and ordered new studio backgrounds painted by a famous New York artist.  

exterior of studio
Interior of Chas. E. Emery’s new studio, corner of Kiowa and Cascade avenues, Colorado Springs. Skylight on left side  with posing chair in from of painted backdrop. Notice the variety of posing chairs in the studio, circa 1901. Charles W. and Bertha Francis Emery Family Collection, ch134pbm.jpg, Colorado College Special Collections.

Emery exhibited about a dozen photographs in San Francisco at the 1903 Photographers’ Association of California. The following year he attended the National Photographers Association in Kansas City, and while there, visited the Worlds’ Fair.

In 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt participated in a hunting trip in Garfield County, Colorado.  P. B. Stewart, an amateur photographer from Colorado Springs, accompanied the trip and made Kodak views.  Emery processed the negatives and photographs an produced a personal album, made especially for President Roosevelt.  The album is now held by Harvard University. 

Unidentified man
Chas. E. Emery, photographer. Unidentified man holding a newspaper, 1901 or later. History Colorado, accession #2010.62.3.

Emery’s work was included in the “Temple of Childhood”exhibition held in conjunction with the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition held in San Francisco in 1915. Another acknowledgment of his success came with his inclusion in “Who’s Who in Professional Portraiture in America,” published in 1927.  The volume contained biographies of three hundred American photographers, including Arnold Genthe and Pirie McDonald.

The Emery family suffered a tragic loss in August 1929.  They were staying at their cottage outside Colorado Springs when heavy rain caused a dam to burst above the camp.  Charles and his wife, Bertha, ran to the neighboring cottages to alert their friends to seek higher ground.  Bertha was swept away by the flood waters and drowned.  Charles never recovered from his wife’s death.  On September 1, 1932, three years after her death, Charles was found dead in his garage from carbon monoxide poisoning.  The Emerys were buried side-by-side in Colorado Springs’ Evergreen Cemetery.  

Thank you to Beverly W. Brannan, former curator of photography at the Library of Congress for editing this post.  Daniel Davidson, Director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado brought Emery’s photographs of prisoners to my attention. Keegan Martin, Digital Imagining Technician, History Colorado and  Neylan Wheat, Museum of Northwest Colorado provided scans.  Jessy Randall, Curator and Archivist, Special Collections, Tutt Library, Colorado College granted permission to use photographs from the collection.



“Come to Colorado” exhibition at Amon Carter Museum

Come to Colorado, photographs by William Henry Jackson, William G. Chamberlain, C. W. Erdlen, and many other photographers, is on view at the Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth, TX) through January 7, 2024.  The collection is drawn from the Fred and Jo Mazzulla collection.  In 1976, the Amon Carter Museum  acquired the collection of  more than 6,000 photographs, postcards and memorabilia relating to the history of Colorado.  

W. G. Chamberlain, photographer. [David Bruce Powers’ Train of Fort Leavenworth at Denver], June 20, 1865. Albumen silver print.
On Wednesday, November 1, 2023 at 5:30pm, Eric Paddock, curator of photography at the Denver Art Museum and Colorado native will join the Amon Carter’s retired Senior Curator of Photographs John Rohrbach to discuss photography’s role in shaping Colorado’s image as an economic resource and outdoor playground. 

William Henry Jackson, photographer. Tunnels 10 an 11, 11 Mile Cañon Colorado Midland R.R., 1887. Albumen silver print.

Researching Charles E. Emery

I haven’t posted in a while because I have been down the research “rabbit hole.”   The life of a history detective is both time consuming and rewarding.  The careers of many of the photographers I profile have never been fully documented.  I thought I would share my research path for  Charles E. Emery.  A fuller post of his life will appear once I tie up a few loose ends.

Emery’s cabinet card mount

A few weeks ago, a genealogist contacted me for assistance in identifying the photographer of a cabinet card made in Canon City, Colorado.  I can certainly understand why she was unsure of the photographer’s last name (Emery) due to the flowery script.  Having the photographer’s name allowed her to narrow down the date of her photograph to between 1885 and 1892.

After this correspondence, I thought, “Maybe I should do a post about Emery. Are there interesting photographs I could use for my blog?”

Silver Cliff gallery
Unknown maker, probably Charles E. Emery. Silver Cliff, Colorado, 1884. Silver gelatin copy photograph.  Denver Public Library Special Collections, X-1595.

I looked at the Denver Public Library’s website and found  a photograph showing the exterior of Emery’s studio. You don’t always find photographs showing photo studios, so having that photo sealed the deal–a blog post was in the works.

The cataloging notes for this image suggest that the photograph was made on Main Street, Manitou Springs, Colorado in 1884.  Emery never had a studio in Manitou Springs, but he did work for decades in the neighboring community of Colorado Springs.  However, that studio didn’t open until 1892.

In 1884, Emery’s studio was located in Silver Cliff, Colorado.  Could I prove that this photograph was made in Silver Cliff?   Emery’s Silver Cliff studio was located above Tomkins hardware store, at the corner of Main and Mill Streets.  The New York Public Library owns a stereoview of Tomkins hardware store.  I believe this view was made before Emery’s studio took over the second floor of the building.

Silver Cliff stereo
Unknown maker. Main Street, Silver Cliff, CO, before 1882. Albumen Silver print, New York Public Library, Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views.

The left side of the building provides clues that confirm the location as Emery’s studio.  While the siding has been updated, the balustrade is the same design.  Also, the attorneys sign appears in both photographs.

Detail of Tomkin’s hardware store, pre-1882.
Detail of Tomkins hardware store, 1882 or later.








What else could I find out about Emery?  The website cabinetcardphotographers  mentioned that Charles Emery was listed in   “Who’s Who in Professional Portraiture in America,” published in 1927. Only nine libraries hold this title, including the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, where I worked for 30+ years.  My former co-worker and now volunteer, Elisabeth Parker, offered to track down the book and scan the relevant pages.  The entry for Emery provided essential information about his early life.

The blog post on Emery is still a work in progress.  I need to make a trip to the  Stephen H. Hart Research Center at History Colorado to fact check a couple of details.  I look forward to publishing a fuller account of Emery’s life in the near future.

Who Was E. Warren Pierce?

Pierce, photographer. Mrs. John Hall, Feb. 1, 1884, albumen silver print on cdv mount. Collection of the author.

Last year at the Denver Post Card Show, I found a carte de visite  of an unremarkable woman taken by Pierce from Greeley, Colorado.  I checked my database of more than 1,200 Colorado photographers and noticed that Pierce was not on my list.  My database is compiled chiefly from the seminal (but now outdated) book on Colorado photography, Colorado on Glass by Terry Wm. Mangan, 1975, Biographies of Western Photographers by Carl Mautz, 2018, and keyword searching the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection database.

To find out more about Pierce, I began my research at the Hazel E. Johnson Research Center at the Greeley History Museum in Greeley, Colorado.  Years ago, museum volunteers combed through their old newspaper collections and noted any mention of photographers working in the city.  They prepared a card file arranged by photographers’ names, providing a goldmine for researchers, as the indexed newspapers have not been digitized.

Pierce, verso of cdv.

In September 1883, E. W. Pierce arrived in Greeley to take charge of Benjamin F. Marsh’s gallery while Marsh traveled east to visit relatives.  According to the April 23, 1884 Greeley Tribune, Pierce “began his artistic career in New York City, elaborated it in Chicago, polished it up in Denver…”   He  used the new instantaneous dry plate process that allowed Pierce to “take your head off in a second.”  While he did not necessarily need sunlight for the exposure, he did need the sun for making the prints.  Without it, the prints would be delayed.  He was skilled in artistic lighting, retouching, and finishing.

Pierce stayed in Greeley after Marsh returned from his trip, even improving the studio by purchasing new photographic instruments from the east. During his stay, he claimed to have made nearly 10,000 negatives.  This is probably an exaggeration, as Greeley’s population was only 1,500 in the mid-1880s.  All negatives were numbered and booked, but neither the negatives nor the inventory are known to exist today.  Pierce left Greeley in April 1884 for a viewing trip to Southern Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

In the summer of 1884, Marsh returned to Greeley with the goal of producing a souvenir view book of the city.  The Tribune reported, “His plans[sic] is to make 12 or 24 negatives, and show proofs, and select 12 of the most interesting views, bind them in an elegant album cover, and supply them to subscribers at the low rate of $3.00 each, provided a sufficient number can be obtained.”  By late August 1884, the accordian-style book had been produced,  measuring roughly 5″ x 8″ consisting of nine photographs of Greeley.  The book’s cover includes Pierce’s middle name, Warren, which should help identify the photographer, but only led to a dead end in my research.  

E. Warren Pierce & Co. Greeley, Weld Co, Colorado. Souvenir view book, 1884. AI-0059, City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection.
Oasis Hotel
E. W. Pierce, photographer. Oasis Hotel, page from souvenir view book, albumen silver print, 1884. AI-0059.2, City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection.

Pierce remained off and on in Greeley until the fall of 1885.  Then he went to California, running the Elite Studio in Los Angeles.  His last studio was located in Santa Ana in 1887. 

My theory is that E. W. Pierce is the same photographer who worked in Galena, Illinois in the 1860s and 1870s.  His name was variously spelled as  E. W. Peirce, E. W. Pierce, E. W. K. Pierce and Edward Woodbine Peirce.

Pierce was born circa 1836 in Troy, New York.  As a teen, he in lived in Brooklyn, New York, where he father was a merchant.  By 1864, Pierce was working as a photographer in Galena, Illinois.  Before December 1, 1876, Pierce  sold his gallery to John H. Pooley.  Pierce then traveled around the Midwest setting up temporary galleries before acquiring the Railroad Palace Photographing Car.  The coach measured fifty feet long, ten feet wide and eight feet high, containing a reception room and operating department.  The car followed the line of the Illinois Central.

A brief mention in the March 15, 1880 issue of the  Galena Daily Gazette provides a Colorado connection:  “E. W. K. Pierce, the artist, has sold out his Des Moines establishment, and has started a general store in Gunnison City,  Col.”  He could have then resided in Greeley between 1883 and 1885, and then moved on to Los Angeles.  Edward W. Pierce died on September 4, 1888 in California and is buried at Napa County’s Tulocay Cemetery.

What do you think of this theory?

Miranda Todd, Archives Assistant, City of Greeley Museums scanned the two images from the Greeley Museums and provided research assistance.  Beverly W. Brannan, former curator of photography at the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, proofread this post.


Fred L. Garrison’s Long Career in Rifle, Colorado

Fred L. Garrison was born on April 9, 1867 in Ohio.  He became interested in photography in his twenties.  By 1891, he subscribed to The St. Louis and Canadian Photographer while living in Edon, Ohio.  The following year, he worked in New Iberia, Louisiana, photographing outdoor views, such as sugars mills, churches and private residences.  Garrison met photographer, James C. Handley, in Louisiana and they would work together both in that state and later in Colorado.

Fred L. Garrison. Advertisement for Stamp Photos., circa 1898.  Courtesy Rifle Heritage Center.

In 1897, Garrison rode the Denver & Rio Grande railroad to the end of the line in Red Cliff, Colorado.  He traveled by stage to Carbondale and joined the D. & R. G. surveying party.  The following year Garrison opened a photo studio in Rifle, Colorado and later that year expanded his operations to Glenwood Springs.  He went on to set up his tent gallery across from the court house in Meeker, Colorado in 1899 and 1900.

While the studio was known for years as the Garrison Bros., Fred’s brother Orson, was only active between 1900 and 1902.  

Garrison won a prize, offered by Leslie’s Weekly, for his photograph of a railway collision at Rifle.  The photo was published in the December 25, 1902, issue of the magazine. 

Fred traveled to patron’s homes, making views of stores, home interiors, livestock, ditches and farms.  He also visited  communities, like Hayden, Collbran and Steamboat Springs, that were too small to support a photographer, making his services available to those who might not travel to Rifle.  

Hayden, CO

In the 1910s he added novelty photo buttons to his inventory and also made a specialty of developing negatives and finishing prints for amateurs.  Garrison provided many of the photographs used in the April 7, 1916 issue of The Rifle Telegram, a 28 page commemorative issue profiling local businessmen, educators, religious institutions and fraternal and social organizations. 

Believed to be a confirmed bachelor, Garrison surprised the local community when he married Ola Sarah Anfenson on October 30, 1915 in Glenwood Springs.  Prior to her marriage, Ola operated a photo studio in Debeque, Colorado.  She worked in the Rifle studio alongside her husband, continuing the business into the 1940s.  

Both the The Rifle Heritage Center and Museum (Rifle, CO) and History Colorado (Denver, CO) house Garrison’s original glass plate negatives, mainly unidentified studio portraits.

Thanks to Cecil and Betty Waldron, volunteers at the Rifle Heritage Center for sharing their knowledge of the Garrison family.  Keegan Martin, Digital Imaging Assistant, History Colorado, provided the scan of Hayden, Colorado.  Jori Johnson, Collections Access Coordinator, Stephen H. Hart Research Center at History Colorado, provided assistance with ordering the scan.  The Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Historical Photographic Research provided travel funds for this research.

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

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.

Frank Xavier Gonner, 1860-1912

Kathy Gibson wrote this blog post about her great-grandfather, Frank Xavier Gonner.  

Portrait of Frank Gonner, 1909. Collection of Kathy Gibson.

A twenty-year old man from Luxembourg arrived at New York’s Castle Garden September 2, 1880, speaking French, German, Luxembourgish, and Latin. He was a well-educated gardener like his father, who intended his only son’s future to be the priesthood or the German Army. Frank Xavier Gonner did not want either occupation. He sought out one uncle in Dubuque, Iowa who published a magazine for Luxembourgers in America and wrote a book titled Luxembourgers in the New World.  Frank traveled west to Denver, Colorado, where his other uncles Jean-Pierre and Matthias-Prosper, had a nursery business, offering flowers and winter vegetables. 

Frank left them in about 1883 and followed the railroad south to Santa Fe, New Mexico; he became a vegetable grocer. He spent a few years there with several partners but by 1887 he followed the railroad northwest to Durango, Colorado. He roomed with the A. J. Faris family from Clinton, Missouri. His whole world changed in 1888 when he met the family’s half-sister, Hattie Estelle Roberts, and her father, William Henry Roberts. 

Durango in the early days resembled Luxembourg, with farmlands, rolling high hills, and a river running through it. But it was a growing frontier town, filled with people from all over the world: miners, railroad men, bankers, farmers, families, and Civil War veterans.  William Henry Roberts and his partner Anson Corey, both photographers from Missouri, trained Gonner in portraiture in 1889.   

Gonner married Robert’s daughter in June 1891.  They spent their honeymoon in Silverton. The couple had three children and the third died after birth and his wife died ten days later in June 1897.

Frank Gonner, photographer. Durango After the Big Fire, 1889. Collection of Kathy Gibson

After a large section of Durango burned in July 1889, Gonner & Leeka created a photographic collection of new buildings and homes to promote the rebuilt  town.  Their second collection consisted of 69 views of artifacts excavated from the 1891 Grand Gulch expedition, but these photographs have been lost to history. Grand Gulch is in southeast Utah with many canyons filled with small communities of the Ancestral Puebloans.

Gonner & Leeka, photographers. Portrait of Gustaf Nordenskiold, July 1891.  Collection of Harvey Leake.

In July 1891 Gonner took his well-known portrait of Gustaf Nordenskiold, the Swedish archaeologist. He also photographed artifacts from a second Utah expedition in 1892. In the years 1889 and 1893 Gonner suffered two personal fire losses.

The Denver Camera Club awarded Gonner first prize in 1897 for a portrait of William Wallace, called “Navajo Bill”. Wallace was a pharmacist from Oregon who, at the insistence of his brother in Animas City, moved to the Durango/Farmington area in 1883 to heal from tuberculosis. He became a trader of Navajo goods.

Bill with horse
Frank Gonner, photographer. Navajo Bill and Horse, 1892. Courtesy of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming; McCracken Research Library; MS438 Forest Fenn Collection; P.438.0021.

Gonner  produced important historical photographs, many portraits of the townspeople, the fire department, the local brass band, of which he was a member, the Durango Wheel Club, miners’ groups, school children, graduation classes, the local Southern Ute chiefs, the railroad, smelters, and his family.

David Day, editor of the Durango Democrat, published several special newspaper editions using Gonner’s photographs.  The largest, published in 1901, featured Durango and her business residents. Together these men also displayed a photographic collection of those original San Juan County Pioneers, displayed at the Democrat office and the Gonner gallery. He sold Kodak cameras at his gallery and offered photo-processing.  After purchasing a music store in 1907, he sold pianos, sheet music, and musical instruments. 

He played the B-flat baritone in the Woodman Band. He had membership in benevolent fraternal groups: the Durango Elks (he was the Exalted Ruler in 1909-10), the Ancient Order of United Workmen, the Ancient Order of the Pyramids, the Fraternal Mystic Circle, and Woodmen of the World. 

Several factors may have contributed to his decision to end his life in a box car on a cold February night in Silverton in 1912. He was deeply in debt. His music store partner, a piano salesman, left their business in 1911. In January 1912 the building he had rented for almost 20 years, along with lots owned by the Elks on one block on Main, were sold to the federal government for the new Durango federal building and post office. After his death his entire gallery inventory was sold to pay his debts. His nearly adult children, under guardianship, received only the benefits from his W.O.W. and Mystic Circle life insurance. He is buried with his family at Greenmount Cemetery, Durango. The post office wasn’t completed until 1929.

Frank Gonner, photographer. Bicyclists at Baker’s Bridge, 1895. Collection of Kathy Gibson.

Frank Gonner is best remembered for his photograph of the Durango Wheel Club picnic dated June 16, 1895. The members stand with their bicycles on Baker’s Bridge north of Durango, which spans the Animas River. In 1995 the Animas Museum in Durango printed a commemorative poster for the 100th anniversary of the Bicycle Club. It is still available for purchase.

Kathy Gibson was born in CA but raised in Colorado, not knowing much about her heritage. She received an old trunk full of family memorabilia, obituaries, and photographs in 1986 and has been researching ever since. She now lives in Michigan with her daughter and husband, a fellow genealogist, and they return to Durango each year for more research. She is the family genealogist and writes about her great-grandfather and his photography, his friends in Durango, and her family’s history for the years 1881-1912.  The Animas Museum in Durango invited Kathy to give a zoom talk on Frank Gonner in 2022.

Thank you to Mack Frost, Rights & Reproductions, McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West for providing the scan of Navajo Bill.  Beverly W. Brannan, former photography curator at the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, kindly proof-read this post.