Mrs. E. A. Masters, An Early Fort Collins Photographer

Eliza Ann Whitney was born in Hillsboro, New Hampshire in November 1832. Her first husband, John B. Hammatt, died in 1854.  On January 1, 1856 Eliza  married George H. Chandler in Montague, Massachusetts.  This union ended in divorce.  Her third marriage took place on December 20, 1869 in Johnson County, Iowa to photographer, William H. Masters. Undoubtably, Eliza learned photography from Masters.

The couple resided in Denver, Colorado in 1873, where William Masters operated a photo studio at 372 Larimer Street.  Unfortunately, by the spring of 1874, the couple had split up.  Mrs. Masters moved to Fort Collins and established one of the city’s first photo studios. Her husband filed for divorce in November 1875, citing willful desertion.  

Her decision to live in Fort Collins may have been prompted by plans to establish a telegraph line through the growing city.  Masters, an experienced telegraph operator, could combine occupations under one roof, with the likelihood of providing enough income to live on her own.

Right before opening her business, a horse and buggy accident left Mrs. Masters with a badly sprained ankle and several bruises.  The mishap occurred between Fort Collins and Denver when the horse was spooked, throwing Mrs. Masters from the carriage.  Masters spent two weeks convalescing in Greeley, Colorado.  

Mrs. E. A. Masters, photographer. Portrait of an unidentified child, albumen silver print on carte de visite mount, 1874-1876. History Colorado. Accession #95.200.1065.

By August 1874, Mrs. Master’s gallery was up and running.  A couple of weeks later, the telegraph office opened in her rooms and Masters offered to teach the telegraphy craft to others.  But running the two businesses did not bring financial success.  The local newspaper reported that money was tight and that Masters would accept ranch products in exchange for work.

Mrs. E. A. Masters, photographer. Portrait of Sadie Bosworth, albumen silver print on carte de visite mount, 1874-1876. Peter Palmquist collection of women in photography, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Masters moved to Greeley, Colorado by the summer of 1876, offering portraits, cartes de visite, large photographs and views of residences. She claimed she made a speciality of portraits of babies.  A couple of months later, she advertised her photographic work under the surname of her first husband, Mrs. E. A. Hammatt.

After her time in Greeley, Hammatt’s whereabouts are unknown until 1884, yet her close-up head and shoulders portrait of the ethereal-looking baby shown above may forecast her interest in the spirit world.  

Back of carte de visite. Peter Palmquist collection of women in photography, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Hammatt left the photographic field to pursue a decades-long interest in spiritualism.  Her family disapproved of this profession, and forced her into a California mental institution for several months.  Following her release, Hammatt traveled around the country giving lectures on spiritualism.  Her experience in the mental institution understandably left her with an enduring interest in assisting other spirit mediums.  She purchased land in San Diego County and planned to open a home for ill and retired mediums and orphaned children. 

Based in California, newspaper journalists described Hammatt “as a lady of striking appearance; she has a firm, resolute expression, and possesses high intellectual acquirements and is a very intelligent conversationalist.”  In 1886, she participated in Oakland, California’s Spiritualists’ Summer Assembly, occupying Tent No. 41. The Oakland tribune reported that  “She has a materializing cabinet inside of a protective rubber string room, which is one of the central attractions in the camp grounds.  This lady has a wide reputation in mediumship, and has given satisfaction to those who have tested her powers, and she claims to be giving entire new knowledge from the spirit world, which she is in possession of.  Mrs. Hammatt can be consulted at her tent until the close of the camp meetings.” 

Eliza Ann Hammatt died in California in 1908.   It is unknown if she was successful in opening her home for mediums.  

Thank you to Elisabeth Parker, former assistant chief, Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C., for  proof-reading this post.   Jori Johnson, Collections Access Coordinator, History Colorado  provided research assistance.  Keegan Martin, Digital Imaging Assistant, History Colorado and Naomi Saito at  The Beinecke Library provided the scans.

A. W. Dennis in Canon City and Glenwood Springs

History lovers, help me solve a mystery!  This blog post has been simmering for months because I was fascinated by one photo–the charming group portrait in front of the log cabin.  If you look closely, there is a sign above the door that reads “Willa Catha Hotel.”  I immediately thought of the author, Willa Cather, but she was a young girl living in Nebraska when this photo was taken.  Share your thoughts!

Augustus W. Dennis was born on December 29, 1858 to Selah G. Dennis and Bethiah Thorndike Dennis in Rockland, Maine.  The youngest of six boys, he attended school in Hallowell, Maine.  In 1869, Selah, now a widower, moved his family to Melrose, Massachusetts, a short ten miles north of Boston.  The following year, twelve-year old Augustus was severely injured when he was thrown from a wagon.  Unable to find adequate medical care in Massachusetts, Dennis traveled to London’s famous St. Thomas Hospital.   Dennis spent five years in London recovering from his injury.  He returned to the U. S. in 1876, settling in Austin, Minnesota.  

In Austin, Dennis learned photography from a Mr. Peck.  They worked together as Peck & Dennis until January 1879, when Dennis took sole proprietorship of the gallery.  In November 1879 he sold the Austin gallery and briefly relocated to Faribault, Minnesota.  He left for Colorado in a covered wagon in April 1880.

Dennis arrived in Canon City, Colorado where he took possession of E. G. Morrison’s photo gallery on Main Street, and sold Morrison’s stereos of Colorado scenery.  He also maintained the city’s free reading room.  The library contained more than 150 books and seventy-five newspaper titles.  For ten cents a week, patrons could take books home to read.  

Canon City
A. W. Dennis, photographer. Canon City, Main Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets, showing the Dennis studio and Free Reading Room, 1880.  Albumen silver print. Courtesy of Roger Genser – The Prints & The Pauper, Santa Monica, CA.

In March 1881, Canon City photographer J. A. Boston retired and sold his instruments, negatives and stock to Dennis.  Due to an increase in business, Dennis hired several assistants, including Thomas J. Colpas, from Kansas City, to work in his gallery.  In June 1881, Dennis set up a temporary studio at Colorado’s first state penitentiary to document convicts, recording their likenesses in the event of their escape.  Dennis also made a series of photographs of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.  In addition to photographs, Dennis sold rattan furniture and pianos in the gallery.

In February 1883, Dennis added a partner, William E. Few.  They operated as Dennis & Few through 1885.  Few would later work with Dennis in Glenwood Springs, where Dennis relocated around 1886. His first Glenwood studio consisted of a tent north of the river.  Later he moved to permanent quarters on Blake Avenue.  Dennis used the dry instantaneous process to photograph local scenery.   In November 1892, Dennis traveled to Mexico on official business to photograph government documents related to the Mexican land grant of 1838. He lived in Glenwood Springs through the early 1900s, serving as the city’s mayor in 1892.

A. W. Dennis, photographer. Chas. & Henry Hubbard Stage Between Yellow Dog and Glenwood, 1880s, Courtesy Glenwood Historical Society, Carleton Hubbard Collection.
A. W. Dennis, photographer. The Glenwood Historical Society caption identifies this as the First House in Glenwood Springs, N. E. end of Town.  The Denver Public Library also owns a copy of this image with the caption First Hotel, Glenwood Springs, patrons and employees stand outside Fred Barlow’s Grand Springs Hotel, 1880s.  Courtesy Glenwood Historical Society, Carleton Hubbard Collection.

Dennis photographed the development of Glenwood’s hot springs, now the world’s largest hot springs pool.  Located along the Colorado River in Glenwood’s downtown area, the hot springs began operation in July 1888.

Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Hot Springs, 1888, Courtesy Glenwood Historical Society, Carleton Hubbard Collection
The Hot Springs after expansion, 1892, Courtesy Glenwood Historical Society, Carleton Hubbard Collection

While Dennis announced in November 1902 that he and his wife were moving to California for his wife’s health, it seems that they relocated to Pueblo, Colorado, naming his business the Rembrandt Studio.  In December 1904, Dennis advertised the sale of his Pueblo studio due to his wife’s illness.  They removed to Long Beach, California where Mrs. Dennis passed away in August 1905.

Dennis returned to Glenwood Springs in 1906, becoming a cattle rancher.  He died on July 24, 1927, Glenwood Springs.  He was  buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Canon City, next to his wife.

Thank you to Carolyn Cipperly, Archivist, Glenwood Springs Historical Society, for research help and Beverly W. Brannan for proof reading this post.  Roger Genser confirmed the attribution of Dennis’ Canon city street scene.  The Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Historical Photographic Research provided funds for the scans from the Glenwood Historical Society.

Walter H. Foreman, Photographer and Sportsman

Walter Henry Foreman was born in the County of Surry, England in 1865, arriving in the United States in 1884.  He settled in Denver with his mother and gained employment with photographer George Stephan in 1886.  The following year Foreman opened his own studio on Larimer Street in Denver.  He exhibited photographs alongside William Henry Jackson at the 1886 Colorado Manufacturers Exposition in Denver.  

W. H. Foreman, photographer. Whitney’s Drugstore and University Bookstore photograph, 1890 or 1891. Boulder Historical Society/Museum of Boulder.

Remaining true to his British roots, Foreman helped organize Denver’s first Cricket Club.  Later, his studio served as headquarters for the Swift’s foot ball club.  Foreman was also active in British social groups, attending picnics and competing in foot races.  In 1887, he won first place in a 100 yard scratch race, beating his opponent by eight yards and taking home a black marble clock.

Walter H. Foreman, photographer. State Normal School football team, Greeley, CO, 1895. 2015.20.0148, City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection

Around 1896, Foreman began working for the Black Sisters in Boulder, Colorado.  He purchased their studio in 1898 and added a department that specialized in enlargements.  He left Boulder and ran studios in Loveland and Brush, Colorado before returning to Denver in 1911.  

Foreman’s Design for Turner Moving & Storage Co., 1913.  Rocky Mountain News, September 11, 1913, page 9.

In 1913, a long-time Denver business, Turner Moving & Storage, held a contest to design a new sign.  Foreman won the contest, which drew hundreds of entries.  His illuminated design used 1,800 bulbs, showing a globe with North and South America outlined in green lights. For his efforts, Foreman won $50 in gold.  

After a successful career as a photographer, Foreman’s last place of employment was Elitch Gardens, an amusement park in Denver.  Walter H. Foreman died at his home in Denver on August 1, 1928 at the age of 62, leaving a widow.  His remains rest in Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery.  

The Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Historical Photographic Research provided funds for the scan from the City of Greeley Museum.  Miranda Todd, Archives Assistant,City of Greeley Museums scanned the image and provided research assistance.

Mary Dudley Revisited

In 2021 I wrote a post about Mary Dudley.    At that time, I had not seen any work from her studio in Grand Junction.  This cabinet card photograph of two unidentified men in western wear shows off her talent as a studio photographer.  Like most 19th century photographers, Dudley’s mount does not include her first name.   In Grand Junction she used “M. Dudley” and  her Boulder, Colorado mounts just “Dudley.”  While some may think she was trying to mask her identity as a women photographer, I think she was just following the conventions of the time.  Does anyone have additional work from Dudley’s Grand Junction studio that they would like to share or know more about her time in Grand Junction?

Mary Dudley, photographer.
Mary Dudley, photographer. Two unidentified men, circa 1893. Cabinet card photograph.  W. G. Eloe Collection

Women Photographers on Colorado’s Eastern Plains

My list of women active in the Colorado’s 19th century photographic trades numbers nearly 100.  I suspect that number is much larger if you consider the wives and daughters who worked behind the scenes in family studios.  For Women’s History Month, I have featured five women active on Colorado’s Eastern Plains.  Some women pursued photography as an occupation, often combined with teaching, like Clara Ensminger.  And while this blog focuses on professionals, I included one amateur photographer, Alice L. Parker, due to her extensive documentation of  schools and ranches on the plains.  

Ermina Harriet “Minnie” Darling Henson Dayton (1867-1942)         Minnie Darling was born on August 23, 1867, in Breckenridge, Missouri, northeast of Kansas City, to Charles Nelson Darling and Elenor Louise Huber Darling.  The family moved to Kansas in the mid-1870s.  The 1885 Kansas census lists 17-year old Minnie married with a 4 month old son and living with her parents. In 1889, Minnie married Bruce Dayton, with whom she would have a second child.

Minnie Dayton lived in Brush, Colorado in 1899, where she operated a photograph gallery on Colorado Avenue east of the high school.  She produced cabinet cards and stamp photographs.  In March 1900, Minnie moved to Alva, Oklahoma where her husband was homesteading.  After his death in 1901, Minnie proved up the land.  By 1920, Minnie returned to Colorado, living in Morgan County until her death.  

Clara Amelia Ensminger (1859-1936)                                                               Clara Ensminger was born in Ohio in 1859 to George William Ensminger and Adaline Hanna Ensminger.  She spent her childhood on the family farm in Tama, Iowa.  In 1875, the family moved to Grinnell, Iowa.  Between 1877 and 1880, Clara studied at Iowa College (now Grinnell College).  The 1880 census listed Clara as a teacher in Grinnell.  

Two children
Clara Ensminger, photographer, Yuma, CO, circa 1890. Julia Driver Collection of Women in Photography. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

In 1884, Clara worked as a retoucher and finisher for photographer Charles Clifford in Newton, 20 miles west of Grinnell.  By December 1889, Clara lived in Yuma, Colorado where she operated a photography studio.  She also homesteaded 160 acres outside Yuma.  Clara spoke about geography to the Washington County Teacher’s Association in March 1893.  

By 1896, Clara was back in Iowa working again as a retoucher for Charles Clifford & Son in Muscatine, Iowa.  The following year she opened her own studio in Toledo, IA, hiring women as assistants and to cover for her when she traveled.  She often attended the annual Iowa State Photographers’ Association meetings.  Clara ran the photography studio until 1914, when she sold the business to Miss Lora Bingham, of Mount Tabor, Wisconsin.

Unidentified violist.
Clara Ensminger, photographer, Toledo, IA, circa 1900.  Unidentified violist. Julia Driver Collection of Women in Photography. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Clara moved back to Colorado around 1919.  She lived with relatives and worked as a retoucher.  In the mid-1920s she moved to the Los Angeles area to live with her sister, Mrs. Charles Norris.  Clara Ensminger died at the age of 78 on November 16, 1936.  She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.  

Aurelia “Marcella” Ensminger  (1857-1913), is the older sister of photographer, Clara Ensminger.  In 1876-1877, Marcella attended Iowa College’s (now Grinnell College) Ladies Preparatory school.  She taught school in Iowa before moving to Yuma, Colorado, where she continued her teaching career. She was listed in the 1893 Colorado State Business Directory as a photographer and teacher in Yuma, Colorado.  No examples of her photographic output have been found.  

Marcella  returned to Iowa in 1893.  She continued to teach and was considered one of the finest primary school teachers in Tama County, Iowa.   Marcella underwent cancer surgery in 1911 and 1912.  She died on May 2, 1913 and is buried in Helena Cemetery, Tama County, Iowa.  

school house
Alice L. Parker, photographer. School house, 1/2 mile west of Trego Place, 1895. Phillips County Museum.

Alice L. Parker (1865-1939) moved with her family in 1892 from Illinois to Sedgwick County, Colorado, where her parents, Bertrand DeRolf “B. D.” Parker and his wife, Caroline Farwell Parker started a sheep ranch.   

After a childhood illness, Alice walked with a cane and later in life used crutches.  Alice lived on the sheep ranch, south of Julesburg, for 14 years.   Her amateur photography documented day-to-day activities of the ranch and the local schools.    Later, she moved into town with her parents.  She was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as registrar.

In 1893, Alice’s brother, Cuthbert Farwell (C. F.) Parker graduated from Illinois State Normal school (now Illinois State University).  He returned to Sedgwick County, Colorado and taught school.  Alice photographed his students outside the schoolhouse in 1895.  Alice Parker died May 23, 1939 and is buried at Hillside Cemetery, in Julesburg, Colorado.

The Fort Sedgwick Historical Society’s collection includes enlargements made from Parker’s glass plate negatives held by her descendants.

Rhoda Wilson Eslick McClintock Blowers (b.c. 1862-1932)                    The Julesburg Grit reported that Mrs. R. Eslick planned to open a photo studio in Julesburg, Colorado in December 1898.  Unbeknownst to the local citizens, Eslick had married J. A. McClintock, owner of Julesburg’s livery stable, a few weeks earlier in Denver.  In January 1903, The Grit-Advocate announced that Mrs. McClintock “has gone east to enter a photograph college for high art photography.”  She returned to Julesburg in April, but by  November she had relocated to Tonganoxie, Kansas, leaving her husband in Colorado.  She reunited with her husband in the spring of 1905, when they moved their businesses to Norfolk, Nebraska, but by the fall of that year, Mrs. McClintock had left her husband and moved to Denver.  Her photographic career seemed to end at this time.  She later moved to Des Moines, Iowa and later Buffalo, New York, where she lived at the time of her death.

Thanks to Stan Busse and Jeana Johnson at the Fort Sedgwick Museum, and Carol Haynes and Hilda Hassler at the Phillips County Museum for their assistance during my visit.  Yale University generously provided the scans for Clara Ensminger’s photographs.  Thanks to Beverly W. Brannan for proofreading this post.  The Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Historical Photographic Research provided travel funds to visit these institutions.  

C. C. Wright Photographs Colorado’s Legislature

Charles C. Wright was born in East Livermore, Maine.  He married Sarah Ann Judkins on November 28,1860, in Lawrence, MA.  Marriage records cite his occupation as a teamster.

By 1870, Wright, known professionally as C. C. Wright, operated a photography studio in Lafayette, Indiana where he worked for more than a decade.  In 1882 he arrived in Colorado, setting up a temporary gallery in Central City, before opening a studio in Denver that December over Reithmann’s Drug Store, at the corner of Fifteenth and Larimer streets.

Stereo of Larimer Street
Alexander Martin, photographer. Larimer St. from 15th St., showing C. C. Wright’s photography gallery on the right, between 1882 and 1886, albumen silver stereo view. History Colorado. Accession # 84.192.405.

In 1884, for the July 4th holiday, Wright and his wife accompanied a small group to Silver Plume on the Colorado Central via the recently completed Georgetown Loop, an engineering feat of horseshoe curves and four bridges that were used to link Georgetown with Silver Plume, only two miles apart.

That same year, Wright employed a young Adolph F. Muhr, later known for his portraits of Native Americans.  In 1885, Wright’s brother-in-law, David Roby Judkins, briefly worked at the Denver studio. In December 1885, Wright opened a branch gallery in Central City, employing Morton E. Chase.

CO Senate
C. C. Wright, photographer. Colorado Senate, 1885, albumen silver print. Denver Public Library Special Collections.

Wright photographed the Colorado legislature on more than one occasion, making a composite portrait of the 1885 Colorado Senate.  He also made a group portrait of the pages that assisted the state legislature.  Nine boys wearing hats bearing the words “House Page,” stand in front of a hand painted backdrop.  The backdrop is signed on the lower left corner by Davis and a partner’s name that is illegible.  

Wright was one of six photographers who submitted work to the Colorado Manufacturers Exposition held in Denver in 1886.

House Pages
C. C. Wright, photographer. House Pages, between 1882-1887, albumen silver print. Denver Public Library Special Collections.

On January 20, 1887, Wright was traveling through the city in his carriage when he made a sharp turn.  The carriage tipped over, and Wright landed in the street.  He died less than a week later from injuries sustained during the accident at the age of forty-six.  A large funeral was held with participation of fraternal organizations and many local photographers. The procession led by the Opera House band, walked to Wright’s studio where services were conducted.  The crowd then proceeded to Riverside Cemetery.  

Shortly before his death, Wright had opened a new studio at 910 Sixteenth street. His wife is listed as a photographer in the 1887 Denver City Directory.  Henry Rothberger took over the studio by October 1887.

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

William E. Few, A Civil War Veteran With A Camera

William Edwin Few was born on March 27, 1847, in New York state to William Few and Frances H. Phillips Few.  Few enlisted in the Civil War at the age of eighteen, joining the New York 8th Cavalry Regiment, Company K on March 23, 1865.  He mustered out on June 27, 1865, in Alexandria, Virginia.  

Nanny and child
Disbrow & Few, photographers. Mary Allen Watson and her nanny, June 15, 1866, albumen silver print on cdv mount. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

The following year, Few took up photography with a partner named Disbrow.  They operated as Disbrow & Few in Albion and Barre, New York. The firm photographed six-month old Mary Allen “Daisy” Watson (1865-1944) sitting on the lap of her Black nanny in June 1866.  While the 1860 and 1870 census records list servants in the household, none match up with the woman pictured.  

By 1870, Few had moved his business to Independence, Iowa, and a few years later he traveled south, setting up shop in Little Rock, Arkansas.  The 1880 census lists him as a photographic artist in Delavan, Illinois.  

Based on Few’s Canon City street scene showing blacksmiths Hyde & Ashby, the photographer arrived in Colorado before March 1881, when Hyde took sole control over the shop.  In 1883, photographer Augustus W. Dennis took Few as a partner in his Canon City studio.  After 1883, there are gaps in Few’s career.  He surfaces Montrose, Colorado in 1888 and in 1893 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, again working with Dennis, until his contract expired in May 1894.  Later, Few moved twelve miles west to New Castle, Colorado, making cabinet card photos for three dollars per dozen.

Canon City street scene
Will E. Few, photographer. Canon City street scene, circa 1881, albumen silver print on boudoir card.  Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

Around 1897, Few moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, working as a caretaker at Lookout Mountain and residing in the Cravens House, a Civil War battle site.  William E. Few died on May 22, 1920, in Chattanooga.  His remains reside at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  

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


Aaron Swanson’s Portrait of William Norris Moore, Denver’s First Black High School Graduate

Aaron Swanson arrived in Denver in 1885 as pastor of the Swedish M. E. Church.  In the spring of 1886, having resigned his position at the church, Swanson took over C. C. Wright’s photo studio in Central City, Colorado.  He worked briefly with Morton E. Chase, as Chase & Swanson in both Central City and Denver. His brother, John, was employed in the Denver studio. Swanson married Cora Johnson on November 24, 1887.  Sadly, Aaron Swanson died of consumption at his home in Denver on July 12, 1888.  

Aaron Swanson, photographer. Portrait of William Norris Moore, albumen silver print, 1887. Denver Public Library Special Collections.

Swanson photographed William Norris Moore (1872-1920), the first Black graduate of Denver High School, in 1887.  In his senior portrait, Moore stands in front of a painted studio backdrop of a nature scene.   Fashionably dressed, Moore wears a morning coat, checkered pants, watch fob and holds a walking stick.  His derby hat rests on a pillar.  

Moore spent the last years of his life in Omaha, Nebraska, where he worked a series of jobs including  waiter, porter, and janitor.  He died March 7, 1920 after a long illness, leaving a wife.

The William B. Coston Collection at the Wray Museum

Coston exhibit
William B. Coston exhibition, Wray Museum. Courtesy of the East Yuma County Historical Society, Wray Museum Collection.

One of the many exhibitions on display at the Wray Museum, on Colorado’s eastern plains, is devoted to the work of photographer  William B. Coston.  Coston carried on a photography business in Wray for decades.  The exhibition, comprised of copy prints made from Coston’s original prints and negatives, document the people and events of Wray, Colorado.

William “Will” B. Coston was born in the small farming community east of Skidmore, Missouri to Alonzo Coston and Ursula  Farris Coston on October 18, 1870.  The family lived on a 160 acre farm and operated a blacksmith shop.

Coston Family
Front: Alonzo and Ursula Coston Back: William Buford, Viola Belle and Semer Alonzo. Photo from

In March 1886, Alonzo Coston and his son, Will, loaded the family possessions, including farm implements and livestock, onto a boxcar and rode to Wray.  Will’s mother and two of his siblings waited for the pair to get settled before taking a passenger train to Colorado.  Alonzo resumed working as a blacksmith and Will set type for the local newspaper, The Wray Rattler.

Will met his future wife, Emma Grace Mason, at Wray’s Presbyterian church, where Grace played piano and Will sang in the choir.  The couple continued to engage in musical activities throughout their lives.  Grace offered piano lessons in the community and Will sang, played the cornet and served as bandmaster.

Will and Grace married in June 1894 and homesteaded north of Wray, practicing dry farming.  In an effort to find work during a drought in the late 1890s, the Coston’s moved to Greeley, Colorado.  It was there that Will Coston learned photography under Clark  M. Marsh.  He also learned the surveying trade.

William B. Coston’s cameras and posing chair. Courtesy of the East Yuma County Historical Society, Wray Museum Collection.

Around September 1, 1898, Coston opened his photography studio in Wray, dividing his time between the studio and his farm.  He made photographic portraits and also documented Wray’s businesses, celebrations, and farms.  Patrons came from western Kansas and Nebraska for portrait sittings.  Coston continued to be active as a photographer through the 1940s.

Chief St.
William B. Coston, photographer. Chief Street looking north, 1902. Courtesy of the East Yuma County Historical Society, Wray Museum Collection, photograph #213.539.4.

In 1910 Coston built a new one-story pressed red brick building for his studio.  The building measured 25 feet long and 70 feet long and included a large sky light, a modern portrait camera, a new  posing chair, and a shadow screen to direct light on the sitter.  He shared the building with The Peoples State Bank.

Sanborn map
Detail of Sanborn map, Wray, June 1912, Sheet 1; Coston studio at 309 S. Chief Street. Notice that there is another photo studio across the street at 334 S. Chief Street.

In late October 1922 a fire destroyed the Coston home when a kerosine lamp exploded.  The house was a complete loss and many of the photographer’s negatives were damaged in the blaze.   Over the years Will Coston pursued many occupations in addition to photography. He sold insurance, mined for gold and silver northwest of  Loveland, drilled for oil in Wyoming, operated the Olive Lake Resort, and held the position of Yuma County surveyor for several years.

Will Coston died on March 12, 1967 at the age of 96.  He was predeceased by his wife.  His remains rest in Grandview Cemetery, Wray, Colorado.

I am grateful to Ardith Hendrix, Director of the Wray Museum for her assistance during my visit and to The Peter Palmquist Memorial  Fund for Historical Photographic Research for providing funding for this research trip.  Thank you to Beverly W. Brannan, former curator of photography, Library of Congress, for proof-reading this post.  


Fort Morgan Photographers

Fort Morgan, the county seat of Morgan County, is known as “The Capital of the Plains.”  Originally a stop along the Overland Trail, Abner S. Baker platted the town on May 1, 1884,   In the late 1800s, the city’s population never reached 700.  Traveling photographers or photographers who juggled more than one profession to make ends meet, served the needs of the community.  Profiles for  19th century photographers active in Fort Morgan  are below.  Do you know of any I missed?

Two children
F. E. Baker, photographer. Unidentified children, photographic print on cabinet card mount, 1890s. Courtesy, Fort Morgan Museum.

Frank E. Baker (1849-1939), a photographer from Greeley, Colorado opened branch galleries in Fort Morgan and Loveland in the early 1890s.  A biographical sketch of Baker will appear in a later post about Greeley.

Baker’s tender cabinet card portrait of two well-dressed children suggests that the child on the left may have been a difficult subject to photograph.  The child holds a doll and a partially eaten apple, while holding onto a hand from a hidden family member trying to comfort the young child.

Boy S. Bohn was born in Germany in December 1861.  Trained as a photographer in his native country, Bohn departed Hamburg, Germany on the Patria and arrived in New York City on December 26, 1895.  He may have worked in St. Louis, Missouri, before joining photographer F. W. Webster in Des Moines, Iowa in 1899. In April 1900, Jacob O. Brown employed Bohn in his studio.  By June 1900, Bohn resided in Medicine Creek, Nebraska, continuing to work in the photographic field.  His life after 1900 is undocumented.  

Horse & wagon
J. O. Brown, photographer. 211 Main Street, Fort Morgan. Photo Courtesy, Fort Morgan Museum.

Jacob O. Brown was born on January 12, 1871 north of Syracuse in Parish, New York to Isaac and Isabelle Brown.  By 1880, the family was living in St. Paul, Nebraska.  

In 1886, J. O. Brown operated a bicycle repair shop in Fort Morgan, Colorado.  After his marriage to Lettie M. Worrell in 1897, Brown opened a barber shop.   The first mention of Brown’s photographic work appeared in the February 4, 1898 issue of The Fort Morgan Times, an occupation he often practiced in addition to the tonsorial art.  Later that year he purchased a 6-1/2 x 8-1/2” camera, wanting to photograph animals and outdoor scenes, in addition to portraits.  He also made stamp photographs.  Stamp photographs were made by copying an image onto multiple stamp-sized  perforated and gummed photo paper.  Each image measuring only 3/4 x 1.”

Curry Hotel
J. O. Brown, photographer. Curry Hotel Under Construction, 1900. Courtesy, Fort Morgan Museum.

In November 1899, Brown acquired a new photo tent.  He held a contest to name the new studio, selecting “The Elite Gallery” as the winning entry.   In the spring of 1900, he hired German-born photographer Boy Bohn to work in his gallery for a short time.  Brown expanded his barber shop in 1902 and also opened an ice cream factory.  Brown left Colorado for the West Coast.   By 1914 he had settled in Tacoma, Washington, continuing to work as a photographer and barber.  By 1920 he resided in Salem, Oregon.  He died on July 1,1934 and his remains rest in Idlewilde Cemetery, Hood River, Oregon. 

Crescent Gallery–See T. H. Madden

Elite Gallery–See J. O. Brown

Rough Riders
Evans, photographer. Rough Riders, Brush, Colorado, 1890s. Courtesy, Fort Morgan Museum.

J. E. Evans was active as a photographer in Fort Morgan and vicinity in 1898.

Field was an unidentified traveling photographer active in Fort Morgan in 1889.

Harrington & Son                                                                                                       A partnership of Joshua Henry Harrington and his son Orville C. Harrington.  As traveling photographers, they worked in Fort Morgan in 1888.

Graduation portrait
T. M. Madden, photographer. Graduation portrait of Bess L. Baker (1883-1960), 1900. Courtesy, Fort Morgan Museum

Thomas Henry Madden was born in Clay, Illinois to John Thomas Madden and Ann Maria Pfaff.  In 1869, he married Leah L. Buzick in Richland County, IL.  He worked as a day laborer and wagon maker.  

By 1895 Madden ran a photography gallery in Fort Morgan, Colorado, making outdoor views and portraits.  Concurrently, he grew crops on his farm on the south fork of the Republican River.  By the fall of 1896 Madden worked full-time as a photographer.  The following year, The Fort Morgan Times reported that Madden planned to go on the road with a well equipped, horse-drawn traveling photograph gallery.  Madden and J. Clark Silance spent three months photographing eastern Colorado.  When they returned, Madden continued on his own to work in the small towns on the eastern plains, including Brush and Sterling.  Later, he took his family to Nebraska where he carried on business.  

In 1899, Madden’s operation went by the name “Crescent Gallery,”  located opposite McComb’s livery stable in Fort Morgan.  He offered 25 stamp photographs for 25 cents.  

Madden ran his Fort Morgan studio until about 1908.  In 1918, two weeks after undergoing an operation, Thomas Henry Madden died on April 3, 1918.   His remains rest at Fort Morgan’s Riverside Cemetery.  

Madden & Silance, a partnership between Thomas H. Madden and J. Clark Silance, worked in Fort Morgan during 1897.

J. Clark Silance was born in Ohio in April 1867.  He grew up in Nebraska.  By 1896, Silance settled in Fort Morgan, Colorado.  Between May and August 1897, Silance traveled with T. H. Madden through eastern Colorado in Madden’s horse-drawn studio on wheels.  After leaving Madden’s employment, Silance raised livestock.  By the early 1920s, he lived in the Santa Monica area.  On September 28, 1935, Silance suffered a fatal heart attack in an orchard in California’s River Farms district.

With thanks to Brian Mack, Museum Curator, Fort Morgan Library and Museum for providing research assistance and access to the museum’s collections, and The Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Historical Photographic Research for providing travel funds.