David J. Lamon’s Search For Fame And Fortune

David Lamon was born in April 1864 to Robert Lamon and Anna Early Lamon, the oldest of three children.  The Lamon’s lived in Hebron, New York a farming community near the Vermont border, about 60 miles northeast of Albany.  In the mid 1880s, David left home to seek his fortune in the West.  Along the way, he learned photography.

Champa Street
D. Lamon, photographer. 587 and 589 Champa Street, Denver, 1886.  Albumen silver print on cabinet card mount. Collection of the author.

Lamon likely opened his Denver  studio at 1740 Larimer Street in the spring or summer of 1886, just after the publication of the annual city directory, as he is not listed in that directory.

His photograph of S. A. Doll’s Market at 587 Champa Street provides a good example in dating photographs.  Doll’s Market first appears in the Denver City Directory in 1886. The street number, 587, can be seen painted on the window below the valance.  With the tree fully leafed out, we can narrow the date to late spring through early fall.

Detail of 587 Champa Street.         

Doll formed a partnership with W. G. Smith in 1887, changing the firm’s name to Doll & Smith.  In addition, in 1887 Denver’s streets were renumbered.  587 Champa became 2205 Champa.  The men standing in front of the store may be Sigismunda A. Doll and his clerk, Theodore H. Kuhlenbeck.

Charlie Hong
D. Lamon, photographer. Portrait of Charlie Hong, Feb. 28, 1887. Albumen silver print on cabinet card mount. History Colorado, Denver, accession number: 95.19.1.

In the 19th century, Denver’s religious institutions organized Bible studies, English classes and social events for Chinese immigrants.  In  1887, Lamon photographed Charlie Hong, interpreter for the Chinese Sunday School run by Denver’s Trinity Methodist Church.  Trinity Methodist’s 1899 Christmas program drew 500 attendees.  The Rocky Mountain News wrote: “Charlie Hong added laurels to his wreath of popularity, too, by the masterly manner in which he related a history of the school.”  A few years later, Hong was replaced as interpreter by Y. T. Fong.  In January 1894, in a jealous rage over losing his position, Hong assaulted Fong in the church.

D. Lamon, photographer. Portrait of three unidentified men, 1887. Albumen silver print on cabinet card mount. History Colorado, Denver, accession number: 91.99.5.

In March 1887, Lamon took over J. W. Walker’s Golden studio for 30 days, turning out portraits like the one on the right of  three young men with attitude.  In 1888, Lamon returned to New York state, setting up shop at 67 South Pearl Street in Albany.  He returned to Colorado in 1891.  He accepted a position with Payne & Stockdorf in Leadville, but may have bypassed that opportunity to immediately open a studio in Denver, which he would oversee for the next two years.

In 1894, he opened a jewelry business in Denver, which he would oversee for several years.  But he pursued many other projects that brought him attention.  In 1895, he made national news when he discovered a rich vein of gold near Cripple Creek.  In 1904, Lamon was said to have discovered the lost art of tempering copper to the hardness of steel.  In 1926, Lamon planned to construct an iron and steel plant to produce “Lamon-ite,” a new process of manufacturing iron and steel with a tensile strength of from 25 to 75 per cent greater than steels now in  use.

Lamon died on February 27, 1943 in Denver and is buried at Fairmount Cemetery.

Thank you to Beverly Brannan, former Curator of Photography, Library of Congress, for proof-reading this post.  


W. C. Powers, Holyoke’s Photographer and Plumber

One of my goals is to visit Colorado’s small libraries and museums to learn from their collections.  In August I visited the northeastern corner of Colorado, a sparsely populated area comprised of farming and ranching communities, about 175 miles northeast of Denver.

Heginbotham Library, Holyoke

My first stop was the Heginbotham Library in Holyoke.  A former private home, now the local public library, has a small collection of local history books and a few photographs of the area.

My next stop was the Phillips County Museum in Holyoke, which holds a treasure trove of items related to local history, including items collected by local families–clothing, memorabilia, tableware and photographs. I found some surprisingly artistic photographs in their collection.

This post examines William Carder (W. C.) Powers, a photographer active in Holyoke for about 10 years between 1889 and 1899.  Powers was born in Eddyville, Iowa in 1859 to William Carder Powers and Emily Jane (Blair) Powers.  He worked as a machinist in Iowa before moving to York, Nebraska.  He arrived in Holyoke in 1889, less than a year after the town was incorporated.

cabinet card
W. C. Powers, photographer. Happy Hour Club, circa 1895, albumen silver print on cabinet card, Phillips County Museum.

Powers plied his trade out of a photo car opposite the State Herald newspaper office, advertising his ability to make images of farms and dwellings.  He touted his ability to process the photos in his own studio, rather than send them out of town to be finished.   On March 8, 1889, The Herald announced that Powers was photographing prominent buildings in Holyoke for use by the board of trade.  His photographs may have been used in a small booklet entitled, Holyoke and Phillips County. 1890 : The Metropolis of Northeastern Colorado. The Garden Spot of the Rain Belt Country … held by the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Powers sold individual photographs of the buildings for twenty-five cents.

Patent 406,934 for a Camera Attachment

In July 1889, Powers was awarded half interest in a patent for a camera attachment with Orlo L. Munger of Gresham, Nebraska.

Powers traveled between Colorado and Nebraska for his photographic work throughout the 1890s, setting up temporary workrooms  in Venango, Grant and Wallace, Nebraska.  By 1891, he also worked as a plumber in Holyoke and Grant.  During the winter months, he repaired frozen water pipes and in the warmer weather he fixed water hydrants, improved hotel plumbing and sold lawn sprinklers and hose.  By 1893, Powers was appointed Superintendent of the Water Works in Holyoke.

Although he lived in a rural area, Powers made sophisticated photographs. He captured the flooded streets of Holyoke after a big rain storm in June 1895, showing  Dr. F. M. Smith, C. J. Slater and G. W. Shuler rowing a boat along the aptly  named Inter Ocean Ave.  He made two photographs, one horizontal, one vertical, of members of the Happy Hour Club showing the six women playing a table game.  The women are standing in front of an elaborate painted backdrop.  

Powers also photographed a posed medical scene, with a man uncomfortably lying on a table with two men administrating aid.  The photographer used a reflecting screen, seen to the left of the patient’s feet, to boost the natural light coming into the studio.   Also, notice the use of the same backdrop as seen in the Happy Hour group.

cabinet card
W. C. Powers, photographer. Staged medical scene, circa 1895, albumen silver print on boudoir card, Phillips County Museum.

In 1899, Powers moved his family to Holdrege, Nebraska, 170 miles from Holyoke, where he opened a second studio.  A year later he sold his Holyoke studio to Nicholas A. Linstrom from Edgar, Nebraska, although there is no proof Linstrom actually ever did open for business in that location.   In 1901 Powers sold his Holdrege gallery and moved to Salt Lake City, before relocating permanently to Los Angeles.  He opened a studio with H. A. Konold at 453-1/2 South Spring street.  They specialized in developing for and printing photographs for amateurs and making lantern slides and souvenir postal cards. By 1910, Powers ran his own studio until his death on July 30, 1913.

My thanks to Carol Haynes and Hilda Hassler for their assistance in accessing the Phillips County Museum’s photo collections, Gretta Cox-Gorton, Library Assistant, American Antiquarian Society, Beverly Brannan, former Curator of Photography, Congress, and Karen Hendrix for her photographic expertise.  This research trip was possible due to the generosity of the The Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Historical Photographic Research.  

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