James M. Goins, The First Black Photographer in Denver

James M. Goins was born circa 1850 in Ohio.  In 1869 he opened a photography gallery in Chicago, Illinois with J. G. Johnson.  Goins remained in Chicago for nearly a decade, offering cartes de visite and opal miniatures.  He also made enlargements from old and faded photographs and photographs colored on oil, India Ink, or watercolor.

In 1879, he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, but he left that city owing money to creditors. In 1881, Goins continued the photographic trade in Denver,  remaining in town for only one year.  

Goins portrait
Goines, photographer. Portrait of an Unidentified Black man, 1888-1889. Photo courtesy of Museum of Modern Art.

By 1887 he had relocated his business to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he stayed for a few years.  For about a decade, Goins’ whereabouts are unknown. The 1900 Chicago city directory places him back in that city as a photographer.   In the 1920 federal census, Goins is listed as a patient in Chicago’s Oak Forest Institution, a home for poor and elderly citizens.  He likely remained in the Chicago area for the rest of his life.

If anyone has seen Goins’ work from Denver, please let me know.