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.

Denver Photographer J. C. Swan

To celebrate Black History Month, this post is illustrated with a portrait of an unidentified Black woman made in a Denver studio by White photographer, J. C. Swan.  Only a few Black photographers worked in Colorado, and information about them is very limited.  An earlier post discussed one of them,  John Green.  As a follow-up to that post, Green’s best-known photograph, a portrait of Black cowboy, Isam Dart, is held by the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig.

Justus Crandall “J. C.” Swan was born in 1849 to Samuel Prentice Swan and Calista Elnora Crandall Swan in Lincklaen, New York. Justus was the oldest of four children. Samuel Swan worked as a wagon maker. According to the 1870 federal census, the family lived on a farm in Frederick County, Virginia.   In 1871,  Justus settled in Missouri. On January 20, 1875, he married Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ann Goodman-Bateman in Nevada, Missouri.

The earliest mention of Swan’s photographic career appears in an advertisement in the January 13, 1876, Nevada Ledger (Nevada, MO) for his studio over Roberts & Tyler’s hardware store. In 1877, the Swans moved to Delavan, Illinois, where J. C. Swan was the senior partner in the firm of Swan & Maltby. Mrs. Swan worked as a milliner. The couple’s first child, Justine, was born in Delavan.

The Swan family is not listed in the 1880 federal census and J. C. Swan is not mentioned in the press until they moved back to Missouri in the spring of 1886. At that time, his stereoviews of Zodiac Springs (Vernon County, MO), made under the firm name Swan & Taylor were praised by the press. A month later the firm purchased the interests of  J. H. Harter’s Nevada, MO studio in the Norman Building at West Side Square. In Nevada, Swan photographed local events, including a Republican rally held in September 1888 and the local artesian well. Swan remained in Nevada through 1892.

He traveled to Texas, spending several months looking for job opportunities. The family moved to the Austin area in December 1892. By 1896 he operated a photocopying service in Shepherd, Texas.

J. C. Swan photo
Justus C. Swan, photographer. Full-length portrait of an unidentified woman, circa 1897. Silver and photographic gelatin on cabinet card mount. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of JoAnn Oxley Foster.

In 1897, the Swan’s changed their residence once again, now traveling north to Denver, Colorado where he promoted himself as a portrait and landscape photographer. He stayed in the city for eight years, working mainly as a photographer, but Denver city directories list him as a carpenter in 1901 and 1903. In April 1905 the Swan’s settled in Nucla, a small, secluded town in Colorado’s southwest mountains. He continued his photographic work, while his wife ran a hotel. Justus C. Swan died on May 3, 1928, at 78 years old. He is buried at Nucla Cemetery.

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

A. E. Lickman’s Short Career in Denver

A couple of interesting photographs inspired this post.  I had never heard of A. E. Lickman, but the two photographs shown below made me wonder who he was and the extent of his work.

Albert E. Lickman (1864-1945) arrived in New York City in 1887, crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool, England on the Steam Ship Egypt.  The Egypt made its maiden voyage between Liverpool and NYC on November 10, 1871.  The large ship could carry 120 first-class passengers and 1, 410 in steerage.     Cabin fares started at $35 a person.  The Egypt sailed until 1890 when it was consumed by fire at sea.  No lives were lost.

2 children
A. E. Lickman & Co., photographers. Cabinet card of two children. Albumen silver print, circa 1890. Autry Museum; 94.33.2.

Talented photographer, Albert E. Lickman, arrived in Denver by November 1889, opening The Berkeley Lake Tintype Gallery  at 17th and Arapahoe Streets.  His Denver career was very short.  By 1892, Lickman had relocated to the Bronx, New York, where he continued his photographic career.

By  1905, Lickman lived in Baltimore, Maryland.  The following year, he received a patent for a toothpick.  A couple of years later he resided in Indianapolis, Indiana, working as a travel agent.  He spent the latter years of his life in Chicago.


Theater at Elitch Garden
A. E. Lickman & Co., photographers. Elitch’s Theater, [Denver, CO], circa 1890, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.
Thank you to Marilyn Van Winkle, Rights and Reproductions Coordinator, Autry Museum of the American West for assistance with permissions.


Four Female Photo Retouchers in 19th Century Denver

Photo studios hired artists to retouch or “improve” negatives before making prints, often hiring women for these positions.   As the stories below illustrate, the field attracted young, single women and widows in need of employment.  The work could be done at the studio or in the retoucher’s home.

Retouchers used a variety of lead pencils, a magnifying glass and varnish to eliminate wrinkles or freckles from sitter’s faces.  Hands, hair and drapery may also benefit from retouching. In-depth manuals on retouching were published.  In 1900, retouchers earned anywhere from 20 cents to $1 per negative.

Mrs. Wybro
J. O. Roorback, artist. [Portrait of Lottie Wybro, albumen silver print of cdv mount. https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyleshistory/23364113643/.
Charlotte “Lottie” Wybro. Charlotte Fran “Lottie” Comer was born in New York State in 1844.  At seventeen, she married Jesse Wybro, who was described on their marriage license as “partly Indian.”  They wed at Gravesvillle, Wisconsin.  The Wybros lived in Wisconsin through 1875, raising two children.  A third child was born in Missouri.   Shortly afterward the family relocated to Kansas City, KS and then Russell, Kansas in 1877.

Jesse Wybro died the following year, leaving his wife with three young children to raise.  The local paper reported that the eldest child, Harry, who was twelve years old, would attend to his father’s business.  The 1880 census lists Harry at age fourteen, employed as a clerk in a store.

The Russell Record (Russell, KS, August 9, 1877) reported on Mrs. Wybro’s artistic skills, mentioning a painting of Yosemite Falls and a Swiss homestead.  Local businesses often exhibited her oil paintings.

In 1884 the Wybros moved to Denver.  Lottie worked as a retoucher and later an artist in Denver.  The Denver city directory did not note which photo studio she worked with.  By 1900, the family relocated to California where Charlotte’s daughter, Jessie attended the University of California.  Jessie became a respected high school educator, praised for her skill in teaching Spanish and Greek.

Lottie Wybro died at her home in Glendale, California on October 8, 1914 at the age of seventy.  Her remains lie at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, CA.

Zipporah Harlan                                                                                                                Zipporah Harlan was born in Preble County, Ohio on December 11, 1853.  She ran a corset business in Dayton, Ohio in the late 1870s.  The 1883 Dayton City Directory lists Zipporah as a retoucher.  In 1884, Zipporah relocated to Denver, Colorado where she worked as a retoucher for Bates & Webb (William L. Bates and John. T. Webb).   She may have moved out of the city for a few years, as she doesn’t appear in the Denver city directories again until 1889 when her occupation is listed as a stenographer, a job she held through 1891.  Details about her life after that date are undocumented.

Metta Jane Trousdale.                                                                                                           Metta Jane Trousdale (also spelled Truesdale) was born on December 19, 1865 in Juda, Wisconsin to Dr. James Lowry Trousdale and Harriet Emma Gray Trousdale.  After Dr. Trousdale’s death in 1874, Harriet married Claus Buenz.  In 1880, the family resided in Park County, Colorado.  

In 1890, Metta Jane Truesdale began work as a photographic retoucher in St. Paul, Minnesota, for Frank Jay Haynes, best known for his photographs of Yellowstone.  The following year she relocated to Denver, Colorado, and obtained employment with the photographic firm of Rose & Company.  She remained at the firm until 1893 when she married Truman D. Ross.  Ross made his living as a debt collector in Denver.  After his death, Metta moved to Exeter, New Hampshire to live with her daughter’s family.  She died on January 26, 1953, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Metta Jane Ross was buried at Oak Grove Cemetery on Martha’s Vineyard.  

Georgia “Georgie” Stover                                                                                         Georgia M. Stover was born in October 1871 in Ironton, Ohio, a town on the Ohio River in the southernmost part of the state.  Her father, Richard, worked as a pattern maker and her mother, Ella, was a housekeeper.

The Stover family moved to Denver around 1888, where Richard found employment at a foundry and machine shop.  In 1891, Denver photographer, Dana B. Chase hired Georgia as a retoucher.  She left his employ in 1898, to work for his ex-wife, the photographer B. B. Chase.  On November 30, 1900, less than five weeks after her mother’s death, Georgia Stover died at the age of twenty-nine.  She is buried in Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery.

Thank you to Beverly Brannan, former photo curator, Library of Congress and Erin Waters (finedags.com) for proof-reading this post.





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.

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.

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.

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.  


A. E. Rinehart: Denver’s Popular Portrait Photographer

Blanche Wannemaker
A. E. Rinehart, photographer. Portrait of Blanche Wannemaker Webber, albumen silver print on cabinet card mount, ca. 1888. Golden History Museum & Park, City of Golden, Bathke Collection.

Alfred E. Rinehart found his niche as a portrait photographer at the start of his career and remained faithful to his craft for decades.  His work documents Denver’s eminent political figures and their families, along with the city’s ordinary citizens.

A. E. Rinehart was born in 1851 in Tippecanoe County, Indiana to John Byers Rinehart and Mary Cooly Rinehart.  His siblings included younger brother, Frank A. Rinehart, who would gain fame for his photographic portraits of Native Americans.

A. E. Rinehart learned photography from Charles C. Wright in Lafayette, Indiana.  Around 1875, Rinehart relocated to Denver, taking a position with George W. Kirkland.  Coincidentally, Wright moved to Denver in the 1880s, where he continued his photographic career.   Rinehart developed his skill as a portrait photographer while working as an operator in the studio of Charles Bohm in Denver.

On March 29, 1880, after five years with Bohm, Rinehart joined  William Henry Jackson, in the firm Jackson & Rinehart.  Jackson devoted his time to landscape photography while Rinehart took charge of portraiture.  They shared darkroom facilities and staff, with Frank A. Rinehart employed as a printer.  By early December, the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent.

Cabinet card
A. E. Rinehart, photographer. Baby Tabor [Lily], Age, 19 Months, February 1886, albumen silver print on cabinet card mount, ca. History Colorado-Denver, Colorado, 2000.129.110.
Rinehart remained at the 413 Larimer Street address through 1887.  He photographed Elizabeth Bonduel Lily Tabor, the first child of wealthy business man Horace Tabor and his second wife, Baby Doe, on multiple occasions.  The card mounts were atypically printed with “Baby Tabor” and the child’s age, a format the studio would continue with later sittings of the young girl.

Rinehart  married Denver socialite, Bessie Mode, on May 11, 1880.  She wore a wine colored bridal dress trimmed with silk of the same color.  After her marriage, Bessie Rinehart seemed to spend more time visiting friends and relatives in the East and South than she did in Denver.  The couple divorced in 1893.

Almost immediately after his divorce, Rinehart planned to marry Mrs. Dora Ellen Thorworth, unaware that a new law required divorcees to wait one year before remarrying.  On the day of his marriage, the county clerk’s office denied Rinehart’s application for a marriage license.  Rinehart returned to the Clerk’s office later that day with a judge.  With a wink and a nod, the marriage license was issued and the couple married that evening.  Dora Rinehart took up cycling, breaking several long-distance records.  In 1898, A. E. Rinehart secured a divorce on the grounds of desertion.

Rinehart’s business was much more successful than his love life.  In December 1887, he opened a new studio, the largest photography establishment in the city, on the upper floor of Wolfe Londoner’s grocery store on Arapahoe Street.  The January 1, 1888 issue of the Rocky Mountain News reported on the opening of the studio in great detail, describing the decor of the handsome reception room, the large skylights and the movable case holding backgrounds in the operating room, the printing room with storage for 40,000  negatives, and Rinehart’s private artist’s studio.  Rinehart presided over all portrait sessions.  Long-time employees John Lehman headed the printing room, Charles Nast oversaw retouching and  Mrs. Lehman framed portraits in the finishing room.

“Photographic: Brilliant and Successful Opening of the Magnificent New and Spacious Gallery of A. E. Rinehart.” Rocky Mountain News, January 1, 1888, page 2, column 1
Randolph Family
A. E. Rinehart, photographer. Portrait of Wellington and Emma Randolph with daughter Mathilda (Tillie), circa 1888, albumen silver print on cabinet card mount. History Colorado-Denver, Colorado, 2020.73.6

The Wellington Randolph family visited Rinehart’s new studio shortly after it opened.   Randolph (1848-1909) was born in Virginia and moved to Colorado in the 1880s.  He earned a living as a janitor.  Tillie was the first of eventually three children.

Another portrait made in the new studio shows Blanche Wannemaker Webber.  In posing Mrs.Webber, Rinehart chose to make a profile view from the back to show off the sitter’s long tresses.  This portrait was probably made soon after Miss Wannemaker’s marriage to Republican political figure Dewitt C. Webber.  After thirteen years of marriage, Mrs. Webber filed for divorce, claiming extreme cruelty, general unkindness and desertion.  The story does not end there, however, about a year after the divorce, Blanche’s father hired two men to kill his former son-in-law.  Mr. Webber learned of the plot and was able to avoid the purported killers.

In 1890, Rinehart claimed to have photographed between thirty and forty thousand Denverites.  He kept all of his negatives, so customers could request additional prints at a later date.  Early in his career, Rinehart thought it might be best to have customers purchase their negatives, as he believed many would never be used again, but that was not standard studio practice.

As early as December 1897, Rinehart placed a brief advertisement in Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, offering his studio for sale.  In June 1910, Rinehart placed another notice, this time more detailed, outlining the contents of his studio including Dalimeyer lenses, cameras up to size 20 x 24, and backgrounds painted by the prominent New York City artist, Lafayette W. Seavey.  Stating he planned to retire, the asking price was  $2,500.  Rinehart was sixty years old.

In 1912 Rinehart moved from his long-time studio on Arapahoe Street to a smaller space on Welton Street.  He died at St. Joseph’s Hospital on May 14, 1915 from complications associated with appendicitis.  He is buried at Denver’s Riverside Cemetery.

Ancestry.com. Colorado, Wills and Probate Records, 1875-1974 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data:Colorado County, District and Probate Courts.
An inventory of Rinehart’s studio was made after his death.  Once all his outstanding bills were accounted for and his studio contents sold, the estate was found to be insolvent. This is a sad ending to such a treasured Denver business, but the visual record of Denver personalities and residents lives on.

Inventory of the  A. E. Rinehart collection at the Denver Public Library.  

My thanks to History Colorado staff Jori Johnson and Cody Robinson, who always help make my onsite visits pleasurable and Viviana Guajardo, for her scanning expertise.   Additional thanks to Vanya Scott, Curatorial Assistant, Golden History Museum & Park, Golden, CO.  Special thanks to Beverly W. Brannan, recently retired photography curator at the Library of Congress, for editing this post.  






John Green, a Black Photographer in Denver

When I started researching 19th century Colorado photographers several years ago, I wondered how many Black photographers worked in the state. So far, I have encountered very few.  In honor of Black history month, here is a brief glimpse into the career of John Green.

Black girl
John Green, photographer. Unidentified woman, tintype. Collection of the author.

Remarkably, John Green  worked in Denver as a photographer for more than 40 years, yet hardly any of his photographs survive today. Tracking down details his life has been complicated as  John Green is a fairly common name and official records provide inconsistent information.

Green was born circa 1854 in Canada to an Irish mother.  Census data provides conflicting information about his father’s ancestry, varying from the West Indies (1900), South America (1910) and Australia (1930).  John Green’s race is listed as mulatto in the 1910 and 1920 censuses, but as White in the 1930 census.  He may have identified as White due to the rise in Klan activity in Denver at this time.

Green first appears in Denver in the 1885 city directory as a colored photographer with his photo business at the corner of Blake and 18th Street.  The 1887 Sanborn map shows his studio was located in a  photo car, probably an old rail car.

Sanborn map, 1887
Sanborn Map, Denver 1887, Sheet 14

Green’s earliest work, tintype portraits of Black and White sitters, are found in a few public and private collections.  This in itself is unusual.  Most tintypes are unattributed.  Green carefully assembled the iron plates (not tin as the name implies)  into paper sleeves, stamped with his name and address on the back.  When the cabinet card format became popular, Green switched to that style of card mount.  

In 1889, Green photographed the Colorado House at the Capital.  This photograph is not known to be extant.  A few years later, Green moved to a permanent building at 1337 18th Street.  In 1910 he moved again, this time to 1952 Arapahoe Street.

John Green never married and I have not been able to track down any siblings.  Green died on May 24, 1930, and is buried at Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery.  Unfortunately I have not found a detailed obituary for Green.  Like many photographers of his time, his story has been lost to the past.

John Green, photographer. Western Steam Laundry, circa 1915, silver gelatin print. History Colorado, object id# 88.713.8