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.
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.
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.