This cabinet card features an African American man posing for his portrait at the Prentzel & McCollin studio in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is likely dressed in his Sunday’s best for this photograph. Cabinet card portraits of African Americans are not commonplace. To view a collection of such images, click on cabinet card gallery’s category “African Americans”. One source identifies the photographers as Frank Prentzel and Carl J. McCollin. No confirmation could be located. In fact, research found several sources mentioning a cabinet card era photographer in Philadelphia named Thomas McCollin.
This photograph is emotionally moving and it elicits a story that we tell ourselves. Most people will likely see it as a story about a grandmother and her grandchildren. Grandma has a tight loving grasp around the waist of her youngest granddaughter while the older granddaughter clings to grandma’s shoulder for security. This is a portrait of a tight knit family. The little girls are adorable. They are wearing bows in their hair; and both girls are wearing necklaces. It is difficult to tell for sure, but grandma seems to be containing a smile. The girls however, seem a bit bewildered by their experience of being photographed. Grandma was not living in easy times. At the time of this photograph, slavery had already ended but prejudice and discrimination was prevalent. There is dearth of early photographs of African American individuals and families. This image certainly serves a role in representing African American history. Unfortunately, the photographer and subjects of this image are unidentified.
A well dressed African American man poses for his portrait at the J. A. Pfeifer & Company gallery. He is wearing a dress jacket, a pin striped vest, winged collar and bow tie. This handsome young man is unidentified. The reverse of the cabinet card lists Pfeifer’s name but also the names Smith and Mulligan Brothers. Presumably these three names belong to photographers who were employed the the Pfeifer studio. The address of the gallery is also printed on the reverse of the card. The business was located at 262, 264, and 266 South High Street in Columbus, Ohio. According to the book “Artists in Ohio” (2000), the photographer of this image, John A. Pfeifer (1859-1932), was active in the Columbus area from 1882 to at least 1913. During much of that time, he was partners with George C. Urlin of the “Mammoth Art Palace” on High Street. To view images by Urlin, click on the category “Photographer: Urlin”. The Oberlin Review (1888) noted that the Urlin & Pfeifer studio won the contract to be the class of 1888’s photographer. A competitor in the bidding was the Cleveland firm of Urlin & Becker. Urlin’s participation in the bidding under two different studios, caused the students to raise some ethical questions about the bidding process. Pfeifer proved to the students that he had the legal right to use Urlin’s name and the class “was convinced of his honesty and integrity” and retained him as class photographer. In 1891 Pfeifer and George D. Saas (1854-1924) founded Pfeifer & Saas Printers. In 1905 Pfeifer became the sole owner of the firm and renamed it the Pfeifer Show Print Company.
This photograph features an older African American gentleman. He is nicely dressed in fancy clothing. Note his long coat. The gentleman appears to be displaying a friendly half smile. He has one hand on his hip; surely, he was told to pose in that manner. The reason for such instruction is not clear. The photographic studio that produced this image is Shadle & Busser of York, Pennsylvania. James Monroe Shadle was born in 1861 in Freeport, Pennsylvania. Oscar W. Busser died of Brights Disease at age 61, in 1921. The studio that bared their names was located at 20 South George Street (1887-1902), 44 South George Street (1903-1925), and 58 South Beaver Street (1925-1936). All of these locations were in York. To view other early photographs of African Americans, click on the category of “African Americans”.
A good looking African American gentleman, wearing a checkered coat, poses for his portrait at the studio of I. V. Morrell, in Elgin, Illinois. There is an inscription with the subject’s name on the front of the photograph. His name is “John H. Grant”. The photographer’s full name is Isaac V. Morrell and he had studios located at various adrdesses in Elgin between 1894 and 1940.
A lovely couple pose for their portrait at a studio in Fairport, New York. The photographer is F. B. Clench. This handsome couple is beautifully dressed. A previous owner of this card described the woman as an “African American Beauty”. She is certainly beautiful but it is not clear that she was an African American. A local modern day historical society described Clench as the finest photographer working in Fairport in the late 19th century. He was born in Niagara, Canada. He set up his first photographic studio in Lockport, New York in 1863. He operated in Fairport between 1889 and 1902. He then moved to Madison, Georgia until he returned to Fairport in 1914, the year of his death. Clench was clearly a talented photographer. Wilson’s photographic magazine described Clench as a “painstaking and progressive artist”. The reverse of this photograph is stamped with the following: “Clark T. Rice Collections, Perry, New York. Clark Rice (1922-1999) was a photographer in the Perry, New York area whose work captured the Perry area from just after World War II until the 1990’s. During World War II he was an army photographer. The Perry Library housed the Clark T. Rice collections.
This cabinet card features an African American woman posing for her portrait at the studio of Hartley in Chicago, Illinois. The woman is nicely dressed. Her fashion statement includes an interesting hat and a cumberbund. The Cabinet Card Gallery has a large collection of images of Blacks at the turn of the century. The images can be viewed by clicking on the category of “Black Americans”. Other photographs by Hartley, as well as some biographical information about him, can be seen by clicking on “Photographer: Hartley”.
This Cabinet Card features a very handsome African American gentleman with a terrific handlebar mustache. He is very well dressed and has short parted hair. This man has movie star good looks before the era of movies. The photographer is Fritz, who had studios in both Sedalia, Missouri, and Quincy, Illinois.
This cabinet card creates a historical mystery. Is this image really a portrait of Captain William James Williams? Captain Williams was among the first African American officers to serve in a state volunteer regiment during the Spanish American War. He served in the 6th Massachusetts Infantry, Company L. This company was probably the first and possibly only African American company to be attached to a white regiment. Williams commanded Company L and was the first African American to enter the US Volunteer army with a captain’s commission. He was six feet tall. He was a product of Boston schools and was a lawyer. He joined the Massachusetts Militia in 1891. The reverse of this card is inscribed “William James Williams, Captain, Spanish American War”. A photograph of Captain Williams found from another source, has resemblance to the man in this image, but does not confirm the identity. The photographer of this image is William G. Hussey of Salem, Massachusetts. A photographic journal (1900) reported that Hussey sold his Salem studio in 1900.