PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG BOY IN MAINE BY A PHOTOGRAPHER WITH A BIZARRE STORY

This scallop-edged cabinet card features a young boy posing for his photograph at the Swan studio in Norway, Maine. Some may argue that the child is actually a girl. However, it was common for young boys to wear skirt type clothing and have long hair. John Wesley Swan (1857-?) appears in the 1884 Portland, Maine city directory as a photographer. The 1900 US census reveals that Swan was Canadian born and lived in Norway with his wife (Annie) and their two daughters. Swan married his wife in 1883. According to Anthony’s Photographic Bulletin (1900), Swan’s studio was destroyed by fire and he lost a large number of valuable negatives of scenery in the area of Norway. The journal also states that the “loss was large and the insurance is said to be small”. Swan was the official photographer of the Grand Trunk Railway system. He won a gold medal at the Paris Exposition according to Photo-Era magazine (1900). At one point in his career in Norway, Swan had a partner in his business (Swan & Cobb). John Wesley Swan was involved in a bizarre incident that made the annals of the history of Norway. The book,  “A History of Norway, Maine: From the Earliest Settlement to the Close of the Year 1922”, tells a  mysterious story about Mr. Swan. While on a trip to Boston in 1893, Swan disappeared for a period of about six months. The writer states that Swan “claimed to have been sand-bagged and robbed in Boston and when he partially recovered consciousness found himself in New Orleans”. His memory had “left him” and he wandered around until his memory returned while he was in Texas. Swan returned to Norway and explained his disappearance to his friends and family, and community. According to the writer, many doubted the validity of his explanation.

Published in: on July 15, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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A PORTRAIT OF A BOY AND A CHAIR BY MISS LIBBY IN NORWAY, MAINE (NOTED FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHER)

MISS LIBBY_0007A young boy dressed in a double breasted jacket and wearing a tie poses for this portrait by Miss Libby of Norway, Maine.  Minnie Libby (1863-1947) had a sixty year business career in Norway, Maine. She was a very able photographer and also an eccentric. She was the daughter of a Maine born blacksmith who was also a carriage maker and dealer. The 1880 census lists her at age sixteen as being an artist. She was sent to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and developed an interest in photography. She worked as a studio photo retoucher while living in Boston. In 1882 she worked as a photo retoucher at the Anthony Crockett Picture Studio in Norway. In 1885 her father constructed a building to house her first studio. By the 1890’s Miss Libby was quite successful. In 1905 her father helped her buy a new studio which caused some controversy in the town of  Norway. The seller of the building neglected to tell his tenant, a photographer, that the building was sold. The tenant photographer took ads out in the local paper denouncing the underhanded business practices of Miss Libby who ultimately occupied the building. Miss Libby’s response to the ads was to take out her own ads in which she said that she would use the advertising space to talk about her business, and not to make misleading statements about her competitors. In 1940, Life Magazine discovered Miss Libby. They did a feature on her life as a photographer, both past and present. Minnie Libby also produced oil paintings while working as a photographer. She was a talented artist and did many paintings of plants and flowers as well as landscapes. The Life Magazine article describes Miss Libby’s appearance. She most often wore knickers, men’s shirts, and a flowing bow tie. She was also described as a “first class photographer”. To view other photographs by Miss Libby, click on the category “Photographer: Libby”.