Directory of Minnesota Photographers - Faq

photographer in his studio
 Photographer in his studio, 1873.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) What sources were used to create the Directory?

2) Why are some photographers also known by other names?

3) Do the place dates represent all the dates a photographer worked at specific locations?

4) Why don't the place dates for individual photographers and the businesses they owned always match?

5) How did a photographer or studio become listed as a predecessor or a successor?

6) Why are some photographers who took over other photographers' businesses listed as principals and not as successors?

7) Why do the "dates worked" have gaps, such as 1880s, 1900s?

8) Who contributed to this directory?

9) Why can't I find a particular photographer I know was located in Minnesota?

10) The directory does not contain information I have found on a Minnesota photographer. Who do I contact about adding information to the directory?

Additional Resources

1) What sources were used to create the Directory?
The data came from city directories, regional gazetteers, county and local histories, newspaper and magazine articles, census records, and miscellaneous advertising material. Photographers' stamps or imprints from photographs in the Minnesota Historical Society's collections helped clarify the proper spelling of photographers' names and the location of their businesses.

photographers stamp
photographers stamp
Examples of a photographer's stamp are shown here on the backs of cabinet cards used by Frank Jay Haynes, a photographer who worked in Minnesota between the 1860s and 1920s. The example on the left shows that he kept a studio at 392 Jackson Street in St. Paul. The stamp on this card dates from 1891-1894. The example on the right shows that he later moved his studio to the corner of Selby Avenue and Virginia Street in St. Paul. This stamp on this card includes a date of 1895.

2) Why are some photographers also known by other names?
Photographers may have been known by more than one name. Where possible, the preferred form of a photographer's name or studio matches the form found in the Visual Resources Database at the Minnesota Historical Society. Alternate spellings or forms are included as variant names to illustrate all the ways in which a photographer may have been known. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was common for photographers to be known by their initials. For example, Charles Alfred Zimmerman was known as C. A. Zimmerman. When we knew the full spelling of a photographer's name, we used it as the primary name and put the initials as a name variant.

3) Do the place dates represent all the dates a photographer worked at specific locations?
Not necessarily. Although a lot of information was compiled from a variety of sources, it was not the result of an exhaustive search. The ability to pinpoint exactly when a photographer was practicing in a specific location often rests on a listing in a city directory, gazetteer, or newspaper.

4) Why don't the place dates for individual photographers and the businesses they owned always match?
A photographer may have been practicing for many years before becoming the principal (owner) associated with a particular business. Or a photographer may have been associated with a particular business for 1 or 2 years. Also, a business listing may have made its way into the database because a single city directory or gazetteer was checked, providing a single snapshot of the business in time. The business may have continued over time, changed locations, or changed principals.

5) How did a photographer or studio become listed as a predecessor or a successor?
It could be expensive for a photographer to set up a business in a new location. It was not uncommon for a photographer to purchase the photographic studio, equipment, and even the prints and negatives of another photographer. In this transition, a photographer would not only gain the former photographer's studio space, cameras, and darkroom equipment, but the former photographer's clientele in a particular community as well. A photography studio would succeed another studio and a predecessor-successor relationship existed.

Sometimes when a business changed hands, the name of the business was also changed to reflect the new owner. Whenever possible, the relationship between predecessor and successor was made in the database through the names of studios and galleries rather than the names of individuals. However, there are occasions where we could not find direct evidence that a photographer operated under a business name. Therefore, it is possible to have a studio listed as a predecessor and an individual listed as a successor or vice versa. For example, T. L. Bersagel bought the Hansen Studio in Lanesboro, Minnesota in 1887. The added notes that are present for many entries in the database may provide additional information about business transitions and relationships between various photographers.

6) Why are some photographers who took over other photographers' businesses listed as principals and not as successors?
Sometimes a photographer kept the previous photographer's name or studio name on the business. Usually this occurred when the previous photographer or studio had an established and well-known reputation that would aid the new photographer in business. For example, when John C. Varney took over the well-established Essery Photograph Gallery founded by Robert W. Essery and continued by his wife Ida Essery, Varney advertised himself as the proprietor of the Essery Photograph Gallery.

7) Why do the "dates worked" have gaps, such as 1880s, 1900s?
We may not know if a photographer was in Minnesota during the gap in time. Sometimes photographers went to a neighboring state such as North Dakota or Wisconsin before returning to Minnesota. Sometimes a photographer left the business to pursue another occupation, before returning to photography at a later date. We could not fill in gaps unless we found evidence to confirm that a photographer was working in Minnesota during a particular time period.

8) Who contributed to this directory?
The seminal research on Minnesota photographers was done by G. Hubert Smith in the 1940s. It was taken up by Alan Woolworth, Lila Goff, Bonnie Wilson, Tracey Baker, and Nancy Devine in subsequent years. Tracey Baker contributed her expertise on women photographers. Patricia Harpole compiled a listing from Minnesota city directories. Alan Woolworth assembled 74 research notebooks containing copies of newspaper articles, local history excerpts, and city directory material. In the 1990s, the Minnesota Historical Society Reference Department set up the database as a special project.

In 2005 and 2006, Jaclyn Ludowese gathered and verified information from card index files that were based on city directories and compiled for the former Audio Visual Library. Lian Partlow researched and verified all cross-references between the entries, cleaned up and entered additional data. Daniel Sher contributed programming expertise. Monica Manny Ralston supervised the project and Beth Lighthipe created the Web site.

9) Why can't I find a particular photographer I know was located in Minnesota?
Although a lot of information was compiled from a variety of sources, it was not an exhaustive search. The data is strongest up to about 1920. There is room for more photographers and photography businesses to be added in the future. Also, original sources used to research Minnesota photographers, such as city/county directories, gazetteers, and newspapers, may contain misspellings. Consider alternate spellings of individual photographers' names and business names (e.g. Anderson, Andersen, Andersson).

10) The directory does not contain information I have found on a Minnesota photographer. Who do I contact about adding information to the directory?
Send questions or comments to reference@mnhs.org.

Additional Resources