Almost a decade ago, in 2004, I spent two days carefully going through the George S. Cook Papers (mss. 10108) located in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington D.C. That small collection consists of some business correspondence and some account books.
The Cook account books are quite enlightening about Cook’s travels and photography in Georgia as well as in other states. He was a good businessman and he kept meticulous, detailed notes. Persons daguerreotyped, and those to whom Cook sold photo stock materials are well documented. Each departure and arrival to and from a Georgia city was noted, and although he visited the cities of Atlanta, Augusta, Barnesville, and Savannah in 1848 or 1849, he made no note that he made photographs in any of those particular cities.
Most of the published biographical documentation on George S. Cook identifies him primarily with Charleston, South Carolina and Richmond, Virginia. But Cook worked as an itinerant over much of the South and southeast starting in late 1845.
I hope that my research will cast a new light on George S. Cook as a photographer working in the nineteenth century Southeast. Although he certainly did some teaching and selling stock and photographic apparatus during his travels, I do not believe he is responsible for establishing the many “studios,” as previous research insists. Perhaps this was true before his marriage, but I think he was far more interested in making a living and providing for his family, which grew by one more while he and his family were in Georgia. He was not away from them long, and he continually re-joined his family and had them move with him when it was necessary.
My more detailed research on Cook is given in my article “Georgia Photographers: The First Generation, 1840-1860” (Georgia Historical Quarterly; spring 2008, vol. 92 Issue 1, pg. 37-64), which is available online but without illustrations (one error in that article I found too late to correct – on pg. 62 in paragraph one, “Mr. Adams of Macon” was not a Georgia photographer).
Newer information I have found on G. S. Cook pertains to his partnership with H. L. Lansing, after he supposedly had left Georgia – you will read about that in the text below.
For a Cook biography, and a list of publications relating to him, see the website Luminous Lint at
Some of what you see there, Cook’s Georgia advertising, and some additional bibliographical citations, I was happy to provide them.
For images of and by Cook, see also an online exhibit at Virginia Commonwealth University as well as their link to Richmond’s Valentine Museum http://dig.library.vcu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/cook
I want to share my information on George S. Cook in Georgia with you through a series of posts. This first one relates only to his work and business in Columbus, which is where he spent much of his time in our state.
According to Cook’s account books, which record his travel costs, prior to his 1848 arrival in Columbus, Georgia, he had been in Columbus, Mississippi (March 21- May 20). From there he went through Selma and Montgomery, Alabama (May 25) and began traveling on to Columbus, Georgia on May 26. He began taking daguerreotypes in that Georgia city on May 31.
Dates found at the back of Cook’s acct. book on a page listing “Columbus, Miss.[issippi]” March 17; April – May 20th, 1848, are the dates that have been incorrectly identified as Columbus GA by some Cook biographers.
Cook left Columbus periodically for work in other Georgia cities, and his work in those other cities is documented with the same detail as he documented his work in Columbus. Cook and his wife and daughter boarded at the Oglethorpe House (hotel) on the corner of Oglethorpe and Randolph streets, and he rented rooms in which to work from the jewelers Foster & Purple. The advertisement run by the two jewelers indicate that they had “engaged Mr. Geo. S. Cook” to come to Columbus and take likenesses. Nevertheless, Cook was paying them to use their “rooms.”
Click on any image to enlarge it.
In 1849, Cook traveled back and forth between Columbus, Georgia other Georgia cities in late August to September, and he returned to Columbus by mid-September. He took daguerreotypes there on September 13, paid his rent on September 14, and went on to Macon and Savannah on his way to Charleston, where he was by about September 18.
The advertisement for Cook (above) that was run by Foster & Purple in the Columbus Georgia newspapers ran through October 9, 1849. Cook began taking photos in South Carolina on Oct. 10, 1849. Before he established, indeed while he was establishing his Charleston Studio in 1849, he was still attending to his business in Georgia.
In 1850, although he studio was established in Charleston, he noted in his account book under 25 February that he traveled to Columbus, Georgia. Perhaps his studio in Charleston was under construction? He had, after all, only been in that city about four months.
In Columbus, he and a partner, H. L. Lansing, advertised in the Columbus, Georgia newspapers from Feb. 5 – March 26, 1850, as Cook & Lansing. Cook’s name was gone from the advertisement by the end of March, but “Cook & Lansing’s Beautiful Daguerreotypes” were advertised in Columbus through May 1850. During April and May Lansing alone signed the advertisements, and he remained there until sometime in May.
A transcript of the notes I made on the portion of G. S. Cook’s accounts, etc. pertaining only to Columbus, Georgia, follows. Because he “named names,” in his account books, this will be of interest to the genealogists among you. In most cases I have transcribed names as Cook wrote them, as best I could make out his handwriting (what will happen to younger researchers who are not even learning cursive writing!). In some cases I have inserted notes (in italics) that give more detail or explanation.
Notes made on 8/31/2004 & 9/1/2004: George S. Cook Account Book (mss. 10108 in LC Manuscript Division)
1848 Account Book entries are for May 22-30; June 3-26; July 1-31; Aug 5-26; Sept 5 & also a few “stock sold Columbus GA” entries with his Oct. 1848 accounts
1849 Account Book entries are for July 4 – Sept. 28
There are three pages for “Amt. Stock Sold Columbus, GA” 1848 accounting entries for June – Aug, Oct., Dec; 1849 for Jan. – July
Note: the photographers to whom Cook sold stock were located in Columbus and elsewhere — Cook was not necessarily in Columbus, although based there, on the date cited (he was in Macon, Georgia Jan.-March 1849). Many of those persons listed are known to have worked at some time in Georgia as photographers.
Entries cite sales to:
Mr. Jaynit (Janethe?) a John Janethe, born Italy is on the 1860 federal census for Augusta
Mr. Mapp (“Warm Springs; Instrument $58, Stock $8”)
Mr. Cloud (or McCloud?)
Dr. John H. Bushnell (Quincy FA – Florida) by April 1848 Bushnell was working as a daguerreotypist in Athens, GA
Matthewes & Bragg were in Albany taking daguerreotypes in 1849
J. G. Eubank (Whiteville GA)
O. S. Holland
Mr. Chalmers (Aug. 1849) this is probably daguerreotypist William H. Chalmers
John M. Lunquist ($25.50 Feb. 28, 1849 Griffin GA) J. M. Lunquest was a photographer-dentist-jeweler who worked in many Georgia towns and cities, 1847 – 1884
Mr. Barnard (on 15 Feb 1849) this most probably is F.A.P. Barnard, one of the South’s first photographers, who was at U. of AL 1837-1854; sales were also made to him by Cook from Macon and LaGrange, Georgia.
Carter & Hobbs
Burnett/Bunett/Bennett probably jeweler B. L. Burnett who also worked as a daguerreotypist in Milledgeville and Macon; with a partner named Hart he bought an interest in Cook’s Macon studio
List of Cook’s “Pictures Taken Columbus GA”
Dates listed: May 31 – Aug 10, 1848; July 3 – Sept. 13, 1849; and in his notes – “paid Purple $48.88 & $161.50 Sept 14th 1849” (this would be for his rent)
Cook’s “Pictures Taken Columbus GA” 1848 list
(¼, etc. refers to the daguerreotype plate size)
June 1st, Mrs. Perry (& Babe Dead) ¼ $10.00
Note: according to John H. Martin’s book Columbus Geo. from its selection as a “trading town” in 1827 p.33 (pt.2 1875 ed. reprint) this would have been the infant daughter of William Perry, Ann Elizabeth
After June 10th is “Pd for printing $6.00 amt. pd Jaysith (Janethe?) $6.00 for his show for room of $42.50, $42.30, $48.50 [his underlining], $43.50”
June 14 = 1 Judge Thomas ¼ $5.00
Note: this is Judge Grisby Thomas
June 14 = 3 Miss Thomas & Miss DeLafennerd (?) ¼ $6.50 / $16.50 Note: this probably Miss DeGraffenreid
June 14 = Mr. Sand, coachmaker, in gift locket
July 3 = Mrs. Hundly [sic] & Dead Child $10.00
Note: according to John H.Martin’s book Columbus Geo. from its selection as a “trading town” in 1827 p.33 (pt.2 1875 ed. reprint) this would have been the son of John Hunley, Alexander J; photographer A.J. Riddle married Anne Hunley in Columbus in 1856
July 3 = Old Black Man [of] Dr. Ingersol $3.50
Note: Dr. Stephen M. Ingersoll lived across the river in what is now Phenix City AL
July 21 = Mr. Samuel Osborne, uniform ¼ $5.00
August “Amt. Sold at Columbus by Foster $4.50” and “Amt. Sold to Jaynith – sundries $80.00”
Note: Foster, a jeweler and his landlord, also sold stock for Cook; a John Janethe, born Italy is on the 1860 federal census for Augusta
Another entry, under June 26this “Board to date at Oglethorpe [House] $48.00”
Cook’s “Pictures Taken Columbus GA” 1849 list
July 3 = Mr. W. Perry (dead child) ¼ mother & child $10.00
Note: according to John H. Martin’s book Columbus Geo. from its selection as a “trading town” in 1827 p.33 (pt.2 1875 ed. reprint) this would have been the daughter of William Perry, Clara Rosalia.
July 13 = Countryman & wife – 2 1/6 $7.00; 1/6 for pin $2.00
July 31 = Rev. Mr. Weeks; Mr. McAllister’s daughters 1 ¼ group $6.50
Aug. 10 = Mr. John Peabody 2 ¼ $10.00 [and]
Charles Peabody 2 1/5 $6.00
Note: The Peabody family was well-known; Charles was a writer and publisher
Aug. 13 = Mrs. Peabody 1 ¼ $5.00
Aug. 15 = Mrs. Peabody 1/6 $2.50
Sep. 13 = Dr. Stanford – locket 1/6 $3.50
At end of these entries is written:
“Instructions to Mr. Snow $20.00” and “stock sold sundry persons $127.00”
Sept. 14 “Paid Purple $48.88; Paid Purple $161.50”
Note: rent on studio space paid to jeweler Purple
There is a note under 1850 for “Feb. 25th – cash to pay expenses to Columbus & wagon $40” and on the opposite page “Left with [A.C.] McIntyre at Columbus – 2 plates + specimens of his portraits” and “specimens sent Columbia SC” with a list; and “specimens to Mr. Lansing in Ale” plus goods, supplies sent.
Note: H. L. Lansing was probably in AL prior to his arrival in Columbus, GA