Tues. Tips – Researching Photographers Working in the South, Part 5 – Texas

The only states remaining for me to discuss in this series on “Researching Photographers in the South” are the four South Central sates of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, and also the state of Mississippi. Today I am going to start with Texas, that western most state, and concentrate only on it. The state of Texas has what I would call an “embarrassment of riches” in terms of their documentation on the state’s photographers.


Click images to Enlarge


Studio portrait of John C. Bushong with camera, cabinet card by Bushong & Gray; Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library

This wonderful image of a Texas photographer is from the Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photography Collection at Southern Methodist University (SMU). This extraordinary collection contains approximately 4,200 photographs, ca. 1846-1945 and documents all aspects of Texas photography. http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/all/cul/jtx/

The imprint on the card above is difficult to read but it says ““Bushong & Gray, Over City Drugstore, Van Alstyne, Texas.” Bushong had been an itinerant photographer, but from about 1885 to about 1895 he was a partner to James L. Gray.

This amazing Texas Photography Collection is only part of SMU’s Six Central University Libraries Digital Collections, which is made up of items held by their Special Collections. This is a site well worth exploring and images can be found here by photographers from all eras of American history.  http://tinyurl.com/mmwumpv

This includes the Walter H. Horne Photographs documenting scenes of the Mexican Revolution. You will find images not only of Mexican and U.S. cavalrymen, but also some stark scenes of executions and the dead. http://tinyurl.com/ogp9ccm

The Frank J. Davis World War II Photographs, also here at SMU, document many, many important aspects of that war. http://tinyurl.com/n9xe2fp Approximately 600 images from this collection are digitized, including many Davis took “with my own 35mm camera that I strapped to my belt.”

Photographs by Davis’s colleague Melvin C. Shaffer are also found here. They document local conditions and scenes in North Africa, Italy/Southern France, and Germany, 1943 – 1945. http://tinyurl.com/oj75tx4 Both of these collections are protected by copyright.

See also SMU’s Flickr site for a look at other images in their collections. http://tinyurl.com/qc2hxwv

Mrs. Atkinson J.P.Blessing&Bro. cdv1867-69 tintbow

Mrs. T. P. Atkinson, hand-tinted carte de visite portrait by J. P. Blessing & Bro., Houston TX (author’s collection)

A good, concise discussion of Photography in Civil War Texas written by Lawrence T. Jones III can be found at the Texas State Historical Association online Digital Gateway http://tinyurl.com/ovqs8r8 . Several photographers and partnerships are mentioned, including the photographers of the image above, the Blessing Brothers (Samuel T. Blessing , ca.1832–1897, John P. Blessing, ca. 1833–1882, and Solomon T. Blessing, born ca. 1840). There is a more detailed article on these pioneer Texas photographers on the site at http://tinyurl.com/mdzoqa7


Portrait of photographer Louis de Planque in Mexican silver-trimmed charro jacket, 1871 carte de visite, possibly by his wife Eugenia; Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library

Many of the 130 images used in the book Civil War and Revolution on the Rio Grande Frontier by Jerry Thompson and Lawrence T. Jones III (Texas State Historical Association, 2004) are by De Planque, a prominent and important photographer who took portraits of most of the leading personalities of the era. His wife Eugenia often worked with him.  The book’s entire Introduction is on “The Photographers,” and the photo of de Planque seen above is only one of many photographs of the the photographer himself that are reproduced.

Another prominent photographer highlighted in the Texas State Historical Association online Digital Gateway is Hamilton B. Hillyer. You will find him discussed in an article by William Russell Young III at http://tinyurl.com/oh3l9ht

Hamilton, son of Rev. John Freeman and Mary Adeline Hillyer, was born in 1835 in Georgia, where his family had been living prior to their 1848 move to Texas. His father John F. Hillyer, a Baptist minister, was born in 1805 in Wilkes County, Georgia. He attended The Franklin Institute (Univ. of GA), and in 1834 he became one of two assistants to the president of Georgia’s Mercer University (you may read it in places, but J. F. Hillyer was never a Mercer president).

He left that post about 1837 to become a pastor of a few different churches near Athens, Georgia, where his family lived. He was known for his scientific ability, and by about 1844 he began practicing the art of the daguerreotype. He advertised himself as a daguerreotypist from at least May to August 1847. It is he who taught the art of photography to his son Hamilton. Perhaps J.F. Hillyer practiced photography briefly after moving to Texas, but he primarily concentrated on his Baptist ministry, taught at Texas schools, and established Hillyer Female College in Goliad.

Hillyer daguerreotype adv.May1847

J. F. Hillyer advertisement, May 11, 1847, Southern Banner (Athens, GA) 

Texas State Library & Archives administers the site Texas Heritage Online (hosted by the University of North Texas Libraries).  A keyword search here for the term Photograph Studio brings up a number of images of these establishments that are part of the collections of repositories including the Denton Public Library, Corpus Christi Public Library, and the Gillespie County Historical Society.  The keyword search term Photographers brings up images from the LBJ Museum of San Marcos, El Paso Public Library, and Hardin-Simmons University Library. http://texasheritageonline.org/

McGregor Studio 1937 TX

Studio of John Frederick “Doc” McGregor, 1937; collection of Corpus Christi Public Library

University of Texas at Arlington has several collections which highlight the work of various commercial photographers. One  is the W. D. Smith Commercial Photography Collection. Although most images in it date from the 1940s into the 1980s, this collection also includes 19th century copy photographs Smith made. http://tinyurl.com/q9ynwwt 

Those collections of photographs by Jack White, Basil Clemons, Squire Haskins, and William S. Wood and photo-journalists whose work is in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, the collections of the Arlington Citizen-Journal, and the Fort Worth News-Tribune must be examined at the repository.  http://www.uta.edu/library/spco/photographs.php

The Portal to Texas History, hosted by the University of North Texas, is also located on the UT Arlington site. In addition to including several other repositories’ materials, the UTA has over 1,000 digitized items, including photographs, from the UTA Special Collections on this site. http://tinyurl.com/lg57nfy

Other websites that may be useful to search include Baylor University’s Texas Collection. Their large collection of images is represented on Flickr at http://tinyurl.com/khuursw

Roosevelt El Paso

Roosevelt in El Paso, by Otis A. Aultman, 1911; El Paso Public Library, Border Heritage Center, Otis A. Aultman Collection

Among the print publications of use to you in your search for any photographer who has worked in Texas, are the following:

Mary A. Sarber’s book Photographs from the Border: The Otis A. Aultman Collection (El Paso Public Library Association, 1977) documents a collection of photographs by the El Paso photographer Otis A. Aultman (1847-1943) that is housed at the main El Paso Public Library, downtown.

Aultman first came to El Paso to document the Mexican Revolution, which is when he began to use motion picture film. After the war he worked in El Paso as a commercial photographer. The Aultman collection is gradually being put online at http://tinyurl.com/lwyq3t8

Regarding H. B. Hillyer, who I mentioned above, you may want to take a look at the MA thesis by William Russell young, H. B. Hillyer: Life and Career of a Nineteenth Century Texas Photographer (UT at Austin, 1985).

Blessing & Bro. 1873 Silver Sunbeam

Blessing & Bro., Galveston, advertisement in the Silver Sunbeam, 1873

In relation to the SMU information given above, you should also take a look at their Civil War digital collection at http://tinyurl.com/kq2kqwq  Pay attention to the images from the Robin Stanford Collection. 

I purchased the DeGolyer’s beautiful, extraordinary book The Civil War in Photographs – New Perspectives from the Robin Stanford Collection by Anne E. Peterson (DeGolyer Library, SMU, 2013) earlier this year. This impressive book references an exhibit by the same name held at the repository earlier in 2013.

Although it is not entirely related to the state of Texas, I thought I would mention it because this book includes several photographs that I have never before seen reproduced.  Many of those images were taken by little-known, but identified photographers working during the Civil War. There is a separate book chapter on “Photography in the Civil War,” and at the back of the book are three pages of reproductions of “Stereograph & Cartes De Visite Imprints.”

The lovely photo history site Luminous Lint has posted Anne E. Peterson’s Introduction to her book at http://tinyurl.com/lm9b6mt and many, many of these significant images from the Stanford Collection are also on Luminous Lint at http://tinyurl.com/kybu49d

To find out about various studio locations and get biographical information on hundreds of Texas photographers, there are two useful books to see.

David Haynes – Catching Shadows: a Directory of Nineteenth-Century Texas Photographers (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1993 [ISBN-10: 0876111304 and ISBN-13: 978-0876111307])


Richard, Pearce-Moses, compiler – Photographic Collections in Texas, a Union Guide (Texas Historical Foundation, 1987 [ISBN 0-89096-351-7]). This is not a guide to Texas photographers, but to collections in Texas holding photographs. Importantly, in addition to the list of collections and a subject index, this Guide includes a personal name index and a photographers’ name index, as well as a geographic index.

As I told you when I began this post, I think there are almost too many worthwhile sources for researching photographers in the state of Texas. I may have left out something significant or missed a favorite source of yours – if so, please let me know!

Have fun hunting through these sweet sources, and have an especially good time gathering your facts into something meaningful to you.

© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without  written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. The piece can be re-blogged, and excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Thank you very much for this valuable tips.I really liked this post.

    1. Thanks for reading!

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