Georgia Photographers, Oh My Stars!

Brown, H.W. Tifton Sept.1909 detail

The week before I left for Austin and the Daguerreian Society Symposium, when I should have been doing other things, I took time out to do some online research on a photographer I knew worked in Tifton, Georgia. I wanted to know more about him – just because. Per usual, other photographers, actually several, appeared – seemingly out of the vapor.

Seeking more information on the ‘Brown” of the detail of an advertisement you see above (10 Sept. 1909 Tifton Gazette p.26 c.1), I was led hither and yon, and made numerous discoveries.  Because I have actually documented more than fifteen different photographers or their associates named Brown working in Georgia, I want more documentation on each of them.  If I am not careful to do this, it becomes too confusing.

Howard W. Brown (Aug. 11, 1866 – March 17, 1940) was “one of original Fitzgerald colonists” according to an article in a 1905 Tifton Gazette. The city was founded in 1896 as a home for both Union and Confederate veterans – read more about the city of Fitzgerald here

H. W. Brown was born in Kansas and was working as a photographer in Fitzgerald, Georgia, in 1900. He was almost thirty-four, single, and living at home with his parents. I do not yet know where or when he became a photographer but advertisements suggest he began in about 1893. His father, Samuel Clay Brown, would have been the Union veteran who chose to move his family to Fitzgerald, Georgia.

Howard W. Brown appears again as a photographer on the 1910 census in Fitzgerald. He married in about 1904 and by 1910 the couple had two children. Between the 1900 and the 1910 census, Mr. Brown was living elsewhere and was very busy. He is a fine example of an industrious early 20th century photographer working in a smaller Georgia town.

In September 1900, shortly after the census was taken in Fitzgerald, he moved his photography business a bit southwest, to Tifton, Georgia. In his early years there Brown advertised his new studio a great deal in the Tifton Gazette newspaper.  He even had a drawing of himself inserted into his July 1903 advertisement.

Tifton Gazette, 24 July 1903 p.7

Tifton Gazette,  July 24, 1903 p.7

 This particular advertisement is very difficult to read, and what I think it says is:

A Charm Above the Ordinary – About the pictures taken at the Studio – they have the artistry to the original which the camera alone can give, but show also [the?] taste [of?] individuals.

Photographs – Made by this artist and [who has?] in every way long experience and ability to pose each sitter to the best advantage; in tone, of long lasting quality – these pictures are unsurpassed.

It became evident through newspaper mentions, that while he worked in Tifton, H. W. Brown employed three different women in his studio. I had not come across any of these women previously, but it made me remember other women who worked in photography in South Georgia who I had already documented. I decided I certainly needed to find out what happened to two of those women, as long as I was on the chase of others.

Before I go on with the story of  H. W. Brown and the women who worked for him,  I will tell you what more I discovered about these three women photographers.

Mrs. L. C. Wooley (Lucretia, aka “Lou”) was advertising as a photographer in Waycross, Georgia by June 1906 (in the Waycross Evening Herald from 16 June through July 1906), when she worked out of a a tent at the corner of Plant & Albany avenues. By March 20, 1908 her newspaper advertisement, carrying only her name, uses “we” as doing the work, and cites her studio as  at the same corner, Albany and Plant.

Mrs. L. C. King (“Lou”) had moved to Waycross from Blackshear, Georgia.  She married  Duncan P. Wooley on January 6, 1905. Through additional research I found that her maiden name was Sweat and she was the widow of Robert L. E. King, who died in 1902. She already owned a home on Albany Avenue when she married D. P. Wooley, a grocer with a store on Plant Avenue.

D. P. Wooley is the “we” she referred to, and although he was listed in the city directory as a photographer in 1908, his wife was the real photographer. Mr. Wooley declared bankruptcy in April 1906, and even though he was listed as a photographer in the 1912 city directory, the only other reference to him I find as “photographer” are in  a kidney disease remedy pill newspaper advertisement, which ran from at least July 1908 to July 1911, using his name and occupation.

Waycross Evening Herald 7 July 1906 p.2 c.3

Waycross Evening Herald July 7,  1906 p.2 c.3

As I followed Lou Wooley’s career via her newspaper ads, I was surprised to find a notice that she died on January 14, 1911 (Waycross Evening Herald 14 June 1911 p.1).  It said that she was survived only by her [second] husband, but another notice printed in the same newspaper throughout May 1911, notes that she left three orphaned children (whose surname was given as “Keen,” rather than King), who would now have a guardian. I assume, but do not know, that the children were living in Blackshear.

Because her first husband died in 1902, I searched for Lucretia King on the 1900 census — and oh, wow, her husband was a photographer and they were living in Troy Alabama. I then realized I had documented Robert L. King when he worked and advertised in the Columbus, Georgia area in 1896, and was located in Girard, Alabama. I am fairly certain he is the King of photographers King & Forsyth who advertised in the Columbus area in 1897.

So, it is really no surprise that his widow worked as a photographer after his death. Both Lucretia Wooley and R. E. L. King are buried in Pierce County, Georgia, in the Youmans-Davis Cemetery.

I knew that Jeannette (sometimes Jeanne) Wilson (1871-1954) was trained in Atlanta by two of that city’s best known photographers, Mrs. L. C. Condon and C. W. Motes, from 1897 to early 1900. A later reference indicates that she also worked with photographer W. E. Lenney in Atlanta.

I knew that she left Atlanta to take a job with photographer W.L. Ricks in Quitman, Georgia in 1900, but I did not know that she was there only a short time.

In 1901 Jeannette Wilson took over a studio in Bainbridge, Georgia that was simply called The Photograph Gallery.  By 1902, it was called The Oak City Studio, and Miss Wilson advertised “Portraiture & Views. Artistic Works & Catchy Designs.” In late 1902 Wilson took over the Bainbridge Library, but her Oak City photography Studio was still in business and she had purchased the framework department of Hunter & Bragg (Bainbridge Search Light, Oct. 31, 1902 p.5 c.2). By 1904 her studio belonged to photographer O. V. DeLong.

I have not determined how they met, but in about 1915, Wilson married another photographer, Robert Travelute (1977-1942). By 1920 they ran a studio in Tuscola, Illinois. The couple returned to Georgia by 1930 and she is recorded in the census as working in his studio in Moultrie as a photo-finisher. Both Jeannette and Robert Travelute are buried in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery.

Bainbridge Search Light 14 Aug. 1903 p.5 c.4-5

Bainbridge Search Light, Aug. 14, 1903  p. 5 c. 4-5

To return to Mr. Brown — in October 1903, H. W. Brown hired Miss Jessie Oakes, of Barnesville, Georgia, to work with him at his Tifton studio on Love Avenue.  Thus far I have found little on Ms. Oakes, but I believe she is the one-year-old living with her parents in Barnesville in 1880, and living with her father and his second wife in Jonesboro, in 1900. I do not think she remained in photo work, and she may not have stayed with Brown long.

In June 1904, Miss Etta Hooks (1884-1935) came to work for H. W. Brown as a photographer. She was originally from nearby Poulon, Georgia, which is midway between Albany and Tifton. She worked for Brown until early 1906, when she took a job in Albany working with another photographer, H. S. Holland (Herbert Stanford Holland, 1869-1957). She remained there until Holland left for Charleston, South Carolina in about 1909 (he returned to Albany before 1920). At that point, Hooks returned to Tifton to work for H. W.  Brown again.

In April 1912 Etta Hooks married Robert L. Spurlin, and they were in Florida by 1914. Etta Mae Hooks Spurlin died in Florida in 1935, but her husband outlived her by over twenty years. They are both buried in Sylvester, Georgia, in the Hillcrest Cemetery.

Hooks took over the studio when H. W. Brown and his wife made a June to July 1904 trip to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, then on to Chicago. Supposedly Brown took a course at the Illinois School of Photography and visited photo studios, and photo plate and paper factories. (Tifton Gazette, 10 June 1904, p. 2 c. 6).

In August the newspaper reported that Brown had returned from his trip to Chicago with an “electric retouching machine.” I was not familiar with this machine and wondered how it could take the place of that done by a photo-artist, or colorist. In a lecture by a Professor Hansord on “Retouching,”  published in the Professional and Amateur Photographer, (vol. 5 , 1900,  p.25), he says the same thing:   These machines were patented at least twice, in 1884 and in 1921, and were produced into the 1960s, so they were certainly being used.

A fire in Tifton in November 1904 forced H. W. Brown to move his business from Love Avenue into the H. H. Tift building. Although his loss was considerable, it did not stop him from taking and selling photographs of the fire, in addition to selling frames, moulding, mat board, and Passe Partout Binding (Tifton Gazette, Nov. 18, 1904 p.7 c.4). By the summer of 1905, Brown was in a new studio and back on Love Avenue.

Brown, H. W. 30June1905p1c4TiftonGaz

A  photograph of the mustachioed H. W. Brown appeared in the June 30, 1905 Tifton Gazette, along with an article about his rebuilt studio, entitled “A Model Studio.”  The subtitle was “Mr. H. W. Brown’s Plant One of the Best Equipped in the State.” The description of Brown’s as the best studio “south of Atlanta” ends the piece. Extracts of this article follow.

In the studio is built a re-touching room, fitted with one of the latest electric re-touching machines.

The darkroom has five sliding windows over each other, for obtaining exactly the amount of light needed, and is supplied with running water.

The entire second floor, connected with the work room by a folding stairway (an unique invention of Mr. Brown’s), is given up to the storage of his immense stock of moldings and picture framing, and is equipped with a machine for cutting and beveling framing that insures perfect fit and saves much time.

Kodak supplies of all kinds are carried in stock, and a sample line of the finest patterns of wall paper. For this, a man will be furnished to hang the paper, if desired.

On the south side of the studio building is a handsome suite of apartments for Mr. Brown and his family, furnishing him a neat home within a stop of his work.

The year 1906 was a big one for photographer-entrepreneur H. W. Brown. In March he became the agency for the California Perfume Company’s products of  “face preparations, perfumes, extracts, etc.” (which would appeal to his female customers), he became a candidate for Tift County surveyor (he lost), he purchased the stock of art supplies and paints from the Smith Drug Store, and he bought the H. H. Tift stock of pictures and picture frames. In May he installed a $150.00 “new 11×14 Century Portrait Camera” in his studio. The May 18, 1906 Tifton Gazette article about this purchase goes on to say that

This is undoubtedly the finest and best outfit in use in South Georgia, in fact there is no better made. Mr. Brown’s studio and equipment is complete in every way, and would be a credit to any city, whatever it’s size.

In June, when business may have been slow, Brown offered $10.00 in gold “to the prettiest baby photographed” within the month, and he photographed over seventy-five babies.  In July he was retained by the city of Tifton as their city engineer for which he earned $50.00 for the year, and $3.50 per day each time he worked for them. He was now providing for his family in several different ways.

 Tifton Gazette,13 Sept. 1907 p.18

Tifton Gazette, Sept. 13, 1907 p.18

Brown was president and director of the Tifton Concert Band. This group included his young son, Howard Jr. who was the band’s Drum Major.

In 1908, H. W. Brown became the agency for Eastman Kodak and carried their cameras, film, plates, and developing supplies. In 1909 he was ordering a supply of photographic plates from France. The last phrase of the report of this purchase makes me laugh.

to be strictly up-to-date, and these plates, together with a new extremely rapid lens, — enables him to make baby pictures without fear of failure.”

In March 1909 Etta Hooks again took over the studio when Brown had to make an emergency trip. Brown would be gone ten days, but Hooks was “a competent photographer.” That year he installed “one of the largest backgrounds in South Georgia, 16 feet wide.”

Advertisement detail, Tifton Gazette, Sept. 10, 1909 p. 26

Advertisement detail, Tifton Gazette, Sept. 10, 1909 p. 26

In late 1909, Brown leased a photography studio in Fitzgerald which he would begin operating in 1910. He kept the Tifton studio, and Etta Mae Hooks was in charge of it as of January 1910.

As I said above, H. W. Brown and his wife and two children appear on the 1910 census in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Living in the same house, although listed separately as a Head of household, is another photographer I was not previously aware of, Willam Browning (1882 – 1964). He obviously worked in Brown’s studio.

At census time, Browning was married only one year to wife Bessie. Although I am not yet certain, I believe he is the same William George Browning who became a motion picture operator by 1918, when he was working in Columbus at the Grand Theatre (U. S. WWI registration cards, 1917-1918). This Browning also appears with this occupation on the 1920 U.S. Census in Columbus, Georgia.

By 1930 Browning was living in East Point, n the Atlanta area, and was still a motion picture operator. By 1940, still in Atlanta, he lived in DeKalb County and was still working in the motion picture industry. He died in Fulton County on May 9, 1964. It is gratifying to me that he remained interested in and worked with visual images for that many years.

In the summer of 1912, H. W. Brown decided to close his Tifton Studio and begin his final move to Fitzgerald. Etta Hooks married in April that year, and in September his studio (which he still owned) was rented to Mrs. H. H. Baughan, reportedly of  Blakely, Georgia. Her advertisements referred to the studio as a “home studio,” indicating she rented Brown’s studio and his house.

Tifton Gazette, Nov. 1, 1912 p. 9 c.5

Tifton Gazette, Nov. 1, 1912 p. 9 c.5

I have not found out much about Mrs. Baughan, and I need to do more in-depth research. In March 1913, when Brown returned to Tifton to move the rest of his studio fixtures to Fitzgerald, Mrs. Baughan was said to be moving to Indiana.  I will continue to look for this woman because I know her information is out there!

Brown’s Tifton studio was rented next to a Mr. Long, about whom I know nothing so far. Benjamin Long (1881-1973), considered an amateur photographer, was an insurance man in Carrollton, Georgia. He made photos from about 1910 into the 1960s.  I suppose it is possible that he rented Brown’s studio in 1913, but I do not know that – yet.

During his Tifton career, H. W. Brown made cabinet cards, platinum prints, and medallion photographs. He made photos of church groups, graduating classes, fraternal organization members, barbecues, fishing parties, and various delegations visiting Tifton and surrounding towns, including Ashburn and Sparks. He photographed special crops, like cotton, in the field and whenever it came to market in Tifton. His 1909 photo of an auto full of children won him fourth prize ($10.00) from the Rambler automobile company.

Before the end of 1905, H. W. Brown began making postcard views of Tifton, and by 1909 he was known for his novelty, exaggerated, or “specialty” postcards. These cards depicted giant watermelons on tiny carts, giant ears of corn, pumpkins, etc. These postcards by H. W. Brown come up for auction periodically, but I do not as yet have any to use as illustration here.

You can see examples of exactly this kind of photographic postcard in the American Museum of Photography’s exhibit on William H. Martin’s Trick Photographs. It is called “Did You Ever Have a Dream Like This?”

W. H. Martin worked in the Midwest at about the same time  H. W. Brown worked in Georgia.

Before 1920 Brown ceased to be a photographer, and he and his family moved to Chicago. He is on the 1920 U.S federal census there as a government assessor. In 1930, he appears on both the Illinois and the Texas federal census, and at about that time he moved his entire family down to El Paso, Texas. He worked in El Paso as an auditor of public books and he died there on March 17, 1940.

I welcome any new information (yes!) or your comments here, or if you prefer you can send your comments and questions to me via email. Until next time, I hope you have as productive an outing Hunting & Gathering as I did!

© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2014. 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. Hello! I cannot even describe my excitement upon discovering this article! I am a descendant of Robert L King and Lou Wooley. To get a little peek into their history is just amazing. I cannot wait to share this gem with my family over the holidays. Thank you!

  2. I am so happy you found this article! And I am gratified it has meaning to you. If you have any other information on R. L. King or on his wife Lou, I would love to hear it. Upon re-reading I spotted some typos I need to correct, too, so thanks for bringing me back to this!

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