Recently I read the short story by raconteur Donald Davis, called “See Rock City” in the book by the same name (subtitled “A Story Journey Through Appalachia”; August House, 1996). It made me laugh out loud, and I decided this is the right time to write about those photographers who have that Tennessee-Georgia connection. In this two-part post, I am going to be reaching right across those state lines that exist only upon a map.
This post will concentrate on those photographers in the Lookout Mountain, and Chattanooga area, but I have written about Tennessee-Georgia photographers before. First, in a post from April 2013, in part 2 of my post Researching Photographers Working in the South: North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. I also discussed Gainesville, Georgia photographer N.C. White (senior), who became a photographer in Tennessee by 1880. I wrote about his son’s account book, and their photographic work, in another post: An Account Book.
And I have written briefly about the Chickamauga area, which is quite near and forever linked to Lookout Mountain because of the Civil War battles fought there (Chckamauga being “won” by the Confederates prior to their loss to the Union of Lookout). I used two KeystoneView Company ca. 1898 stereo views depicting soldiers stationed at Camp Chickamauga during the Spanish American War, in two similar posts – one on Memorial Day and the other on Veteran’s Day 2013.
In April 2015, I posted the second of two parts about the Reeves-Hearn family of Georgia photographers and their Tennessee connections; primarily in Part One, but you might also take a look at Part Two. Of course, you can always do a search on the word “Tennessee” at the box top right on this page and bring up these posts and a few others.
Now, to that Mountain!
Lookout Mountain is part of the Cumberland Plateau, the southern terminus of the Appalachian mountain chain. Its widest part is between Cloudland, Georgia, and Mentone, Alabama, about nine miles; the actual Lookout range runs through the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.
Lookout Mountain, Georgia, is in Walker County on the Georgia-Tennessee line. It is headquarters for the See Rock City tourist attraction (some of you may remember the painted Barn roofs – see seven states!) – but, “Lookout Mountain, Tennessee,” in the Chattanooga area, in Hamilton County, Tennessee, is what always comes to mind when we think of area photographs.
George N. Barnard (1819 – 1902) is a photographer we often think about when we consider images made there. I have mentioned Barnard before in this blog, in relation to his colleague-photographers J. F. Coonley and C. J. Quinby, in a post called A Little R & R – Encounters with Readers and Research.
G. N. Barnard made photographs in the area before any photographer would establish a resident studio on Lookout.
Barnard’s 1866 book Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, included his photographs of the “Scenes of the — Great Battles around Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain” made by him as the official photographer of the Military Division of the Mississippi, which was under the command of General William T. Sherman.
The published images were made from his “negatives taken in the field” and include views taken from Lookout Mountain as well as scenes taken on the Mountain itself. Barnard also produced images of the area as a series of stereo views, such as that you see above. Once Barnard left Chattanooga and the Lookout area, he followed the Army and made photographs in north Georgia, including in Ringold, Resaca, Altoona, and Kennesaw.
According to an article, “Lookout Mountain, and How We Won It,” published in the June 1868 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (v. 37, p. 1-15), the magazine’s journalists and illustrators called themselves the “Bohemian Club,” and they were embedded with the Army during the fighting around Lookout:
When the battle was over, the pursuit of the rebels ended — the pilgrimage to the mountain began; and daily, and for months after the victory, whole brigades of the Army of the Cumberland visited the scene of the exports of their comrades — The Bohemian Club reinforced themselves with a photographer, and established themselves in “Camp Harper’s Weekly,” — Here they painted and photographed, sketched and scribbled, until in the course of time all that was prominent, or picturesque, or interesting, on or off the mountain and the battle, was preserved….
In a short article in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper of April 30, 1864, entitled “The Photographer of Lookout Mountain,” it was stated that
There was a sad addenda to this Frank Leslie’s article, that was incorrect! The following update to my original post regarding Roper, is based on the research of Ron Field, as given in his beautiful book, Silent Witness – The Civil War Through Photography and its Photographers (Osprey Publishing, 2017) page 166-168. I regret that it has taken me all this time to get to this update. My apologies, and thanks, to Mr. Field.
Not long after the battle of Lookout Mountain one of our artists — visited the spot, on his way from the Mississippi, and ascending to the spot [where the Battle took place], was no less surprised than amused to find on the then silent summit, — the tent of a travelling photographer, who had pitched his tent here — to take portraits and include a view of the famous scenery.
— but now we have now to add another sketch, sent to us by an officer of the 11th corps (based on the sketch by topographical engineer August Ligowsky), showing the sad close of the career of the photographer, Mr. Wm. F. Porter, who, while placing a lady and gentleman, lost his foothold and fell down the precipice, a distance of some 200 feet.
If you enlarge the illustration, you can see that in the right panel, the supposed William F. Porter falling to his death. “Photographer Porter” was actually a photographer named William B. (Bryham) Roper, who had been a photographer in Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the 78th Pennsylvania Infantry in September 1861, and in the month of November 1863, Roper’s company was camped high above Lookout Mountain. It seems he began working at the site within months after the Battle (which took place November 24, 1863) taking photographs of soldiers and civilians coming to Point Rock. He was still there in mid-March of 1864, when he fell over one hundred feet to his death while adjusting his camera.
Years later, the identity of Roper, after whom the Rock was named, was still in question. In an 1871 New York Times article (May 5, 1871, p. 2 “Through the South,” c. 4 section “Roper’s Rock”), they wondered if Roper was possibly a local man visiting the area with his fiancee, who fell to his death at this spot.Another photographer made the same decision to make photographs atop Lookout Mountain. Considered the first, and most influential, of the resident photographers on the mountain, R. M. (Robert “Royan” Michael) Linn (ca. 1829 – 1872), an Ohio photographer, set up a studio above Umbrella Rock.
Historians place photographer R. M. Linn at Lookout just after the battles (Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge) in late 1863. Many of the Linn photographs held by Library of Congress are dated 1863, and although I have not verified this, a family account online believes that he was a photographer and cartographer under General George H. Thomas’s command, which could certainly place him there quite early.Linn was advertising in Augusta Georgia in fall 1865. On September 12, 1865 (p. 3 c.2) the editor of the Augusta [GA] Chronicle wrote that Linn’s views were “striking and lifelike, and called Lookout “The greatest natural curiosity on the American Continent.” Already the place was a tourist haven.
Appearing in the same Augusta, Georgia newspaper issue as R. M. Linn’s 1865 advertisement, was one for the Lookout Mountain House, a hotel built to accommodate the growing number of tourists. The proprietors in September 1865 were partners signing themselves Torrey & Peloubet, but by July 1866, the proprietors were Cooper & James. Their advertisement shows how very popular Lookout Mountain had become to those outside the area, or that these partners were going to see to it that it would be.Although I originally thought Roper predated Linn at Lookout, they were probably contemporaries. After the battles, and the U.S. Army had control of the area, officers and others began making their pilgrimage to the site, catching the eye of the photographer(s). See Jeffrey Kraus and Bob Zeller’s The Perils of Photography at Point Lookout, R. M. Linn for Linn’s own stereo views of the interior and exterior of his studio, and of Linn himself. Note the cited diarist’s confusion over the names Roper and Porter.
A Union Army photographer with the department of the Army of the Cumberland, Isaac H. Bonsall (1833-1909), also documented the Lookout-Chattanooga area in late 1863 and early 1864. He photographed R.M. Linn with his stereo camera and assistants there, and I have seen one of those photographs for sale online.
On September 26, 1871, in the year before his death, R. M. Linn obtained a patent for his “Improvement in photographic filtering apparatus” (No. 119,375). Just after his death, A Practical Method of Operating, Used and Practiced by the Late Prof. R. M. Linn, of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee was announced as published in December 1872, presumably by his brother J. B. Linn.
After R. M. Linn died, the studio was carried on by his brother and assistant, J. B. (James Birney) Linn (1844-1922), who was quite a bit younger than his deceased brother. I believe he joined the business by 1866, and a carte de visite back mark dated ca. 1865 does carry his name as the “brother.”As studio proprietor, James continued to build the studio brand, and he continued publishing photographs to attract tourists to the area. In May 1874, the Press Association of New York and Alabama made an excursion to Lookout Mountain. The “Northern Men Were Thrilled and Astonished,” and they were “struck with the advantageous position of Chattanooga and surroundings” (Rome [GA] Weekly Courier, May 30, 1874 p.2 c.4). Perhaps they also visited Linn’s gallery.
By 1884, J. B. Linn had “a large museum of battle relics — guns, shot, shell, canteens, etc. both in his eagle eyrie studio at the Point and at his pretty little flower-surrounded cottage — where he keeps the mountain post office.” (“Rambling Talks-Lula Lake, Rock City… ” in Sunny South, Sept. 27, 1884 p. 4 c.1-2). Mr. J. B. Linn certainly had a finger in every pie.
For other views made by the Linns, see the Chattanooga History Center .
J. B. Linn continued with the studio until 1886, when George T. Linn (1867-1941), R. M. Linn’s son who lived in James’ home from a young age, took over. George later opened a studio on Sunset Rock and leased the Point studio to Michigan photographers, the Hardie Brothers. The Hardie brothers published at least two books of photographs, Hardie’s Illustrated Guide to Lookout Mountain in 1891, and their One Hundred and Fifty Selected Views Photographs of Lookout Mountain, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge in 1895 [both for sale on ABEbooks, May 2016].
G. T. Linn also published various photo albums of Lookout Mountain and the area, including those taken by his father and uncle related to the Civil War. For about five years, 1901 to about 1906, he had a partner named William A. Rollins, and they also put out a One Hundred and Fifty Selected Views Photographs of Lookout Mountain, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, ca. 1901, so possibly Linn had once granted the Hardie Brothers use of those photos.
It seems that a G. H. Gaston took over the Hardie Bros. Point studio, then leased it back to Linn & Rollins, and the Linn Studio stayed in the family until about the time of G. T. Linn’s death.
What about those photographers who worked the area and crossed that invisible state line, moving both to and from the cities of Rome and Dalton, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee? There were quite a few of them from the late nineteenth into the twentieth century. And who were the Georgians who visited Lookout to have their photographs made? Part-Two of this post will attempt to answer those questions.
As you continue your own Hunting & Gathering, I hope that the mountains you face to achieve your goals are easier to climb than Lookout Mountain!
© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2016. 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.