J. A. Pugh, Macon Photographer, part 3: A Steady Application to Business, 1873-1887

J.A. Pugh backmark detail7 animals

Detail of a J. A. Pugh cabinet card back mark, ca. 1880; collection of E. Lee Eltzroth

In June, 1873, J. A. Pugh, as he had in the past, entered his photographs in the Fine Arts competition at the Bibb County Fair, more officially called the Bibb County Agricultural Society Fair. That year he won four “Best” awards for general Photograph, Photograph in oil, Photograph in pastel, and Collection of Photographs ([Macon] Georgia Weekly Telegraph, June 24, 1873, page 3).

A few months later Pugh entered his work in the annual Georgia State Agricultural Society Fair.  In October 1873, he showed his photographs in the Photography section of “Department 8, Fine Arts and Ladies’ Needle and Fancy Work.” He was awarded  Diplomas for the Best life size plain crayon photograph, life size pastel photograph, life size oil photograph, pastel photograph, porcelain photograph, and best lot of photogaphic views.

J. A. Pugh’s main competition at that exhibit was the partnership of Smith & Motes of Atlanta (Merton Smith, born about 1845, and died 1900,  and C. W., Columbus Washington, Motes, 1837-1919), who were partners only about five years, from fall 1871 until summer 1876. Like Pugh, they also won a Diploma for oil photograph that year, but in addition they won Diplomas for their photographs in water colors, for Best lot of photographs from retouched negatives, and the Gold Medal for Best and largest collection of photographs of all kinds from one gallery ([Macon] Georgia Telegraph and Georgia Journal & Messenger, November 11, 1873, page 1).

Smith & Motes, cdv back detail c1873

Back mark for a Smith & Motes carte-de-visite, Atlanta, GA, ca. 1873; collection E. Lee Eltzroth

Because J. A. Pugh worked in another Georgia city and not that close to Atlanta, he did not consider Smith & Motes a problem, and he returned to Macon to his photography business. In June 1874, he  repeated his 1873 awards at the Bibb County Agricultural Fair for Best Photograph, Best Photograph in oil, Best Photograph in pastel, and, with a change in terminology, for Best display of photographs ([Macon] Georgia Weekly Telegraph, June 23, 1874, page 3).

In January 1875, Pugh was out of his studio taking a photograph of the group of orphans at the Appleton Home. An editor wrote that “the picture is a good one, every form and countenance being distinctly delineated,” ([Macon] Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Georgia Journal & Messenger, January 5, 1875, page 8). This orphanage on College Street was founded by W. H. Appleton of Appleton & Co. book publishers, and it housed twenty-two girls as of December 1874 (Macon Telegraph & Messenger, Dec. 22, 1874, page 2). It is interesting to note that, among other significant publications, Appleton was the first to publish, in 1875, the memoirs of General Willam Tecumseh Sherman.

In spring 1877, J. A. Pugh, at his Premium Gallery, received an order from “one of [Macon’s] best and wealthiest citizens,” for fifteen portraits of his family. The first three “life size pictures” completed were of the same person as a baby, a child, and a man. Two were copied from daguerreotypes, and the third “from life,” and they were to be hung in the client’s “handsome parlor” (Macon Weekly Telegraph, May 2, 1877, page 4). Possibly to help with the remaining twelve portraits in that large order, J. A. Pugh brought in D. W. Van Riper, “a new artist, but an old hand at the business,” whom he advertised as being “at Pugh’s Gallery.” Van Riper’s specialty was his colorized Photo Oil Miniature. Pugh reassured the public that the studio would also continue to make their Life Size Photographic Portaits (Macon Telegraph & Messenger, May 25, 1877, page 3). The next month, in advertising an exhibit of his”Forty Life Size Photographs,” Pugh announced that the “new Photo Oil Miniatures is pronounced the prettiest picture ever made, [and] can be obtained only at Pugh’s gallery” (Macon Telegraph, June 26, 1877, page 4).

Van Riper background patent Photoc Times 1872

One of two illustrations in an article about Van Riper’s “Patent Conical Photographic Background” in The Photographic Times, May 1872, p.71

D. W. [Daniel Wilson] Van Riper (1825-1898) came to Macon a decade earlier to assist A. J. Riddle, and was there as of October 1866 to about March 1867. He left Macon to run Riddle’s Columbus, Georgia, studio until 1871. He received a patent (# 107,129) in September 1870, for his “Improvement in photographic background,” and he also received prizes that year at various competitions. In 1871 he opened his own studio in Columbus, and after working in Alabama a few years, Van Riper returned to Georgia and to Macon to work briefly with J. A. Pugh and make his photo oil miniatures.

In November 1878, A. J. Pugh’s entry to and awards at the Georgia Agricultural Society State Fair turned out to be rather controversial. When the Macon Telegraph and Messenger published the results of the photographic competition (as they saw it), photographer Thomas B. [Benton] Blackshear (1846-1911), then working in Macon, wrote the editor of that newspaper (Nov. 13, 178, page 4) to note that

Your notice of Mr. Pugh’s awards is correct, except that he did not receive “a large number,” as stated, but only the three which were enumerated.

And again, on November 17 (page 4), Blackshear wrote the “Messrs. Editors” to state that

the only premium awarded to any photographer at the State Fair was to myself, which was for “the best portrait painting.” I also received two diplomas, one for “the best display of photographs,” and one for “the best plain photograph,” which are considered by the profession the highest excellence in the photographic art.

Two days later (Nov. 19, page 4) both he and J. A. Pugh wrote the Editors of the Telegraph and Messenger, and their letters were printed in adjoining columns. Pugh wanted “allowed — the same privilege” of making a correction to the information on the State Fair premiums awarded.

Mr. Blackshear was not awarded the “principal” premium as stated in Sunday’ss paper. He could not have been awarded for the best display of portraits, for the reason that no such premium was offered.

He went on to describe each section in which awards for photographs were made, and he “regretted that the Society has not seen fit to officially publish the list of awards.” In another column, on the same page, Blackshear vented his real feelings on this subject in a letter to the Editors titled “Sick.”

The sickest men in town are Pugh and deBeruff in failing to take the pricipal premiums at the Fair, which were awarded to myself. Pugh ! ha ! ha ! the idea of making a life size oil portrait in six hours; perfectly absurd as every one knows who has common sense. If Monsieur de Beruff has $500.00 more than he has any use for, and will back up his challenge with it, we will make it interesting for him.

The letter was followed by one from Malcolm Johnson, Secretary of the State Agricultural Society, listing the premiums awarded at the Fair for portraits and photographs. Blackshear won a Premium for Best portrait painting, but Pugh won a Premium for Best life-size plain crayon photograph, as well as for Best life-size pastel photograph, and Best porcelain photograph. Blackshear also won for Best plain photograph, and for Best display of photographs.

Pugh, J.A. backmark detail5 cherib

Detail of a J. A. Pugh cabinet card back mark, ca. 1880; colleciton of E. Lee Eltzroth

One has to imagine that some of the vents expressed by these two photographers were spoken in person, and there was likely more going on between them than is told in the newspaper. In a letter published a few days later (Nov. 21, page 4) entitled”Relapsed,” Blackshear further demonstrated his disgust with Pugh and his artists.

How does “Pugh’s Gallery hold the trumps” when I was awarded the first premium in Portaiture and in Photography, for the best collection and best plain photograph. My so-called “colored Photograph” is still open to public inspection. What a sorry “Portrait Painter” to mistake an oil portrait for a “colored photograph!” How could we expect anything better from a man who proposes to “paint a portrait in oil in six hours.”

Finally Pugh responded in his letter of November 22 (page 4), called “Art Patrons.”  Noting that the public is “perhaps tired of the controversy about “the premiums.”

I am not jealous of the honor, fairly won by competitors who are my old pupils; what they know of photography, they learned at my hands, and the honor but reflects the hand of the old Master.

He mentions Mr. Johnson’s letter which “shows the truth,” and taking a jab at one of Blackshear’s premiums, he wrote that

“best plain photographs” are obsolete, not good enough for my patrons. I have all my small pictures made from “retouched negatives” which I was the first to introduce in Macon. Mr. J. B. Jewell, is special Artist in that department. All my ‘life size portraits” are first photographed and then painted by a regular portrait painter. Mr. Char. deBeruff is retained in this department, whose work gives entire satisfaction both to myself and patrons.

You will remember that five years earlier Smith & Motes were awarded a Diploma for their photographs from retouched negatives at the same Fair J. A. Pugh entered, which may have convinced Pugh that this was something to look into doing in his own studio.

Pugh, J.A. backmark detail4 plant

J. A. Pugh cabinet card back mark detail, ca. 1880; collecton of E. Lee Eltzroth

On November 26, 1878, Pugh’s letter called “The Apology” was published in the Telegraph and Messenger (page 4). It was not an apology to anyone except the public, and he wrote that he expected one from Blackshear.

In learning Blackshear the photograph business I regret that I failed to learn him a proper respect for his superiors in art. In his advertisement he deals in insulting personalities and seems to imagine he can destroy life-long reputations by a few strokes of his mighty pen. Had he extended his apology to those he has tried to insult, he could have retired more gracefully. —— I shall continue — to advertise my own business in my own way; ——- feeling that the public care nothing about it, and if they want any of the finer styles of portraits they will order at Pugh’s Premium Gallery, I drop the subject.

J. A. Pugh, Proprietor

The two individuals Pugh mentioned as working in his establishment, J. B. (James Byron) Jewell (1839-1910), and Charles deBeruff (1822-1882) were both known professionally in Georgia before their association with J. A. Pugh.

DeBeruff (sometimes knowns as Beruff), was born in Germany and came to the United States in 1849. He was in Dalton, Georgia in 1850, and was working as an artist in Augusta, Georgia, by 1851, where he also taught art. In 1857 he came to Macon to work with photographer R.L. Wood as an artist and to hand-tint photographs, until 1861. After that he was known strictly as an artist in Macon, and entered his paintings into the Georgia State Agricultural Society Fairs, before becoming associated with J. A. Pugh.

J. B. Jewell, from New Hampshire, was an artist for Savannah photographer J. N. Wilson and his son, as early as December 1867. He was a partner to Wilson, briefly, in 1871, and he continued to work for them off and on (as of 1897, for M. E. Wilson only), as an operator, photographer, and printer, to 1903. In May 1877,  J. Byron Jewell went to Americus, Georgia, to work for Mrs. G. W. Minnis, in Minnis’s Gallery. She was the recent widow of photographer George W. Minnis (d. April 1877), who had trained with one of photography’s early practitioners, M.A. Root, and was a well known photographer in Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia, before coming to Georgia. J. B. Jewell left the Minnis Gallery in December 1877, and he was working in Macon for J. A. Pugh the following year. In 1880, Jewell was assisting Pugh’s competitor T. B. Blackshear, and in 1881, he returned to Savannah to work with the Wilsons.

Pugh continued to advertise his gallery in Macon and the surrounding cities throughout the 1870s, and he was probably writing his own, flowery, newspaper copy concentrated only on his business. In the 1880 census we find that James A. Pugh, age forty, is next door to another photographer, M. G. [Morazan Gibson] Greene. This is the only year Greene appeared in Macon, and he probably assisted Pugh in his studio.

M. G. Greene (1842-1894), an itinerant photographer born in LaGrange, Georgia, worked in at least ten different Georgia cities (Atlanta, Cave Spring, Cedartown, Columbus, Gainesville, LaGrange, Macon, Marietta, Rome, and Tallulah Falls), where he made stereo views and other types of photographs, 1870-1885.

In October 1880, Pugh had a notice published in the Macon Telegraph (Oct. 5, page 1) about his newly acquired studio equipment.

To the Public.

I have received the new scenery and accessories selected during my recent trip North, and am otherwise prepared to make superior photographs of all sizes in graceful and artistic positions. I am now better than ever prepared to make life-size pictures in oil, pastel and crayon. The crayon is now the fashionable style North, West, South, and East, and I am prepared to make them as fine as they are made anywhere.

Pugh, J. A., cdv Blanche M. Kell c1880

Julia Blanche Munroe Kell (Mrs. John McIntosh Kell), carte-de-visite by J. A. Pugh, ca. 1880-82; collection of E. Lee Eltzroth

Possibly an advertisement like that one attracted the attention of Blanche Kell. Her husband, John McIntosh Kell, was a famed naval officer of the Mexican War, Perry’s expedition to Japan, and the Civil War, and he became Adjutant General of Georgia in 1887.

In August 1882, J. A. Pugh put artist Oliver Branson in charge of his gallery during his absence (perhaps going “North” again to buy supplies). Branson began working for Pugh as an artist and negative retoucher in 1881, and he continued to work for him at least until early fall 1883, when he opened his own art studio in Macon.

Oliver Martin Branson (1860-1931) was from a family of artists and photographers in Knoxville, Tennessee, the most well known of whom was artist Lloyd Branson (1853-1925). Oliver and his wife Laura worked with Lloyd in Knoxville with McCrary & Branson, a Photograph & Portrait Artists company. Oliver’s daughter Laura later ran the Branson Sisters’ Studio in Knoxville. She had another branch studio in Atlanta, run primarily by her husband William H. Boyles, from 1918 to about 1930.

Branson Sisters mat mark

Mark of the Branson Sisters Studio, ca. 1920; collection of E. Lee Eltzroth

Another of Oliver’s older brothers, Enoch (1854-1925), worked as an artist for Atlanta photographer C.W. Motes in 1879, and Oliver worked for Motes as an artist in 1891. He later did the same for Atlanta photographers Moore & Stephenson, 1902-1904. Earlier, in January 1886, Oliver worked briefly in Augusta as an artist for photographer M. [Montgomery] L. Cormany (ca. 1859-1941).

In the 1880s, one can tell through the Macon newspapers that J. A. Pugh was getting older and had more competition from other photographers, but he still employed artists, and he still advertised.

In the October 10, 1883, Telegraph and Messenger (page 4), in a very small paragraph between other bits of news, J. A. Pugh advertised that for the next thirty days, his “life-size portraits, drawn free hand, in crayon, pastel and canvas” were on sale for $25, “and life-size photographs, finely finished, for $12.50.” He also offered his smaller photos “done in a first-class style, at prices that will save money to those ordering at Pugh’s.” In the same newspaper the following month (Nov. 25, 1883, page 8), he announced that he had just finished “three lifesize portraits….one of a beautiful and popular young lady, which is a water-color painting, and the first of its kind in Macon.” Below that, in the same column, in a notice, really an advertisement, informing readers of his photographs

In Colors.

The fashionable photograph in colors can be obtained at Pugh’s gallery. In fact every style of portrait that is made anywhere Pugh is prepared to make, and no risk is run in giving him your orders. For many years he has made a specialty of fine art work, in the execution of which he is now better prepared than ever.

In 1884 he entered his “Solar Work, Plain and Tinted,” in the exhibit of the Photographers Association of America, held that year in Cincinnati, Ohio. The journal Photography (vol. 1, #8, page 172) noted that, addition to his solar work, he had on exhibit “a very creditable collection of amateur work on Inglis & Beebe plates.” The use of that term ‘amateur’ must have disappointed him. He never considered any of his work to be that, and he didn’t expect anyone else to think it so. He continued exhibiting locally, and as late as October 1885, Pugh took first Premium for Photographs at that year’s Georgia State Agricultural Society Fair.

On February 8, 1885 (page 5) Pugh advertised in the Macon Telegraph under the title “Crayon Portraits,”  noting that

At Pugh’s gallery orders for this beautiful style of portraits is largely on the increase. —- Also more of those elegant, life-size photogaphs by the new process, the negatives of which were taken in two seconds and so finely retouched that the prints are marvels of art in expression, poise, and beauty of finish. They surpass everything we have yet seen.

Later that month, Pugh placed a small advertisement for his “Fine Work” (Macon Telegraph, Feb. 28, page 5), letting the public know that he “employs a special artist for crayon, pastel and oil portraits.” In 1886, he stated that he had a “first-class artist retained for crayon, oil and pastel painting…” (Macon Telegraph, April 1, 1886, page 7, col. 2).

A short note from Macon, in the Atlanta Constitution‘s “Personal and Otherwise” column (June 5, 1885, page 2, column 2) related that “Colonel J. A. Pugh, the photographer” took a series of photographs of the Wadley monument pedestal, and “quite a crowd witnessed the colonel’s operations.” Pugh continued taking photos outside the studio. In September 1886, he advertised he had a

full artistic force in all departments, and will send out to make views of residences, family groups, old persons or babies, and will charge no more than if made at the gallery.

J. A. Pugh, the Artistic Photo Artist

In January 1886, he placed a very small advertisement called “Truth and Art” which he said were “combined in those spendid photographs” at his gallery (Macon Telegraph, Jan. 31, 1886, page 7, col. 2) and in February 1886 Pugh let everyone know his photography was “Modernized” (Macon Telegraph, February 17, 1886,  page 7, col. 2) and that his were “the newest and best instruments” and his work was “first-class in every particular.” The next month he placed a very small advertisement in the Macon Telegraph (March 2, 1886, page 7, col. 2), stating he could copy old photos and make them “a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”

April 1886 was an interesting month for J. A. Pugh. In the middle of the month, an article appeared in the Macon Telegraph (April 13, 1886, page 5) about eighty-year-old photographer, G. H. Hinds (G is possibly supposed to be J. for James) who was working with Pugh. Hinds, “whose experiences had been wonderfully interesting,” had once worked with Samuel F. B. Morse, and had been a photographer for many years, but now he was traveling around “extracting silver from the waste that always accumulates in photographers’ studios.” He purchased “about ten pounds” of it from the Macon studios. Before he left for Augusta, Pugh “took a fine photograph of him on a home-made dry plate.” In the very next day’s issue of the Telegraph (April 14, 1886, page 7), was a note stating that J. A. Pugh was “considering the advisability of establishing a factory for the manufacture of the dry plates used in his business,” which he believed he could make and sell, and employ more than fifty people. His big plans for the factory were never realized.

Pugh continued to work out of the studio in spring 1886. He photographed the Georgia Press Association of newspaper editors, in Macon for their 18th annual meeting, on the steps of Wesleyan Female College (Macon Telegraph, April 30, page 5, col. 2), and in May he was in Montezuma photographing their new bridge (Macon Telegraph, May 8, 1886, page 8, col. 1).

In early June 1886, J. A. Pugh advertised his frames at cost and said he was still making the “finest photographs and portraits made in the South” (Macon Telegraph, June 5, 1886, page 7, col. 2). Later that month  he attended the Photographers Association convention in St. Louis, and the Macon Telegraph reported on it, saying he went “to catch up on all the new ideas in photography” (June 28, page 4, col. 2). In November he took another trip to New York and came back “with all the new improvements in photography.” (Macon Telegraph, Nov. 28, 1886 p8, c1).


The same builidng occupied by J. A. Pugh’s studio is still standing at the corner of Mulberry and Second streets, Macon, Georgia. Screenshot from Google Maps made by Erin Kirk New, 2018.

In January 1887, James Adolphus Pugh was living in “one of the rooms of his gallery,” at the corner of Mulberry and Second streets, because the Hotel Lanier, where he normally lived, was being remodeled. He had remained a bachelor.

On the evening of January 21, J. A. Pugh, who had complained of a cold for a few days,  was at the public library looking at illustrated books when he described “a burning sensation in his chest” to a colleague, and went home. The next morning “the well-known photographer was found dead in his bed” by the porter for the Pugh Gallery, Adam Whitehead.

T. B. Blackshear, who had apparently made peace with J. A. Pugh, was made foreman of a jury looking into his death (Blackshear was also a pall bearer, per Macon Telegraph, January 24, 1887, page 4). Pugh was declared to have died of “congestion of both brain and lungs.” The Macon Telegraph (January 23, 1887, page 5) described him “in all respects a self-made man.” They believed he came to Macon as a “factory boy,” before studying the art of the daguerreotype with R. L. Wood (for more information, see part 1 and 2 of this series:  The Go Ahead Young American and  The Self-Made Man).

Notice of Pugh’s death appeared in The Atlanta Consitution (“Found Dead in Bed,” Jan. 23, 1887, page 6), who repeated much of the Macon article, with some inconsistencies. They closed the article with a summation of J. A Pugh’s life: “By economy and a steady appplication to business, he accumulated [property of] about thirty thousand dollars. According to the Macon Weekly Telegraph ( January 25, 1887, page 2) Pugh left property worth between twenty and thirty thousand dollars.

J. A. Pugh’s brother, D. P. Pugh, arrived in Macon from Americus to make arrangements for James’ funeral, and his burial at Rose Hill Cemetery. According to the Milledgeville Union Reoreder (Jan. 25, 1887, page 7), “A large number of friends attended [and] the pall-bearers consisted of his old friends, being among the best citizens of Macon.” His death did not go unnoticed by his fellow professionals in the photogaphic community and an obituary appeared in the Photographic Times (February 4, 1887, page 60 [vol. 17, #281[). They repeated the same news out of Macon — even so, I think J. A. Pugh would have been pleased.

Pugh’s Photograph Gallery was for rent by late July (Macon Telegraph, July 23, 1887, page 5) and Pugh’s properties in Macon were put up for sale in an Administrator’s Sale in September (Macon Telegraph, September 6, 1887, page 5). The Gallery was reopened by L. (Leonard) S. Hill (1849-1932) later that September (Macon Telegraph, September 25, 1887, page 3) and he advertised having all “the negatives of the late Mr. Pugh.” Hill, originally from Rhode Island, had worked with T. B. Blackshear in 1885-1886, but had been in Macon since about 1874. He was recorded as a cabinet maker in Macon on the 1880 federal census. Hill joined L. (Lawrence) R. Longhurst (1845-1916), an artist with Blackshear since 1877, as L. S. Hill & Co., 1888-1909.  Hill left for Alabama in 1909, but he returned to Macon in 1912 and was a photographer there until about 1920.

Pugh, J.A. portrait cab woman

Portrait vignette of an unknown woman, cabinet card by J. A. Pugh, ca. 1885; collection of E. Lee Eltzroth

I hope you enjoyed taking a look at the life of one of Georgia’s prominent photographers via my three-part posts. Even though his life was cut short, James A. Pugh had a career that lasted almost thirty-five years. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him much better through my hunting and gathering of some additional facts. The interesting life he lead, the prominent artists he worked for, with, and employed, as well as his photographic output, show us that he was a unique, and significant figure in our state’s photographic history.

© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2019. 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. Frances Robb · · Reply

    Wouldn’t it be fun to read the newspapers when these guys were duking it out in their ads and editorial comments. What bragging. What hyperbole. I read your article very slowly so as not to miss a word from those guys, Thanks for a lift on a dreary January afternoon. Frances

    1. Thanks so much for reading. This last one was way too long, but it is shorter than it was!

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