More Unknown Women in Georgia Photography – Athens

Unidentified Woman, portrait by Mr. & Mrs. Persons, Dublin, GA, ca. 1910

In March 2016, in my database of Georgia photographers, I counted 190 women involved in the business of photography in Georgia, from the mid-nineteeth to the mid-twentieth cenury. That was only five more than I noted in March 2015. In March 2019, the total was about 240, and by March 2020, I had documented at least twenty more, so over 260 women. This year I count 275, fifteen more. That is a nice addition in the past year, with several new names I found to research further, and I like to think I now know more about those women I had previously documented.

Ida May Beck was an additional name to me, although I knew of a Beck as a partner name. In May 1902, Beck bought the Athens photography studio at 115 1/2 Broad Street, from another woman, a “Miss Branch.” Minnie L. Branch (1877-1943) purchased the photography studio in spring 1899, from Claude Maddox (1868-1942), who had been in that location only about a year, after returing to Athens from Cincinnati, to which he returned. Maddox had purchased it from the[C. F.] McDannell – Harris studio, in late 1897.

Minnie Branch kept that photo studio from 1899 to 1901. According to the 1900 census, she was living in a boarding house run by the Ash family, as was her widowed mother. Also living there was another photographer, J. O. (Jerome Ord) Palmer (1873-1957). He had served in the Spanish-American war and was discharged at the end of January 1899, at Camp Haskell, in Athens Georgia. By 1900, Palmer was probably working with Branch as a photographer in her studio.

This advertisment for McAdam & Beck of April 18, 1903, pg. 4 col. 3, appeared in the Athens Banner from April 11 through mid-May 1903 (it also appeared on May 23 and June 2, after the partnership had ended).

The studio was noted as purchased from Branch by “Miss Beck” of Lake City, Florida, in May 1902 (Athens Daily Banner May 20, 1902, pg. 4 col. 4). She was to take over as of May 25, and when that day came, she was a partner to Mrs. M. I. McAdam, as McAdam & Beck. I have not yet found the full name of Mrs. McAdam, but as of about mid-May 1903, Beck had withdrawn from the partnership (although their advertisement appeared a few times after that) and it became the McAdam Studio.

As of October 1903, Ida May Beck was working at Wilson’s Photo Studio, in Waycross (Waycross Journal, Oct. 27, 1903 p3c1). Although I cannot find any trace of her as a photographer after that, her possible birth and death dates are 1873-1905. If so, she had an unfortunately early end to her life.

The May 1902 Athens Banner article reported that Miss Branch and her mother were returning to Atlanta. There was strong competition in the city of Athens, including photographers A.J. Hajos and C.W. Motes (1837-1919). Motes began his career in Athens and became a prominent photographer in Atlanta, but he returned to Athens to work for a few years later in his life.

Photographers Minnie Branch and Jerome O. Palmer married in Fulton County, Georgia (Atlanta) in February 1903. They continued to live in Atlanta, and it seems that J.O. Palmer did not get back into photography until 1917. That year he began working as a clerk at the Glenn Photo Company, but he stayed there only about a year. Prior to that time he was a traveling salesman, and held related jobs. The Palmers are listed in the 1922 Atlanta city directory, and J. O. Palmer is listed as working there as a photographer — but the two were also running a photography studio in Vidalia by 1920, which was in business about fifteen years. They eventually retired to Atlanta.

Advertisement in the Clarke County Courier, June 16, 1905, pg. 2 col. 3

The next occupant of the 115 1/2 Broad Street photography studio in Athens was Miss M. E. (Mamie Elaida) Salter, and her brother J.S. (Jesse Sheppard) Salter. They were the children of of Jesse Zebulon Salter, a photographer in Newberry, South Carolina. Five children of J.Z. Salter, including Mamie and Jesse, were photographers in Newberry and five other cities, well into the 1920s (see Harvey Teal’s Partners With the Sun, for more on the Salter family of Newberry).

The Salters advertised in the Athens Banner on September 9, 1904, as “Artists,” but did a “Full Line of Art and Photo Work,” including life-size hand work portraits, platinotype photos, and Penny Pictures. In December they offered one 16×20 (inch) crayon with a $4.00 order for photos, and 25 Penny Photos for 25 cents. At this point they began to call the studio the Silver Star, because they had red stairs with silver stars leading up to the studio. In June 1905, the Silver Star Studio wanted you to be beautiful (advertisement at left). In 1906 the studio was back to being more simply titled “the Salter Art Studio.”

Mamie Salter remained in Athens through about December 1906, but her brother Jesse stayed through about May 1907, before returning to South Carolina. He only lived until July 1913. In October 1909, Mamie Salter married a South Carolina businessman and politician, Arthur Kibler. Mamie E. Kibler passed away, long a widow, in 1956. She, her husband, and her brother are buried with other family in Newberry, South Carolina’s Rosemont Cemetery.

A few other interesting things have recently turned up for me regarding Athens women involved in the business of photography. A surprise in the 1910 U.S. census for Athens was finding that the well-known Georgia artist Lucy May Stanton is listed, of course, with her Occupation as “Artist,” but under her Industry is noted “Oil Photo.” I am not really sure what that means. She was living with her brother-in-law and sister on Cobb Street, where she also had a studio.

A Miss Sara Moss of Athens won “recognition as a photographer,” according to the Atlanta Constitution, July 28, 1921 (pg. 6 col. 4), when she won first prize in a contest held by the Eastman Company. The subject was her aunt Julia, as she sat knitting. She had also photographed Chancellor [David C.] Barrow, of the University of Georgia, as well as other people and places of Athens.

I hope you found something here of note or helpful to you in your own Hunting and Gathering. Celebrate the unknown women in your own family — you may find a few photographers!

© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including her photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author, is prohibited. With permission, 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.

2 comments

  1. Great research. Generally speaking, a comprehensive history of 19th century American female photographers has yet to be written.

    1. True, those that are out neglect the South, among other areas.

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