By Patricia Jones
Photographers became important in America after the Civil War. Because of war photography we recognized the importance of photographs in sharing information and recording history. After the war, Americans moved west, but pioneer families could never afford the expense or the time required to have an artist paint their portraits. However, they could pose for a local photographer. Josiephine’s Photo Parlor serves that function at Dobby’s Frontier Town.
Photography was first developed in the 1820’s, but at least eight hours or even several days of exposure in the camera were required and the earliest results were very crude.
In 1839, both the metal-based daguerreotype process and the paper-based calotype negative and salt print processes were developed that required only minutes of exposure in the camera, and produced clear, finely detailed results. In 1884 George Eastman developed the Kodak camera which used film. However, glass plates were far superior to film because they were stable and less likely to bend or distort images. All of these advances made photography much more accessible, and many communities then had a photography studio.
The photographer recorded photos of families in their nicest clothes. Special occasions like weddings were frequent subjects. Photographers were also called on to record deaths, taking pictures of a deceased family member just before a burial. More than one baby picture has been found with the eyes closed, before the grief-stricken family laid the child to rest.
The arrival of an immigrant family was an important subject for photographers. These photos were sent back to the “old country.” They often showed secret pre-arranged hand signals telling viewers if they should follow or stay where they were, if they were doing well or poorly, if land was good for farming, or if there were other opportunities in the area.
Be sure to visit Josiephine’s Photo Parlor during Dobby’s Fall Festival, September 18-19, 2021. Steph’s Studio takes old-time photos of visitors, using pioneer clothing and props. Josiephine’s Photo Parlor can be found in the western part of Dobby’s Frontier Town along the south boardwalk.
Dobby’s Frontier Town is located at 320 East 25th Street/ Nance Road, Alliance. The town is open 10:00-6:00 daily for self-guided tours, and donations are appreciated.