19th century photos

Lewiston and Montana Trip

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the LCSC Center for Arts & History in Lewiston, Idaho. I was an invited lecturer to kick off their three-month exhibition on photographic history of their region. The exhibition is titled: Stories We See—Early Photography of the Valley.  My research has examined Idaho’s first lady photographer, Mrs. Amelia Strang, who had her commercial studio in Lewiston during the mid-1860s. She is a centerpiece in my upcoming book on women photographers of the Pacific Northwest during the 19th century.

The trip took me through the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, along the Lochsa River, which I did fish on the morning of my return. Next, I ventured down the Bitterroot Valley into Idaho and followed the Salmon River and spent the night at the Syringa Lodge in Salmon. To finish out the trip, I continued south to Challis and then through the Big Lost River Valley to MacKay and then home. Lots of great autumn colors, dramatic clouds, and snow along the mountain peaks.

Prairies, Weird Rocks, Atomic Canons, and the Oz Museum: Another Kansas Photo Road Trip

So over the past few years, my colleagues and I have taken groups of students on short two or three-day photo road trips over into Kansas and the Flint Hills region. Usually we do this over Spring Break and it’s cold, windy, and generally unpleasant. This time though, we decided on an autumn trip, which gave us much better weather and the opportunity to shoot star trails at a very unique location.

After an uneventful drive to Emporia on Friday evening, we gathered the whole gang for diner at Montana Mike’s Steakhouse. Our next morning would take us to the Tall Grass National Prairie Preserve before sunrise…a challenge for most college students…but ours were up to the task! We were rewarded with great light and interesting cloud formations. Once the sunrise light had faded to mundane morning light, we split into three parties and hiked separate trails until our rendezvous around noon back at the farmhouse. Lunch was enjoyed at yet another gas station (this seems to be a recurring theme in our trips!) that also doubled as the Flint Hills Restaurant in Strong City.

By late afternoon on Saturday, we arrived in central Kansas and checked into our rooms in Salina. Now the excitement was about to begin! We descended en masse upon a lonely Subway shop with only one employee working and then packed our suppers into our camera bags and headed north to Rock City, near Minneapolis, Kansas. This was Wilson’s and mine second trip to this otherworldly spot of sedimentary rock “concretions”. The stars (and the Milky Way) were stunning. Other heavenly bodies also appeared: shooting stars (or are they falling stars?), man-made satellites (two), high-altitude jets, and finally a nearly full moon.

Sunday morning we all had a leisurely breakfast at IHOP and then we headed east to Junction City to climb the ridge to shoot panoramas of the Atomic Canon and Fort Riley army base. Here the students and faculty parted ways and we (the faculty) sought other adventures at the Oz Museum and abandoned 19th century one-room structures near Wamego, including the nearby Beecher Bible & Rifle Church! The afternoon was rounded out with a nice find of 19th century photographs (including a carte-de-visite by famous Wisconsin photographer H. H. Bennett) from an antique shop in Alma. Below are photos from our road trip…enjoy!

Dr. Tom photographing the sunrise at Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Sunrise on the prairie. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Star trails at Rock City, Kansas. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Star trails with gift shop at Rock City, Kansas. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Journey into the Land of Oz. © 2011 Terry Ownby


Panoramic overlooking Fort Riley with its M65 Atomic "Annie" Canon. © 2011 Terry Ownby

19th Century Photo History

This is just a short post about a new blog I started over the summer. Nearly two decades ago I started collecting 19th century photographs and developed a keen interest in the history of photography. In 1995, I launched a business focused on collecting, researching, and dealing in 19th century images. I called it Antiquarian Images, Ltd (AiLimited). The collection grew rapidly to include: daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, melainotypes (aka tin types), cartes-de-visite (CDV), cabinet cards, and miscellaneous albumen and carbon prints.

Unknown. "Uncle Gaylord & Aunt Amelia Warner, New York farmers". Sixth-plate daguerreotype, ca. 1845-49. Collection of Terry Ownby, PhD.

By the end of the decade I shifted the focus of my career from photographing advertisements to teaching photography and consequently AiLimited was placed on an indefinite sabbatical. Although during the intervening years I never stopped collecting interesting 19th century images, mostly CDVs and cabinet cards from different states and territories within the U.S. and especially from the Civil War and Reconstruction Era of American history.

John M. Munn, Cairo, Illinios. "Confederate officer with cigar," ca. 1864-1866. Collection of Terry Ownby, PhD.

This summer I took AiLimited out of the mothballs and launched a new blog devoted to researching and writing about images within my collection. This fits nicely with my doctoral research, which focused on how photographic images can be used to construct or reconstruct an individual’s personal or social identity. From a visual ethnographer’s standpoint, this becomes an exciting challenge…much like detective work except it’s all in the historical past. One unique aspect of this type of research is that it allows me to use my past training as a professional genealogist when recreating the life story of either the patron posed in the photograph or that of the photographer that created the image.

This academic school year I finally get to teach the photo history course here at the University of Central Missouri. I am really excited to teach a subject for which I have a unique passion. For anyone who may be like-minded or even mildly interested in photographs from the earliest years of the photographic era, I would encourage you to join The Daguerreian Society. I originally joined in 1995 and had great experiences discussing with and learning from other Society members around the country. The Society’s annual symposium and auction is coming up soon and this October it will be in Florida’s Gulf Coast city of St. Petersburg. Hope to see you there!

Check out Antiquarian Images, Ltd. blog at http://ailimited.wordpress.com

Matthew B. Brady's Studio. Autograph of Southern attorney and judge, A.M. Hughes, ca. 1864. Collection of Terry Ownby, PhD.