Tuesday, January 12, 2016


This week is my last at Tulane University Libraries' Southeastern Architectural Archive. I have taken a position as head of the Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections at Kansas State University.

In sorting through personal and professional files, I've come across a few things I had set aside to investigate later. Photographs of costumed ladies posed against painted backdrops, a flood-devastated western town, bright linens hanging outside a rustic lakeside cabin (above). I acquired all these images by digging through boxes at the Originals Mall of Antiques in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. None of them bore any textual identification, familial or geographic designations.

The Western Town

A series of three photographs documented some natural disaster, possibly a bad storm and/or flood. I had speculated the pictures were from the late 19-teens, but using a Peak Lupe 8x Model 2018, I could make out the following building markers:

Hotel Vail (below,  left)
Santa Fe / The Hub (below, center)
The Hotel Vail is still standing and is on the National Register, so identifying the locale as Pueblo, Colorado was fairly easy.

Not knowing anything about Pueblo's history, I used America's Historic Newspapers database and Denver Public Library's Digital Collections to confirm that the event was the June 3, 1921 flood. The unidentified photographer focused his/her lens on the the vicinity of the high water mark along Union Avenue. At its peak, the flood covered over 300 square miles.

The Photo Postcard Studio

A series of four real-photo postcards presented women dressed in costumes set against painted backdrops or decorative curtains. They seemed to be from the 1940s, and given the subject matter, most likely from the Great Plains. The photographer used EKC paper with undivided backs, but none of the versos bear anything more distinctive.

There is a Cultivator
And a Reaper

And Two Harvesters
And a Geisha
Yes, a geisha. With a cherry blossom kimono and a peacock-feathered fan.

In the last decade, there has been a growing interest in rural studio photography:

The John Michael Kohler Art Center's current exhibit Bringing to Light: The Massengill Family Photo Collection (through 17 January) features portraits produced in an Arkansas mobile studio. Many of the images are hand-colored close-up photographs; some can be viewed via Maxine Payne's 2004 Making Pictures: Three for a Dime.

Luc Sante's Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo Postcard (2009) addresses the proliferation of small-town photo postcards during the early twentieth century. Sante's interest in the format stemmed from a random encounter with a New York peddler over thirty years ago.


Thomas Rosell said...

Tulane's loss is K States gain. I'll miss the posts about Mississippi related material, but I look forward to learning about the West. Best of luck with the move and transition.

Keli Rylance said...

Thank you! You never know.. there may be a little Mississippi in Kansas.

Lara Solonickne said...

Good luck, Keli!


Keli Rylance said...

Thank you Lara!

Susanna Powers said...

Hi Keli, Sorry I was out on your last day... we'll miss you, and good luck in your new home! Susanna

Keli Rylance said...

Thank you Susanna! Hope all is well at Tulane.