Shots from the Past: Early Benton County Photographers, Oregon, USA
Shots from the Past:
Early Benton County Photographers

Shots from the Past: Early Benton County Photographers

June 10 - July 30, 2011

Oregon State University Archives and Benton County Museum presented an exhibition of historical photographs from the OSU, Horner Museum, and BCHS collections at the Moreland Auditorium from June 10 to July 30, 2011. Represented were nearly one hundred photographs and biographical highlights of over two dozen Oregon photographers and photo studios that date prior to World War One.

Photographers represented include: Albert Abendroth, W. M. Ball, Chester M. Coffey,Conn and Underwood, Henry De Groot, Lottie Ebbert, William Emery, John Fulton, W.S. Gardner, L. Goldson, S.B. Graham, S.E. Gray & Co, E. Heslop, Robert M. Howells, George Leeper, C. Morris, Mrs. R. Morrison, R. C. Moseley, T.H. Mulkey, Pernot Brothers, E.W. Philips, David Stryker, Sydney Emmet Trask, Maggie Weigand, George Weister, and the Woodruff Gallery.

Corvallis Oregon photographer Albert George Emil Abendroth, 1910
Albert George Emil Abendroth

Albert George Emil Abendroth


As a student at Oregon Agricultural College (OAC, now OSU), "Abbie" was known as "a camera fiend of marvelous ability..." Despite his ability, he did not pursue photography as a career. Instead, after graduating in 1910 with a degree in mining engineering, he returned to Portland, where he worked as an accountant and later a merchant.

William Maurice Ball studio photographer Corvallis, OR, USA

William Maurice Ball, Ball Studio, Corvallis, Oregon

William Maurice Ball


William Ball worked as a train dispatcher in the midwest until he opened his first photography studio. Visiting Oregon, he liked the state so much that he moved his family to Corvallis in 1912. He opened Ball Studio, advertising its "commercial dept., large stock of Oregon views, timber, coast, fruit and ranch, photo cirkut panoramic work." Having been trained in art at the Corcoran Gallery and the Chicago Art Institute, he won many awards for his artistic photographs. He also introduced new photographic and business methods, earning him the title of "dean of Oregon photographers." Family continued the business. Today his great granddaughter, Holly Peterson, is the fourth generation to run Ball Studio, the oldest continuously operating photography business in Oregon.

Chester Coffey, early 20th century American photographer

Chester Coffey

Chester M. Coffey


A descendant of early Oregon pioneers, Chester Coffey grew up on a farm near Scio. He arrived in Corvallis in the fall of 1905 to attend OAC (OSU) where he studied art. In 1907, he opened a photography studio in Corvallis but sold it two years later. After several moves, he eventually returned to Oregon to establish photography studios in McMinnville and, later, Portland. Well known in the photography trade, he served as officer of several professional organizations.

Conn & Underwood Oregon photographers, Corvallis, Albany, Oregon, USA
Conn & Underwood

Conn and Underwood

Richard E. Conn (ca. 1853-1947)
and Joseph L. Underwood

In 1891, partners Richard Conn and Joseph Underwood had studios in both Corvallis and Albany. The following year, Conn moved to Portland, maintaining a photography studio there until he went into the grocery business in 1902. It appears that Underwood remained in Corvallis, eventually becoming the manager at the Graham and Wells drugstore.

Henry DeGroot, Photographer, Corvallis, Oregon

Henry De Groot

Henry DeGroot

In the second half of the nineteenth century, two men named Henry DeGroot were taking photographs in the west. The photographer who took the photos in this exhibtion seems to be the younger man, born in New York in 1849. In 1870, he was working for a photographer in San Francisco. By 1884, he was in partnership with Charles Morris in Corvallis. He remained there until 1886, when he seems to have moved to northern California and, by 1900, to Medford.

Oregon cedar shake cutter photo by Lottie Ebbert, Benton County, Oregon
Photo by Lottie Ebbert printed from glass plate negative

Lottie Butler Ebbert

ca. 1874-1965

After Lottie Butler married Henry Ebbert in 1906, they moved to a farm in the Beavercreek area. She was a quilter and a member of the Beavercreek Women's Club, as well as a talented amateur photographer. Her glass plate negatives depict life in rural Benton County, Oregon.

Emery photography, Corvallis, Oregon
Emery photography

William G. Emery


Although born in California, by 1880 William Emery was living in Monroe, Oregon, with his family. After graduating from Corvallis Agricultural College (OSU) in 1883, he established photographic studios in Astoria, then Portland, and later Moscow, Idaho. In 1903, he and his wife Mary moved to Corvallis, purchased the Phillips studio, and began advertising their specialty--"fancy portraiture and genre works." That same year, the Pacific Coast Photographer's Association selected one of his photographs for display at their national association's convention. By 1907, he had moved again (to Vancouver, Washington), but continued to win professional awards. After poor health forced him to sell his business in 1911, he moved to Pacific City and became a fish warden.

OAC photography class photo includes John Fulton, Corvallis, OR

OSU photo P96:96

John Fulton


While at OAC, John Fulton took a class in photography. He is the man standing at the left of the upper photograph, taken by Sydney Trask.

John Fulton emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1883. He graduated from Oregon Agricultural College (OSU) in 1892 and married fellow student Martha Avery, granddaughter of Corvallis founder, J. C. Avery. He studied in Washington, D.C., and then earned an M.S. from Harvard in 1903. In addition to being a professor of chemistry at OAC until he retired in 1940, Fulton was also "an avid photographer."

W.S. Gardner photography, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

W.S. Gardner 1908 advertisement from "The Orange", OAC yearbook

Winfield S. Gardner


Winfield Gardner maintained a photography studio in Corvallis from 1886 to 1913. His house and studio were on 11th Street between Madison and Jefferson, convenient for college students. In 1896, he advertised in the college paper, The Barometer, "For the finest photographs go to Gardner the Artist. We make all the new styles. Platinotype and Aristo are the finest pictures made. They are the latest, our offer to students has never been equaled by any photographer in the state. Call for our prices, and see our pictures. W.S. Gardner, Photographer, Corvallis, Oregon."

Gardner also encouraged young people interested in photography. In his Corvallis Magazine column, editor Thomas Wilson recollected, "At this time, Mr. Garner was the school photographer and I used to hang around his studio sometimes. He liked me and encouraged me to learn more about it, teaching me a few things about his own picture taking and about retouching portrait negatives."

Working for W.S. Gardner
From a letter written by OAC student Lottie Wilson to her mother, January 16, 1908

"I feel very much encouraged in my work at the photograph gallery. Mr. Gardner picked up one of the negatives I had been retouching the other day and said, 'This is what I call a fine piece of work.' Today he gave me five dollars. I didn't want to take it at first, but he said he wanted me to as I had, and was, helping him a great deal on his rush work...

"Tuesday afternoon I bent over a tray toning until my back ached so I could scarcely stand straight. All yesterday afternoon and this afternoon I mounted pictures alone, but I don't think that is hard work. I enjoy it, but I don't like the toning very well. I think we toned over five hundred pictures that afternoon."

L. Goldson, Photographer, Corvallis, Oregon

L. Goldson

L. Goldson

In 1878, L. Goldson had a photography studio in Corvallis that contained the chair with a broken section that appears in the portraits chosen for the exhibition. Goldson sold the business to E. Heslop sometime after 1880. He then disappears from the records. Unfortunately, we do not even know Goldson's first name.

S.B. Graham photographer, Corvallis, ORSamuel B. Graham

Samuel B. Graham

Samuel Graham began his career in Washington, but soon moved to east Portland where he promoted his landscape photography. He married a local woman, Mary Haner, in 1888 and opened a studio in Corvallis in 1889. By 1892, he had moved to Colorado Springs.

Sam E. Gray and A. F. Wheeler Oregon photograpersS.E. Gray & Co.

S.E. Gray & Co.

Sam E. Gray and A. F. Wheeler

Originally from Washington, Gray maintained a studio in Salem, Oregon, from 1865 until the early 1870s when he returned to his native state. During his time in Oregon, he and his associates (Henry Dohse, A. F. Wheeler) traveled to other cities for work. The Roseburg newspaper of 1870 reported, "Pictures!, Pictures!, Gray & Dohse, The well known Photographers, having rented the Rooms of Mr. Jas. Walton, would respectfully inform the citizens of Roseburg and vacinity (sic), that they are now prepared to take pictures of all kinds and sizes, including the 'Beautiful Gem.' Call soon as we shall remain only one month."

E. Heslop, Corvallis, 19th century Oregon photographer
E. Heslop

E. Heslop

Heslop took over Goldson's business but, like Goldson, did not stay in Corvallis long: only 1881-1883.

Howells Photography, 20th century, Corvallis, Oregon
Robert M. Howells

Robert M. Howells

Robert Howells moved from Albany, New York, to Corvallis, Oregon, in 1920. He and his wife operated the Howells Photography Studio at 455 Madison until they sold it to Frank Hise in 1944.

George W. Leeper

circa 1876 - ?

George Leeper was born and raised in the Calapooia-Oakland area of Douglas County, Oregon. He is listed as teaching school in Philomath in 1902. After marriage in 1908 to Lilith McKenney, he operated his own photography studio in Philomath. By 1910, they had moved to Lane County and he was working as a carpenter.

Charles B. Morris photography, Corvallis, Oregon

Charles B. Morris

Charles Morris practiced his craft in Corvallis from 1884 to 1888. At first, he was in partnership with Henry DeGroot. He continued the business alone for a few years after DeGroot left. Then he too departed.

Morrison, Photographer Corvallis Oregon

Mrs. R. Morrison

(Possibly Birdie (Mrs. Roy) Morrison)

Mrs. Morrison actively pursued a photography career in Corvallis during 1889-1891. The destruction of individual 1890 census records in a fire makes it uncertain if this is the same person as the Mrs. Roy Morrison living in Corvallis in 1910. The 1910 census lists no occupation for Birdie Morrison.

1911 road paving photo by Roswell Charles Moseley, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

BCHS #1999-010.0001

Roswell Charles Moseley


R.C. Moseley photographed the W.C. Co. crew paving at the intersection of 8th and Washington, Corvallis, Oregon, on June 20, 1911.

R. C. Moseley had a photography studio at 430 S. 2nd Street in Corvallis in 1911. He lived with his family in the Linn County town of Orleans, across the Willamette River from Corvallis, Oregon. He later moved north to Astoria and then to Bellingham, Washington, where he owned a confectionery.

T. H. Mulkey, Philomath, Or. photographer

T. H. Mulkey

T. (Thompson?) H. (Howard) Mulkey


The photographs in the exhibition bear the imprint of T.H. Mulkey, who is listed as a photographer in the 1891 Philomath city directory. The Mulkeys of America lists only one person with the initials T. H.: Thompson Howard Mulkey. In 1880, Thompson Mulkey was living with his parents in Pleasant Hill, Oregon. He died May 12, 1891, and is buried in Pleasant Hill. Was his photographic career cut short? Or is he not the person listed in the Philomath directory? The loss of the 1890 census records in a fire makes him difficult to trace.

Emile Francis Pernot, OSU, Corvallis, Oregon, 1908 yearbook photo

Pernot microbiology photo from OSU Archives
Pernot microbiology photograph from OSU Archives photo

Pernot Brothers

Emile F. Pernot (1859-1927)
Eugene Pernot (c.1855-?)

Born in New York and educated in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Pernot brothers had moved to Corvallis by 1889. They had a photography shop in downtown Corvallis for about five years. After leaving the photography business, Eugene purchased a farm north of Corvallis where he grew fruit.

In 1891, Emile was hired to teach photography and engraving (and later free-hand drawing) by Oregon Agricultural College. In addition, he took photographs to illustrate experiment station publications. During 1897-98, he earned $700 and "reported that during the past year, he had made fifty-one engravings for publications, ninety-five lantern slides for lectures and many micrographs of fruit pests and plant diseases." (Jim Fisher, Under the Microscope: One Hundred Years of Microbiology at Oregon State University, p. 6.)

Taking photographs through a microscope for the extension service led to a fascination with bacteriology. He began teaching courses in the subject and researching topics such as which method of drying best protected the cell walls and hence flavor of prunes, causes of bacterial diseases in livestock, the production of vinegar and cheese, treatment of wheat to prevent smut, and elimination of bacteria in milk. In 1903, he was named state bacteriologist, a position he held on and off until 1923. In 1910, he left the college to become bacteriologist for the city of Portland. In his lab, he made vaccine during the 1918 flu epidemic and discovered the cause of tuberculosis in poultry and researched the transmission of tuberculosis from cattle to humans. For his work on tuberculosis, he was awarded the Award of Honor by the government of the Netherlands.

E. W. Philips photography, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
E. W. Philips

Edgar W. Philips

Edgar Philips began his photography career in Portland in 1889. By 1897, he and his partner, Ansel Severance, had moved to Corvallis. The partnership apparently dissolved, as photographs from 1901 to 1903 list only his name. He also did the developing for the Graham and Wells drug store. Thomas Wilson remembered, "Mr. Phillips did the Kodak work upstairs in the back end of the store...they had the largest stock of Kodak equipment and supplies in town. Because I couldn't afford to have my work done for me, I haunted that store and pestered Sam and Tommy and Mr. Phillips in trying to learn how to do my own developing and printing."

Two Stryker ads

David S. Stryker

David Stryker maintained a photography gallery in Corvallis from 1867 to 1873. He initially partnered with H.M. Dohse. According to The Corvallis Gazette, after Dohse moved to Roseburg, Stryker "opened the gallery formerly occupied by them, over Mr. Biddle's drug store, where he may be found for a few weeks. Mr. S. is a good artist, and desires those wanting pictures to call and examine his work. Prices to suit the times. Call soon, as he intends visiting other places" (The Corvallis Gazette, April 17, 1869, pg. 3, col. 2). His wife, Mrs. C.M. Stryker, joined him in the business and some of the later photographs are in her name only. Photographs in the exhibition include albumen prints and a tintype.

Sydney Emmet Trask


Sydney Trask began his career taking photographs for the railroad in the Cascade Locks area of eastern Oregon. Beginning in 1894, he spent two years studying at Oregon Agricultural College. He then continued his photographic career, operating out of a studio "over the post office." He married Josephine (Josie) Moses in 1897 and moved out of the area. They returned and he went into business with Josie's brother Victor. The Moses and Trask Company was a general merchandise or department store.

Mrs. M. Weigand

? - 1937

Maggie Weigand began her photographic career in Prineville in 1903, but moved to Corvallis in 1907. Her husband, Ernest, was a carpenter but also helped in the photography business. Their studio was located next to a bowling alley in a cement block building on Second Street. Maggie Weigand died in 1937, still a resident of Corvallis.

Weister Co., Portland, Oregon, photography

George Weister


George Weister maintained a photography studio and photographic supply business in Portland from 1895 to 1922. He traveled extensively as official photographer for two railroads, recording the scenery to promote rail travel. William McMurray, General Passenger Agent for the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company and for the Southern Pacific Railroads lines in Oregon, presented two albums of Weister's photographs of Benton County buildings and industry to the Corvallis Commercial Club. As part of his railroad work, George Weister photographed a train moving a mile a minute, a real feat given the equipment then available.

E. (Ettie) And L. (Lucy) Woodruff, Philomath, Oregon photographers
E. (Ettie) And L. (Lucy) Woodruff

E. (Ettie) And L. (Lucy) Woodruff

By 1880, the Woodruff family had moved to a farm in south Benton County from Missouri. Sometime in the 1890s, Lucy moved with her mother and siblings to Philomath. The 1900 census lists her occupation as photographer. The 1899-1900 Philomath College catalog contains an ad for the business: "Photographs for Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, Sisters, Babies, Sweethearts - Everybody - at the Woodruff Gallery, Philomath, Oregon." The business closed as the sisters married. Marietta Woodruff married E. L. Fridley in 1898; Lucy continued the business until her 1906 marriage to Benjamin Fireland of Sherman County.