The effect of “lady photographer”, part 3 of 4

“He Didn’t Like the Photographs”

In addition to the ads and the positive press that we saw in the first two posts in this series, another place we see lady photographer is in anecdotes, like this one:

Lady photographer gave wrong photos

The Cairo Bulletin 1883-06-06, p.1. Credit:

In this type of anecdote, the photographer is referred to as a lady photographer, but not named. The photographer’s role may be positive, negative, or neutral. In the above anecdote, the photographer is portrayed slightly negatively, since she made a mistake and gave the fiancé the wrong photos. In other anecdotes, like the following two, the lady photographers are portrayed positively, tweaking male customers.


Lady photographer: get a shave

The Belleville Telescope 1909-05-14, p. 4. Credit:


Lady photographer: legislator for rouges gallery

The Jackson Standard 1886-01-14, p. 3. Credit:

Even though the lady photographer is not named in those pieces, local audiences could figure out who the photographer was, though readers of the wire service versions could not. In some cases, we too can figure out who the photographer likely was. For the mistaken photos in Dayton, the photographer could have been Hattie Latourrette (she has a studio in Dayton for several years, and then 10 years later she is in Brownstown, Indiana). The photographer saying “go get a shave” was almost certainly Verna Sutton (the only woman photographer in Belleville at that time; she has studios in a few different towns at various times); and the rogue’s gallery photographer could have been Mary Waldack (she runs the photo gallery on her own for several years after her husband dies in 1883, before this anecdote, and they probably ran it together while he was alive).

Just as with the newspaper stories in part 2, in some anecdotes lady photographer is just a descriptor of a woman whose role in the story is not that of a photographer. Here’s an example from Kansas.

The Longton Gleaner 1881-07-29, p. 3. Credit:

All those anecdote relate specific incidents, whether or not they are true. A different type of anecdote is a more generic one, often a joke. As such, the lady photographer is not an individual, but a type or a character. Here are a couple examples:


lady photographer turn head joke

Punxsutawney News 1900-03-03, p. 2. Credit:



lady photographer deal in negatives joke

The Joliet Evening Herald-News 1907-06-11, p. 4. Credit:


From these jokes, it’s just a short conceptual step to lady photographer as a character in a play or novel or other performance. One of the most interesting examples is the 1897 vaudeville “vocal comedy” The Lady Photographer by Mr. and Mrs. Silver, in which he he sang songs illustrated by images that she projected using a stereopticon (neither of the Silvers was a professional photographer, so far as we can tell). Unfortunately, we have not found the songs (possibly some original compositions; definitely some by other composers) or the photographs that they used for that routine, but you can find more information about George Lote Silver and Katherine “Katie” Silver in this article from 1927, several years after they had retired from performing.


Lady photographer vocal comedy

Detroit Free Press 1897-05-30 p. 19. Credit:


I’ll end this post with a fun use of lady photographer. I’ve found a few examples of local news similar to the following one from Salina, Kansas:


lady photographer is photographer's newborn

The Salina Daily Union 1900-09-14, p. 4. Credit:

In order to understand this item, you have to know that Fred R. Shiffert was a photographer. Another clue is that the lady photographer arrived at their home, not their gallery. Many of the locals also would have known that Ethie Shiffert was pregnant (though there is no evidence that she was ever a photographer). Thus the locals would deduce that this is an announcement of the birth of their daughter, Lillian. I take this as a positive use of lady photographer.

Next time I’ll wrap up the discussion of lady photographer by going back to the beginning of this discussion: ads.