Deep Diving with Gertrude Belle-Oudry, part 4 of 5

Surfacing …

Day 3

I had some other things to do yesterday, including writing another blog post, so I didn’t tackle the directories. There are actually 3 things left to do:

  1. Check the city directories on
  2. Check the articles by E. Belle-Oudry in Wilson’s Photographic Magazine that Peter Palmquist found
  3. See if Gertrude would have been able to run into Imogen Cunningham or Dorothea Lange, who both lived in the Berekely/Oakland area at some point. (The Oakland Museum of California has Lange’s archives.)

Going through directories is always a slog, but I’ll see if I can get through them this morning. They’re a slog in part because they aren’t necessarily indexed accurately due to problems with the OCR (optical character recognition), and in part because we save the relevant pages as we go along.

I’m going to focus on the photographer listings in the business portions, and look at the people listings mainly around the separation/divorce/death dates, as well as a little before Gertrude first shows up as a photographer in the listings (1906), and the time before she gets married for her and Edouard (and Emma, Edourd’s mother).

I quickly find that sometimes the Oakland/Berkeley/Alameda listings are separated out into their own sections, which makes looking for Gertrude and Edouard in Oakland and Berkeley even more tedious. Fortunately, there aren’t too many years like that.

[I’m not going to include all the details I found, just some of the highlights. Remember, though, that I checked every year from 1894 (the first time any of them are in the city directories) to 1953 (Gertrude’s death).]

  • 1894 Edward is a portrait painter in Oakland, living with Emma. This the first listing for either of them.
  • 1895-1896 Edward still living in Oakland, but he is photographer in San Francisco for George H. Knight.
  • 1897 Edward is a photographer working for F A Webster. Cuts down on his pre-BART commute time.
  • 1899 Edward is a photographer on his own for the first time (the 1898 directory is not available online).
  • 1900 Gertrude is a music teacher (I found that last time).
  • 1901 Missing! Darn! They separated in 1900 so they might have had separate listings.
  • 1902 Emma is listed a photographer with Edward, the only time she is listed a photographer anywhere.
  • 1906 Gertrude is listed as photographer in Berkeley (Mrs G. Belle Oudry). This is the first listing for either of them in Berkeley.
  • 1907 Emma is living at the same address in Oakland. Edward is listed as living in Berkeley. Hmmm… The business directory cuts off at Painters — “This close!”
  • 1908 They are not listed in the Berkeley photographers, but Edward is listed at living at 2627 Telegraph, which becomes their long-term studio.
  • 1909 Both studios are in Edward’s name.
  • 1912 Emma has moved.
  • 1913-1914 The are not listed in Berkeley, and have a different address in Oakland [and I found another EWAP: Elizabeth Weed]. Emma is still at the same address in Oakland. 1913 is her last listing, since she dies in 1914
  • 1915 They are listed again in Berkeley (and still Oakland).
  • 1919-1920 Missing! Darn! These are they key years of their separation and divorce. Is there a conspiracy to hide the directories? The directory at the time of their first separation is also missing.
  • 1921 Only Edward is listed in the Oakland directory. The Berkeley listings are missing. Definitely a cosmic conspiracy!
  • 1922-1923 Only the Oakland studio is listed, with Edward as the proprietor. There is no studio at the Berkeley address, but Gertrude is living here. Edward is living at the Oakland Hotel. I see Imogen C. Partridge in the people (not photographer) listings (aka Imogen Cunningham — her husband is Roi Partridge).
  • 1924 Gertrude, listed as the widow of Edward (he died in 1923)  is living at the same address in Berkeley but running the old Oakland studio.
  • 1933 Gertrude still has the studio at 2627 Telegraph, but there is also a cleaners there run by someone else. This is the last listing for her as a photographer.
  • 1934-1941 Gertrude moves almost every year, and she never has an occupation listed.
  • 1942 directory missing.
  • 1943 Gertrude moves again to 2740 Telegraph, Berkeley, just a block from her old studio address. She is listed as a clerk (in the 1940 Census her occupation is “filer, public schools”). This is the last entry in the search.
  • 1944-1948 directories missing.
  • 1949 Gertrude is not listed, but the 2740 Telegraph address is a nursing home.
  • 1950 directory missing.
  • 1951 Gertrude is not listed.
  • 1952 directory missing.

Gertrude’s obituary in January of 1953 says that she was living at 2627 Telegraph in Berkeley, the old studio, but that can’t be right.

OK, Let’s check on Imogen Cunningham: Her first listing in Berkeley is in 1922 (see above), in the people listing, but she is not in the photographer listings. She is still listed there through 1938. She is not listed again as a photographer, though until 1937.

Now Dorothea Lange: Her first listing as in Berkeley is in 1938, and she is in the listings through 1957.

On the home stretch: checking the articles in Wilson’s Photographic Magazine in May and June of 1911. They are just signed E. Belle Oudry. Emma is actually often listed in the directories as Emma Oudry not Belle-Oudry, unlike Edward who is (almost) always Edward Belle-Oudry. And I found another article from 1921 also by E. Belle Oudry, which is definitely not Emma! I have to say that it seems unlikely that Emma wrote the earlier articles either, since she wasn’t really a photographer. Rather Edward is the likely author. Sorry Peter!

Whew! That was a slog!


As I did the deep dive on Gertrude Belle-Oudry, I discovered a few “side stories” (Lee loves finding side stories), like the two marriages and the double suicide. However, overall, I found very little about Gertrude herself, which is disappointing. However, I’m not surprised, since as I mentioned back at the beginning, the Oakland/Berkeley area is large enough that Gertrude might not be in the social notices, as she could have been in a smaller town. But this is what I did figure out about Gertrude:

  • 1878 born September 4 (or 5)
  • 1900 music teacher and amateur singer
  • 1900 marries Edouard Belle-Oudry, a photographer who worked in Paris for Disdéri, a famous French photographer. (Edouard’s father was French, and he speaks French)
  • 1900 divorces Edward
  • 1901 remarries Edward
  • 1901-1906 learns photography
  • 1906 Opens photography studio in Berkeley
  • 1906-1919 runs photography studios with Edward
  • 1919 separates from Edward. May take a break from photography
  • 1920 divorces Edward
  • 1923 Edward dies
  • 1924-1933 runs photography studio on her own in Berkeley
  • 1934-1952 varies between no occupation and a clerk
  • 1953 dies January 14, aged 74

Gertrude seems to have had a career in photography almost continuously from 1906 to 1933, over 25 years. That’s a pretty good run! While we can’t tell for sure, it’s possible that she lost her business during the Depression. in 1934 the address that the studio was at no longer exists — maybe it was destroyed. For most of the time that Imogen Cunningham is listed as living in Berkeley, Gertrude is running her own studio (1924-1933), so it is entirely possible that they at least met in passing. However, since Dorothea Lange moves to Berkeley only in 1938, several years after Gertrude gave up photography, it seems less likely that the two of them met.

When I can truly do a Deep Dive (sometimes I just draw a blank all around), I enjoy it, even with the slog of the directories, and even if I didn’t find much about Gertrude as a person. So thanks, Lee, for encouraging me to keep going and uncovering more information than what was in Peter Palmquist’s book (and we don’t really know what else he discovered and didn’t include).

“But wait!”, you’re saying. “The titles of the posts say there are 5 parts, and this is only part 4! What’s going on?”

You’ll have to wait until next time to see what buried treasure I turned up after the deep dive!

Posted in EWAP