(Editorial Note: Part 191 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted Franklin County. Sources: Preston Standard: 1901, 1902; Idaho Enterprise, 1880; Cache Valley News, 1907; Preston News, 1908; Hometown Album, compiled by Newell Hart.)
Today cameras are such a commonplace item. Young and old, rich and poor, everyone has at least one, most often as part of the pocket-sized phones that are a constant part of their lives. Taking pictures is fun, it records things we do in our lives and our surroundings. Our mood changes are recorded, real or false. The ease of getting a photo in today’s society is a far cry from what it was when this corner of southeastern Idaho was first settled.
Photographs were much sought after in those days of our settlement. It required appointment and planning. Family groups dressed in their best, it was not a casual outing. Individual portraits were a valued gift whatever the occasion. In the Idaho Enterprise of 1880 one photographer (unknown) advertised, “No woman ever refused to accept a picture from her photographer because they flattered her.”
In the earlier days photographers were often men who traveled around the country, setting up a temporary studio and getting the word out that the service was at a specific location. Distances between villages made a difference, and travel for families was a horse and buggy at best. The studio might have been in a tent, or a rented room in a local hotel or someone’s home. Arrangements for appointments were listed. A few props usually went along with the trappings of the studio: a heavy curtain, something to serve as a chair, elegant or basic. The local populace might have had props that the camera man could use, borrowing for the moment, or perhaps a picture would be considered “on the house” as payment for the use of the prop. In more populated areas the studio could have more permanence. Photographs were in demand, but considered expensive for the farm family trying to survive on their new homestead.
Another thing to be considered by the residents was the legality of the person behind the camera. There appears there was no needed certification as to training or license at that time. In the Preston Standard of 1901: “M. L. Lemon, a photographer from El Paso, TX,” had been arrested in Salt Lake City for passing counterfeit bills. Authorities had found in his possession photographic plates used for producing $5 and $10 bills supposedly connected with some of Salt Lake’s finest financial businesses.
The movement of people from the eastern part of the nation to the west indicated progress and development. Businesses and companies enlisted photographers to give a pictorial report of how well things were going, putting forth more information to attract settlers to this part of the country. The saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” proved true as trains and wagons traversed the land.
Certainly there were men with the skill and trappings needed prior to 1900 but the first person mentioned in the county papers of that time was in the Preston Standard in the spring of 1902. F. D. Huish had been working in the Preston area and had left town to go to Lewiston, UT.
The smattering of research leans to his being a member of the Huish family then living in Weber County.
In 1905, a young Danish couple moved to Preston. N. M. Degn and his wife Bertha operated Degn Photography here for many years. Before too long others arrived and there were at least three more active photographers to serve the public in Franklin County: R. A. Jones, and N. G. Peterson, an L. Howell and Jack Anderson. There were likely others in Weston, Franklin, Oxford, and as Fairview considered itself up and coming, maybe there, as well.
Watch for their stories in upcoming editions of The Preston Citizen. Anyone with information on photographers in Franklin County prior to 1950 are invited to contact me at 208-852-1898.