Early views of Lake Superior region

MARQUETTE — Locally produced stereographs provided an early view of the Lake Superior region.

In the 1860s, wet plate collodion photography took off across the country: landscape and portrait photography became profitable business. Landscape photography produced a boom of stereograph cards. With a handheld viewer, one could see the image in three-D.

The cards were sold around the country. They were an armchair view of people and places from other parts of the world. Views of Pictured Rocks, the early copper and iron mines, Marquette’s harbor, and Native Americans were sold locally and to retailers in other urban markets.

Bernard F. Childs was selling his stereographic images to local merchants and to retailers in Boston, Chicago, and Detroit for them to resell. In 1872 for example, he sold 56 dozen to Mr. Carlton in Sault Ste. Marie as well as 12 gross or 1728 total to Boston for $144. Some of these were scenic views, but they also likely included images of Native Americans.

Several local stereographic images reached national audiences after being published in Harper’s Weekly. In the 19th century Harper’s Weekly used artists’ drawings and then photographs which they turned into wood engravings for illustrations. The images of two local photographers, Ard Emery, and BF Childs, were turned into wood engravings and printed in Harper’s Weekly in the mid to late 1800s.

In the Sept. 16, 1865, Harper’s Weekly issue, six images by Ard Emery were reproduced as engravings. They included the propeller, Ironsides, Pictured Rocks, Munising Falls and two images of Native Americans.

The wigwam was at lighthouse point in Marquette. Francis Nolan, also known as the Metis, Jack La Pete, is pictured standing on the left. He was a son-in-law of Maazhi-giizhig and served as a guide for both Lewis Henry Morgan and George Shiras III, pioneer wildlife photographer.

He worked for three generations of the Shiras family. Charlotte and Charles Kawbawgam are on the right.

Ard G Emery (1833-1923) was born in Maine. He worked in New York as a recruiting sergeant, and in Wisconsin as a laborer, merchant, and in shipping lumber. In 1863 he worked in Hancock as a photographer. In 1864 he moved to Negaunee and Marquette. He also had studios in Escanaba and Ishpeming.

By 1868, Emery had produced 200 stereographic views. His images included Escanaba, Hancock, Houghton, Mackinac Island, Pictured Rocks, and Sault Ste Marie. He documented both the copper and iron mines, as well as other businesses, and people.

In 1874 Emery moved to Rockford, Illinois where he sold sewing machines. He tried out agriculture and other businesses before returning to photography in Kansas, Colorado, and East Tawas, Michigan.

A Civil War veteran, Childs’ military service resulted in lifelong health concerns. He was unable to perform manual labor. After his military service, Childs worked with his fellow veteran and lifelong friend, Daniel Cross, who had a photography studio in Vermont.

Childs moved to Marquette in 1871 where he opened a gallery. Later he opened a gallery in Ishpeming. He travelled around Lake Superior on his boat, The Wanderer, to capture the region’s beauty.

Childs became one of the most prolific photographers in the Lake Superior region, producing at least 500 stereographic images in his 25-plus year career. On May 12, 1877, Harper’s Weekly published a page of engravings based on stereographs by BF Childs. These were a winter mail carrier and four images of Pictured Rocks.Images of the Lake Superior region have been making an impact on the country since the 1860s.

Along with these images, Harper’s also printed other images of the region from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Early photographs by Emery, Childs, and other photographers continue to speak to us today.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about these and other early photographers in the region, visit the special exhibit “Exposing Photography: Anything but a Small Business” at the Marquette Regional History Center. The exhibit is now open and runs until Jan. 13, 2024. An exhibit opening reception will be held from 5-7 tonight. Join Curator Jo Wittler and tour the “Exposing Photography” exhibit. Free, donations appreciated. For more info call 906-226-3571 or visit marquettehistory.org


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