Robert C. Mumbrauer: Hermann’s First Photographer

Mumbrauer Studio 1892

Robert C. Mumbrauer’s Photography Studio in Hermann, Missouri, 1892. Note displays of photographs.

Robert C. Mumbrauer’s photography studio on Schiller Street, in Hermann, Missouri, was built in 1892. An 1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows the location of the studio at Schiller and East Second streets (see link at right). The building  has been continuously occupied by photographers for 110 years.

After Mumbrauer’s sudden death in 1917, son Charles George Mumbrauer took over the photography business until his death in 1935. The Mumbrauers’ small  home on East Second Street, built about 1887, is just around the corner and still in use as a bed and breakfast called the Mumbrauer Gasthaus.

Hermann Photography Studio 1950s

The studio as it appeared in the 1950s under the Powers name

From 1935 to 1952, it was known as the Powers Studio. William Fricke bought the business from Powers and ran it until the 1980s, when his son, Brad Fricke, stepped in.

The current owner, photographer Bryon Raterman, took over the Fricke name in 1993.

Fricke Studio, Hermann Missouri

The Fricke Studio Today

Although the building facade, entrance and display windows were drastically altered over the years, Mumbrauer’s initials remain visible.

Robert C. Mumbrauer was born in a place called Schelda, in the Kingdom of Hannover, in 1851. He arrived in Hermann with his parents, Karl and Friederike Sophia Thiene Mumbrauer, before 1860.

Mumbrauer's Initials in Building Facade

Robert Mumbrauer’s initials and the date he built the studio

Karl Mumbrauer was a tailor. During the Civil War,  Karl served in Company B of the 4th Missouri Infantry. He survived, returned home and took up tailoring again.

Friederike died in 1901, and Karl followed in 1903.

Reverse of an R. C. Mumbrauer carte de visite, on green card stock, of an unidentified woman and children (found by Kathy Wieland).

Reverse of an R. C. Mumbrauer carte de visite, on green card stock, of an unidentified woman and children (found by Kathy Wieland).

Robert’s path was different.He taught himself how to use a camera, trained in St. Louis for a year,  and traveled  the Missouri River valley with  a mobile studio, taking photos of Gasconade, Osage, and Franklin County settlers.

In 1873, he married Amelia Carey. After continuing to do peripatetic portrait work for several years, he was able to settle down to business in Hermann around 1876.

His stock in trade would have been the cabinet card–a roughly 4″ x 6″ paper photograph mounted on a variety of pressboard or cardboard backgrounds, usually with the studio name and location on front, back, or both.

Reverse of cabinet card photo of a middle-aged couple, Mumbrauer Studio.

Reverse of cabinet card photo of a middle-aged couple, Mumbrauer Studio.

The studio business made it possible for. Robert and Ameiia to build a home on Second Street, where they raised seven children: Albert, Margaret Mumbrauer Epperson, Charles, Walter, Rosa Mumbrauer Locher, Ella Mumbrauer Petrus, and Frances Mumbrauer McCarty.

Albert attended the School of Fine Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, then came back to Hermann. Walter and his wife, Emma Kurrelmeyer Mumbrauer, moved to St. Louis.

Robert,  Robert’s parents, Robert’s wife Amelia, and their children Albert, Walter, Charles, and Ella are buried in Hermann Cemetery. Margaret is entombed in the mausoleum.

Reverse of an R. C. Mumbrauer cabinet card portrait of a young child.

Reverse of an R. C. Mumbrauer cabinet card portrait of a young child.

Robert, and then his son, Charles George Mumbrauer, documented the people of Hermann and environs for about 65 years. Some of his photo cabinet cards are marked New Haven and Chamois, nearby villages on the Missouri.

Their work is scattered in a thousand family albums–cabinet cards, cartes de visite, and photographic postcards portraying the life of the people around them, indoors and out. What happened to their vast collection? If you know, I’d like to hear. Contact me at waldonia2000 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Infinite thanks  to Bryon Raterman, who shared photos of the Hermann studio building with me and told me about the history of the building. Deepest gratitude to Kathy Wieland, of FamilyWeSearch.com, who has found a number of Mumbrauer photographs and shares my interest in this project.

Read an 1888  biographical sketch of Robert Mumbrauer.

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You can view Bryon Raterman’s work at www.frickestudio.com.


A Life In the Studio: Jane Margaret Mumbrauer

Robert C. Mumbrauer’s granddaughter, Jane Margaret Mumbrauer (1919-2010), grew up in Hermann and went to work in the Mumbrauer Studio after her father Charles G. Mumbrauer’s death in 1935.

Charles G. Mumbrauer’s  widow Amanda and two of their children stayed on.  “Janet [Bremer Mumbrauer] told me,” says Andrew Hahn, “that in the 1930s Amanda, Jane and Charles lived above the studio on Schiller.” Jane continued to work in the studio downstairs until the family sold the business in 1944.

Portrait of Jane Mumbrauer, ca. 1932, courtesy of Andrew Hahn.

Portrait of Jane Mumbrauer, ca. 1932, probably taken by Amanda Schuermann Mumbrauer; courtesy of Andrew Hahn.

Building on her early experience, Jane developed into a master retoucher and finisher, and enjoyed a long career in studio photography.

Between 1944 and 1951, she worked for the Jules Pierlow Studio in St. Louis. She then moved east to be near her mother, Amanda Schuermann Mumbrauer, and sister, Ruby Mumbrauer Hasenritter.

“By late 1952, she began a 32-year career with Wilmington, Delaware’s most prominent photographer, Willard Stewart, as his assistant, creative retoucher, and heavy-oil portrait artist. Mr. Stewart held the degree of Master of Photography awarded by the Professional Photographers Association of America, bestowed on the basis of technique and craftsmanship, significantly enhanced by the manipulation of the final product by the artistic use of creative retouching, including redrawing of facial features and expressions on the original negatives by Jane’s hand (in the years before digital editing). Those ‘Best of Lifetime’ photographs, exhibiting the joint perfection of photographer and finisher, are on permanent exhibition at the Photography Hall of Fame in Santa Barbara, Calif.” (obituary, paper unknown, courtesy of Andrew W. Hahn)

Jane Mumbrauer died in Howard County, Maryland, and is buried in Hermann City Cemetery, Hermann, Mo. Willard Stewart’s trove of 10,000 negatives, many of them retouched by Jane, was entrusted to Wilmington, Delaware photo finisher Jim Donahue of Donahue Color Service. James L. Donahue died in 2013, but it appears that the business continues.

Stewart also photographed hundreds of buildings for the WPA and the Historic American Buildings Survey, and these are preserved at the University of Delaware.

Note: The Photography Hall of Fame is now the International Photography Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri. I am grateful to Andrew W. Hahn for generously sharing family photographs and memories.

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Published in: on September 28, 2013 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Woman Behind the Camera: Amanda Schuermann Mumbrauer

Recently I was excited to receive a communication from a relation of the Mumbrauer family with new information about how the Mumbrauer Studio operated after Charles George Mumbrauer married.

According to Andrew Hahn, it was Charles’s wife, Amanda Schuermann Mumbrauer (1886-1960), who ran things.

Portrait of Amanda Schuermann Mumbrauer, circa 1920, courtesy of Andrew Hahn.

Hand-tinted portrait of Amanda Schuermann Mumbrauer, circa 1920, courtesy of Andrew Hahn.

“She really took all the photos in the later years of the studio. Charles had a job in St. Louis and was only occasionally in Hermann in his last years,” Hahn says. “My grandmother told me he had many ‘girlfriends’ in St. Louis and that Amanda ran the Hermann photo studio, took and printed all the photos.”

Portrait of Charles George Mumbrauer, ca. 1925, courtesy of Andrew Hahn

Portrait of Charles George Mumbrauer, ca. 1925, courtesy of Andrew Hahn

“My grandmother told me that the camera she used was large ‘with a lens that grandfather Mumbrauer had used 50 years earlier.’ “She described Amanda as using a black cloak like in the cartoons to cover herself and the camera when she took pictures.”

Hand-colored portrait of Janet Bremer and Charles Emery Mumbrauer, ca. 1932, courtesy of Andrew Hahn.

Andrew’s grandmother, Janet Bremer, married Charles Emery Mumbrauer, son of Charles and Amanda. Andy has begun sharing some of the many photos he inherited from an album assembled by Janet Bremer Mumbrauer in 1937. (Emery and Janet divorced in 1938.)

“I have always thought these photos,” Hahn recalls, “have a special glow about them.”

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Portrait of Emery’s first wife and daughter, Jane Bremer Mumbrauer and Nancy Mumbrauer, taken by Amanda Schuermann Mumbrauer, courtesy of Andrew Hahn.

Andrew W. Hahn is Executive Director of the Campbell House Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. He was previously curator of the corporate art collection of A.G. Edwards and Sons, a St. Louis brokerage firm, whose collection has since been absorbed into the Wells Fargo collection.

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Berger Baby Bennie Bayer, July 1902

Carte de visite portrait identified as "Bennie Bayer, age 5 weeks, July 1902"

Carte de visite portrait identified as “Bennie Bayer, age 5 weeks, July 1902″

Awhile ago, in a post about Berger’s Catholic church, I wrote briefly about Berger, Missouri photographer Richard Louis Gatzemeyer (1866-1945), son of German immigrant farmer August Gatzemeyer.

Berger was and is a hamlet that began as a railroad station about halfway between Hermann and New Haven. Its current population is about 221. The village recently voted to tax itself to pay for the first sewer system in its history. So it’s surprising that such a village should have its own photography studio.

Not surprisingly, photography was not Gatzemeyer’s only means of support. It may have been more of an avocation. The 1900 census lists Gatzemeyer’s occupation as a “photographer” on Rosalie Street, in Berger, but with a wife and four–by 1910 five–children to support, it must have been extremely difficult to make ends meet in such a small town. By 1910, Gatzemeyer gave his occupation as manager of a general store, and in 1920, farmer.

By 1930, he and most of his family had left Missouri–some to settle in Los Angeles, others in Idaho. Richard Gatzemeyer died in Los Angeles, and is buried in Hermann City Cemetery, Hermann Missouri.

Benjamin E. Bayer was the son of Buffalo, New York native Henry Earnest Bayer (1866-), who in 1910 was farming in Salisbury, Chariton County, Missouri, about 140 miles north of Berger. But Bayer had apprenticed as a plumber back in Buffalo, and he returned to that trade in Malvern, Hot Spring Co., Arkansas.

Benjamin followed his father into the plumbing business. He died in Port Arthur, Texas in 1983. He and his wife, Orean Frazier Bayer, are buried in Greenlawn Memorial Park, Groves, Jefferson Co., Texas.

Gatzemeyer took this portrait, identified on the back as “Bennie Bayer” on July 13, 1902. As I mentioned in a previous post, photographers devised various ways of keeping mothers out of the frame. Here you can clearly see a supporting arm to the right.

Now, 140 miles is a long way to go to have a portrait taken. So who or what brought the Bayers to Berger in July 1902?

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Published in: on June 17, 2013 at 12:16 am  Leave a Comment  

A Mumbrauer Baby: Rufus Rudolph Kessler on a Rug

Cabinet card photograph of Rufus Rudolph Kessler, aged 5 months, by R. C. Mumbrauer

Cabinet card photograph of Rufus Rudolph Kessler, aged 5 months, by R. C. Mumbrauer

This cabinet card portrait of Rufus Rudolph Kessler, aged five months, is just the sort of photograph mothers love to show their sons’ girlfriends. How it ended up all alone on an internet auction site is a mystery, but I rescued it and present our hero for your review.

Rufus Kessler was born on 12 June 1894 in Hermann, Missouri to teacher Bertha Durer (1864-1949) and stock dealer and veterinarian Rudolph Kessler (1851-1929). His paternal grandparents, Elisabeth  (1820-1885) and Sylvester Kessler (1822-1901) were part of that great 19th century immigrant movement from Germany to Missouri . They farmed in Roark Township, Gasconade County.

If young Rufus were five months old at the time of the photo, the date would be around November 1894.

Rufus did not hang around Hermann very long. He got work as a stenographer in Kansas City, Missouri, then served in the Navy on the U.S.S. Louisiana and the U.S.S. Peary from 1919 to 1926.

After he left the Navy, he worked as a clerk on the U.S. Government Army Corps of Engineers Missouri River Fleet, based in Charette Township, Warren County, Missouri. As far as I can tell, he remained single.

Kessler died in 1946, and is buried in Hermann City Cemetery, Hermann, Missouri, as are his parents; his grandmother Elisabeth Kessler is buried at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Warren County, and Sylvester Kessler, are buried in the cemetery of St. George Roman Catholic Church, Hermann.

Babies were notoriously difficult to photograph because of their inability to keep still. There is an entire literature on photographing babies, and galleries often advertised it as a specialty. In 1894,  James H. Smith and Co., Chicago, even advertised a “baby-holder” as an attachment to its posing chair.

One typical technique involved having the baby’s mother hold the child in place from behind a curtain.

“The first good feature here is to prevent the child from falling; the second is to get the mother out of the way in a diplomatic manner by having her behind the curtain and not out in front ‘retarding action’ on the part of the operator and finding fault with every exposure he makes on the grounds that the baby is not smiling or laughing” (Felix Raymer, “Photographing the Babies,” Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, v. L, no. 674, February 1913, pp. 77-78).

Mumbrauer seems to have solved the problem by posing the infant in a prone position, instead of artificially sitting up. But how did Mumbrauer get little Rufus to gaze so solemnly into the camera?

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View a collection of baby photos featuring “invisible mothers.”

Update: Recently I was contacted by a Kessler descendant who lost this and other Kessler family photos some years ago. I am thrilled to be able to return the precious original to her.

Published in: on June 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Frank Becker and his Tuba, Schuster Studio, Hermann

Portrait of Frank Becker, Schuster Studio, Hermann, Mo.

Portrait of Frank Becker, Schuster Studio, Hermann, Mo.

Martin A. Schuster (1871-1952) and his son Jerome G. Schuster opened a photography studio in Hermann sometime between 1930 and 1940. The father and son team may be better known for its many real photo postcards of Hermann, its people, environs and celebrations. Schuster postcards , such as this of St. George’s Catholic Church, Hermann, or this one of Ozark scenery, are easy to find on internet auction sites and have been published in a number of books.

According to his obituary in Professional Photographer magazine, Martin Schuster began practicing photography professionally in Brookfield, Missouri. In Hermann, the family lived at 307 Schiller Street, a small frame cottage now occupied by a gift shop called Back Home Again.

I haven’t been able to learn for certain Frank Becker’s identity. A Frank Becker, railroad section hand, lived in Gasconade County in 1920, but he doesn’t seem to have been related to the Beckers in the area.

Martin A. Schuster and his son, Jerome Glennon Schuster, are buried in the cemetery of the church they photographed, St. George’s, in Hermann.

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Published in: on May 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Portrait of Herbert Tschappler

Farmer and engineer Herbert John Schappler (personal collection of Karen Barton).

Herbert John Tschappler (personal collection of Karen Barton).

Young Herbert Tschappler (1890-1945), had his portrait taken by Robert C. Mumbrauer ca. 1908. The photograph exhibits features more common after 1900: larger, black card mounts with the studio’s name  blind embossed instead of printed, for a more subtle effect.

Farmer, engineer and carpenter Herbert Tschappler was born to Osage County farmers Samuel Tschappler and Ernestine Marie Auguste Gnadt in March 1890. With his wife, Ella Deppe, Herbert settled in Carlsbad, Eddy County, New Mexico, where they had two children, Sam and Roy.

Herbert and Ella Tschappler are buried in Carlsbad Cemetery, Carlsbad, New Mexico.

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Published in: on May 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm  Comments (2)  

Wedding Day: Mumbrauer Studio, Hermann

This lovely wedding portrait by the Robert C. Mumbrauer studio, Hermann, Missouri, came to me through AdoptAPhoto, a site and service, created by Anne White in 2001, that enables people to post photographs that have become separated from families, in hopes that others will find and claim them. It’s a necessary stop for anyone looking for family photographs.

The subdued black card mount and restrained, blind-embossed studio identification mark this photograph as circa 1900 or after.

Following fashion historian Joan Severa’s guidelines, the details that date the bride’s shirtwaist-style gown are the “caplet” on the sleeve shoulder, combined with the “over-puffed front” of the blouse that droops beneath the waistline (Severa, Dressed for the Photographer, 539).

The bride’s  headpiece features whimsical trailing artificial rosebuds; the groom’s jacket sports a matching spray. His creased pants also are a sign of ca. 1900 fashion, an era when the trouser press came into widespread use.

But what truly strikes the viewer in this portrait is the solemn gaze of the bride and groom, who, hand in hand, face the camera as if repeating their vows. For a moment, the studio, with its shabby props and painted backdrops, becomes a chapel.

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Published in: on November 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Strothmann Sons: Oscar, Royal, and William

From left: Oscar, Royal and William H. Strothmann (image courtesy of Susan Strothmann Brooks)

In a previous post about Berger, Missouri’s St. Paul Catholic church, I discovered that Berger had its own, homegrown professional photographer: Richard Louis Gatzemeyer (1866-1945). Susan Strothmann Brooks recently found my blog and sent me the first professional Gatzemeyer portrait I’ve seen.

Richard, the son of Franklin County farmers August Gatzemeyer and Josephine (Berends) Gatzemeyer, kept a general store with his wife, Mary (Kotthoff) Gatzemeyer; he also farmed and, surprisingly, may have traveled to Japan in the 1930s.

This cabinet card photograph depicts three of the sons of Berger farmers Frederick Christian Strothmann (1847-1933) and Anna Maria (Drewell) Strothmann (1857-1922).

Gatzemeyer posed the three symmetrically and rather formally grouped around a small table. All the props of mid-nineteenth century portraiture are present: The painted backdrop, draperies, and (rather incongruously) a fur throw rug, all arranged to evoke an upper middle class parlor.

With Royal positioned standing in the center between his two seated brothers, the three men form a triangle, echoing the triangular upward sweep created by the drapes on either side of the composition.

The young men are dressed in their best suits, and as if their clothes, posture and expressions were not enough to indicate their seriousness, William’s hand rests on what appears to be a book of hymns.

While firmly anchored in the nineteenth century tropes of studio portraiture, the plain dark gray card mount  and simple advertising mark places this photograph in the early 1900s.

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Published in: on September 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Perhaps Permilia Strothmann by Charles German

Portrait of Permilia or Louise Strothmann by Charles German (image courtesy of Susan Strothmann Brooks)

This cabinet card photograph, taken by Hermann photographer Charles German ca. 1900, may be either Permilia Johanna Strothmann or her younger sister Louise Margaretha Strothmann.

Permilia and Louisa were two of the five children of Franklin County, Mo. farmers Frederick Strothmann and Maria Drewell Strothmann (click on link to compare).

Charles German was born in July 1864 to German immigrant carpenter Henry German and his Missouri-born wife Eliza Summers German. Charles was set to learn the cooper’s trade, but sometime between 1880 and 1900, Charles learned photography.

For a time, Hermann photographer Robert C. Mumbrauer and Charles German were partners, but thanks to contributions by  Susan Strothmann Brooks, it’s become clear that German operated Mumbrauer’s studio at 4th and Schiller streets under his own name for an unknown period.

Since Mumbrauer had another career as a sheriff and railroad detective, it seems plausible that he either rented or sold the studio to German for a time. The Western Historical Manuscript Collection has one cabinet card marked “Mumbrauer & German, Berger, Mo.” that is dated 1895.

By 1910, German had put aside professional photography and became a Hermann saloon keeper. In later years he worked as a janitor. He died in 1947 at the age of 82 and is buried in Hermann City Cemetery.

Unfortunately, three of this image’s four edges have been cut off during scanning, but at right one can see that the card mount has a scalloped or serrated edge. This edge, along with the less obtrusive green printing of the photographer’s mark, places the mount ca. 1890-1899.

The more subtle background, too, sans the old false painted backgrounds and papier mache tree stumps, marks a turn-of-the-century shift to a simpler, less gimmicky portrait style.

According to costume historian Joan Severa, the young woman’s dress, possibly black silk, featuring a wide, ruffled bertha collar, dates to the mid- to late-1890s (Severa, Dressed for the Photographer).

Carefully lit to highlight the still-babyish lips, large dark eyes and turned up nose, German’s sensitive portrait captures a girl poised on the edge of young womanhood.

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The Stroethmann Children

 Cabinet card of the children of Frederick and Maria Drewell Stroethmann, ca. 1895,  by R. C. Mumbrauer, Hermann, Missouri (found by Kathy Wieland)

This ca. 1895 example depicting the children of Franklin County, Missouri farmers Frederick Stroethmann (b. 1847, Germany) and Maria (Drewell) Stroethmann  (b. 1857, Berger, Franklin Co., Mo.) displays features common to cabinet cards produced during the 1880s and 1890s: the gold-hued photo appears to be an albumen print, mounted on cream press-board. The name and location of the studio appear on the bottom of the card, without artwork on the back, and the edges are decoratively scalloped.

Stroethmann descendant Susan Strothmann Brooks has been able to give tentative identifications to these children:

“I do not have the photo that you sent me of the Strothmann children.  However, I do have a photo of the family with the children older.   As I look at the Strothmann children [in this] photo, I would say Royal (1887-1966) is the boy in back, on the right is Johanna Permelia (1881-1971), on the left is Louise Margaretha (1879-1937), Johanes Oscar (1885-?), and Hermann Karl Wilhelm (1892-1958) is in the center.”

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Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 11:42 am  Comments (1)  
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