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.

mumbrauer_logo

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


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