Mumbrauer Photos in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection

The Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri, Columbia holds four of Robert C. Mumbrauer’s cabinet card photos in its special collections. Three of them were donated by Boonville, Mo. native Charles van Ravenswaay, a former director of the State Historical Society of Missouri. Van Ravenswaay’s meticulously researched and documented volume, The Arts and Architecture of German Settlements in Missouri, published in 1977, remains the definitive  text in its field.

The first cabinet card below poses four well-dressed women holding a photograph. It may have been taken as a mourning card, or to commemorate an event. The golden hue of the photograph indicates an albumen print.  The simple ivory-colored mount and the style of the women’s clothing suggests this portrait was taken in the 1870s, when dresses featured elaborate, apron-like overskirts and tight-fitting bodices and sleeves. The card’s reverse advertises the photographer and his location. As the century progressed, cabinet card mounts and advertising became more elaborate.

Front of R.C. Mumbrauer cabinet card of four unidentified women (Charles van Ravenswaay Papers, Western Historical Manuscript Collection)

Reverse of R.C. Mumbrauer cabinet card of four unidentified women (Charles van Ravenswaay Papers, Western Historican Manuscript Collection)

The next card below, dated 1895, marked Mumbrauer & German, Chamois, Mo., features four white men and an African-American boy.  The hand-written note locates the place this photo was taken as the “Chamois revetment,” in Osage County. The Chamois revetment was built in the late 1890s at Chamois Bend on the Missouri River to impede erosion.

The standing men pose in a relaxed manner, and are dressed casually, in shirtsleeves, while the boy,  barefoot and seated on a piece of faux stonework (a common studio prop), holds a bouquet of flowers. This unusual tableau appears to have been influenced by classical images of the Greek koros, or youth, in the vigor of the spring of life, but the use of a barefoot African American child puts a peculiarly American spin on this image.

The card comes from the William L. Heckmann, Jr. scrapbooks. Heckmann (1869-1957) was a Hermann, Missouri steamboat pilot. His memoir is called Steamboating: Sixty-Five Years on Missouri’s Rivers (1950). Heckmann is second from left.

According to Dorothy Heckmann Schrader’s memoir Steamboat Treasures, Bill Heckmann Jr. worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’  Missouri River improvement project from 1894 to 1900 (49).  He may have been piloting the government “sternwheel towboat” Arethusa when this photograph was taken.

Mumbrauer and German cabinet card of George Patton, Bill Heckman, Pumpkin Patton, and Andy (William Heckman Jr. Scrapbooks, 1869-1957, Western Historical Manuscript Collection)