This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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The Haynes Palace Studio Car

06 October 2018

Mother with child,
perhaps the one arrangement
that has remained an enduring constant
for artists of classic
portrait studies.

Within the world of early photography
a mother and child posing for the camera
is possibly the most common genre for studio photos.
This maternal pair is a fine example
of its type in a cabinet card,
a photo style popular in the late 19th century.
Framed from above the waist
the mother wears a dark dress
of soft material, velvet maybe,
embroidered with a simple leaf design
on her bosom and sleeve.
Her baby, clad in
a white christening dress
just a few months old,
stares in wonder at the camera lens.

It's a charming photo from the 1890s
that's not typical of my musical photo collection.
In fact the real reason I bought it was
not for the mother and child
but for the photographer's studio imprint on the back,

the Haynes Palace Studio Car.

This private railway carriage belonged to the photographer F. Jay Haynes of St. Paul, Minnesota. As written on the lower sign on the side of the car, he was the official photographer of the Northern Pacific Railway. This line ran from Minnesota to Washington state, serving as an important transcontinental link between the urban East and Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. Construction began in 1870 but the line was not completed until 1883. Like all the first railroad companies, the profit for the line came from selling land that had been granted to them by the US government in exchange for building a transportation network across the vast interior of America. In order to attract settlers to buy this land, the Northern Pacific engaged a young photographer, Frank Jay Haynes (1853-1921) to make promotional photos of the train stations and rolling stock.

Frank Jay Haynes on the Missouri River 1880
Source: Wikipedia
In 1880 F. J. Haynes made this self-portrait alongside the Missouri River. Considering that just four years before in June 1876 General Custer fell at the Battle of Little Big Horn, Mr. Haynes' six shooter and Bowie knife were necessary equipment just as important his camera. A close look at his camera shows that it has two lens side-by-side which allowed it to take 3-D images called stereoview photos. In the 1880s every household had to have a collection of stereoviews in the parlor.

After an apprenticeship in his home state of Michigan, Haynes started his own photography studio in Moorhead, MN in December 1876 and then three years later relocated across the Red River to Fargo in what was then still the Dakota Territory. While in Moorhead he contracted with the Northern Pacific Railway to take photographs of the railroad's property. With shrewd foresight Haynes made a deal that committed the railway to buy a set number of prints made from each negative while still allowing him to retain the right to make private sales of the photos for himself. He also got free passage on any of the Northern Pacific trains.

In 1885 Frank Haynes purchased a special Pullman train car which he converted into a traveling photography studio. The Northern Pacific gave him a discount to transport the Haynes Palace Studio Car at a rate paid by the mile. In exchange Haynes produced more photos of Northern Pacific steam engines and rolling stock. In 1888 Haynes posted an advertisement in the Brainerd Dispatch listing the dates and places his photocar would appear. Between April 21 and May 10, he parked his studio in seven towns from Brainerd to Perham, Minnesota along approximately 80 miles of track. Presumably in the following month he continued in this way until he reached his home in Fargo.

Brainerd MN Dispatch
20 April 1888
The photocar interior was spacious and well appointed with comfortable chairs for customers. Examples of Haynes portraits and landscapes were hung on the walls and ceiling. A large stove kept the compartment warm during the colder months. And most important for a photographer there was ample natural light from windows, which could also be shaded if necessary, and kerosene lamps overhead for the evening hours. The car also included a living quarters at the other end.

Frank Jay Haynes Railroad Photo Car interior, 1886
Source: Wikipedia

By the end of the year 1888 Haynes kept that shiny brass stove well stoked as he was now in Helena, Montana, about 830 miles due west from Fargo. It was his fourth annual visit but this time the free carriage rides for his customers would not be provided.  However his best cabinet photos were still only $4.00 per dozen. And he promised all his work would be delivered in time for Christmas.

Helena MT Independent Record
13 December 1888

In 1880 Helena was quite a large town of 3,624 people, but over the next decade its population exploded by 1890 to 13,834. In contrast, Fargo's population in 1890 was only 5,664. The reason for this boom was GOLD. In 1864 prospectors discovered rich deposits of gold alongside a  creek they named "Last Chance Gulch". It proved to be so productive that by 1888 Helena could boast of over 50 millionaires, a concentration supposedly higher in that era that any other city in the world. That amount of wealth built a new modern city that required skilled workers and tradesmen, including photographers.  And all of them arrived on the Northern Pacific Railroad.

As the railway company extended its line westward, Helena also became a convenient base for explorers mapping the vast uncharted continent of the northwest. Between 1869 and 1871 there were a series of geologic expeditions to the Yellowstone River basin, about 250 miles southwest of Helena in the Wyoming Territory. The fantastic geothermal wonders, wildlife and natural beauty of the Yellowstone region led surveyors to propose protecting it from development. Incredibly, congress agreed and on March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law creating the Yellowstone National Park, the first national park preserve in the United States and in the world.

Haynes brought his Palace Studio Car to Helena but never set up a permanent branch there, despite the obvious economic incentives. Instead in 1881, even before his first visit to the new Yellowstone National Park, he applied for a position as the official photographer of the park. Though such a job  did not exist, Haynes was granted a lease on a place in the park for a photography studio. The following year in 1882 the Northern Pacific finished a spur line to Livingston, Montana. But that town was still 55 miles from the north entrance to the park. A proper rail connection into the center of Yellowstone was not completed until 1908.

Yellowstone Falls, January 1887
by F. J. Haynes
Source: Wikipedia

Frank Jay Haynes, 1887
Winter Expedition to Yellowstone Park
Source: Wikipedia

In the winter of 1886-87  Frank Jay Haynes joined  one of the first wintertime expeditions into the Yellowstone. This harrowing adventure covered 200 miles and lasted 29 days. The party endured temperatures from −10 °F (−23 °C) to −52 °F (−47 °C) and nearly perished in a mountain snow storm. Despite these perilous conditions Haynes took 42 dramatic photos of the Yellowstone winter landscape, probably on glass plate negatives. These images and other photos he made of the park helped confirm its value as a national treasure.

This self-portrait from the 1887 expedition shows F. J. Haynes dressed head to toe in fur hide clothing and standing on a slope with two skis and a pole. I suspect it may be a studio photo taken in front of a clever  painted backdrop as the glare on the snow field behind him would have been very difficult to photograph using the methods of early photography. 

_ _ _

The dealer from whom I bought the photo of the mother and infant had another fine portrait also made by the Haynes studio. I could not resist buying even though it did not have the image of Haynes railroad photo car on the back.

This young girl
with her lace collar and pearl earring
is beautifully posed.
I have no reason to connect her
to the first cabinet photo
other than that the F. J. Haynes studio made both.
But I do know her photo was
"Taken when 11 years old."

The vignette effect  was a popular fashion
for cabinet photos in the 1890s.
The photographer's logo reads simply:

Haynes    St. Paul.

Just two years after his winter expedition to Yellowstone, Frank J. Haynes moved from Fargo, now officially in North Dakota as of its statehood in 1889, to Saint Paul, Minnesota. This may have been partly because the Northern Pacific Railway company was relocating its headquarters in St. Paul. But more likely it was because there were nearly 300,000 people living in St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, and in Minneapolis, its twin city across the Mississippi River. There was money to be made for a talented photographer.

Haynes Palace Studio Photo Car, 1901
Source: Wikipedia
By the new century most small towns in America had at least one commercial photographer, and the new technology of film used by small box cameras allowed anyone to take their own photos, so traveling photo cars were no longer a profitable business. The 1888 price of $4 per dozen cabinet photos that Haynes charged was $2 per dozen with a Colorado photo car photographer in 1891. Just $1.49 a dozen from a Kansas railroad photo car studio in September 1892, reduced to only 99¢ by November.

Haynes maintained a regular route for his Palace Studio Photo Car from the 1880s until 1905 when he gave it up and presumably he sold it. His son, Jack Ellis Haynes, joined the photography studio in the 1890s, and in 1916 took over the business when poor health forced F. J. Haynes to retire. He died in 1921 in Saint Paul.

Over the years Frank J. Haynes produced several thousand portrait photographs and photos of railroad rolling stock. But it was probably his landscape photos of Yellowstone Park that he was most proud of.  After his first visit to the park in 1881 when he made over 200 photographs, he returned to Yellowstone, a 1,000 mile journey from St. Paul, every year until his death in 1921. His son Jack also succeeded him as the "official photographer of Yellowstone" and kept a branch of the family studio there until his own death in 1962.

At its height in the 1940s the Northern Pacific Railway operated a system of 6,889 miles of track from Lake Superior to Puget Sound. By 1970 it was not sustainable and merged into the Burlington Northern which later became the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway. In the 19th century the railroad companies opened up the expansion of a new America, but in doing so they introduced a new landscape to photographers who were inspired to use a camera to describe this beautiful country. Few managed the success and artistry of Frank Jay Haynes, and certainly few other photographers were as instrumental at promoting the public's awareness of America's preeminent national park. As a testimony of their power his photos are still used to promote tourism in Yellowstone National Park.

Earlier this year I posted another story about a photographer entitled Mrs. McMullin Took Their Picture. I was intrigued by newspaper reports on the competition Mrs. McMullin and her small town business faced from itinerant railroad photo car studios. These photographers were especially prevalent in Kansas where she lived. A simple search in newspaper archives using the term "railroad 'photo car' ", brings up over 3,500 hits in Kansas newspapers, over 20 times more than the number for other states.

My collection has several cabinet cards produced by railroad photo car studios but photos of one of these special train cars are very rare. Though there were some traveling photographers in the East, it was primarily in the West and Midwest that they worked, unknowingly documenting America's 19th century people and culture. It was a short-lived business type. The first photo cars appear in newspaper advertising in around 1875 and the last about 1920. By the second decade of the 20th century most photo cars had gone to the scrap yard. That's why finding an illustration of the Haynes Palace Studio seemed important to write about. Acquiring two beautiful portraits were just an extra bonus.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where every mother is proud.


La Nightingail said...

And a very interesting contribution it is - despite no musical instruments! :) What an enterprising fellow Mr. Haynes was. Obviously he totally enjoyed what he did and was able to make a living at it. Not so many people back then could claim the same - nor today, for that matter. And how entrepreneurish to do it in a railway car - either traveling, or set. He was a very lucky man, and the two photos of his you showcased are beautiful.

Barbara Rogers said...

What a great background of a photographer and his life...I'm amazed at hearing of the first trip in the winter to Yellowstone! They must have had a lot of baggage, not just skiis as in his self portrait...since he had glass plate photography. The 2 portraits you have of his are not only historic, they are beautifully done. Thanks for veering away from music this week!

smkelly8 said...

A fascinating post. I'm glad to have learned about the palace studio car.

Kristin said...

Now I wonder what happened to the people in the photographs. Very intriguing faces.


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