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  • Jerry King Musser

Hold Still. Don't Smile.

For a small town, Columbia had more than its share of photographers at the turn of the last century. There was good reason for it. Columbia was a serious railway hub. Trains passed through from all over. Freight and passenger trains. That meant people visited for a few hours or months. And, the hot new social media of the time was getting photographed and sharing copies. This brought photographers into town and allowed locals to merge into a new profession.

The popular format of the day was the cabinet card, a thin-papered photographic image glued to a thicker card measuring about 4.25 by 6.5 inches. Often, there was a margin at the bottom, allowing the studio to advertise its location. Other times, the back of the card did the same but with an elaborate etching. The best part: a frame wasn't necessary. Because it was a stiff card, it was simply tilted within a glass cabinet or placed on a small easel, thus, 'cabinet card.' Its smaller cousin was the Carte de Visite (visitor's card). These handy little cards measuring about 2.5 by 4 inches and fit comfortably into one's pocket. They were handed out to old friends on the street, or were traded among friends and family.

Photographers would often come and go, depending on the success of their enterprise. That accounted for having more photographers, accumulatively, than physical studios. One photographer leaving the area for richer cities would sell their studio to the next one interested in setting up shop. Columbia had a few locations that illustrates this musical chair effect. The studio at 210 Locust had more than five different photographers claiming that location over the years. Some photographers would move to a larger studio when it became available. Lynford M. Williams moved at least four times.

The map below, from 1894, shows the major studios at the time listing the various photographers who worked there. They were:

A: 7 North Front Street / Charles James, G. A. Hyers, L. M. Williams, and H. C. Lesher.

B: 103 Locust Street / Rolandis J. M. Little.

C: 162 Locust Street / George W. Bew, Zimmerman & Co., Charles S. Robson.

D: 210 Locust Street / William T. Cook, Harry's Studio, S. Klugherz, Samuel K. Pannebecker, L. M. Williams.

E: 240 Locust Street / Harry W. Zeamer (a druggist there, but an avid photographer).

F: 247 Locust Street / L. M. Williams.

G: 36 North Third Street / William Bailey.

H: 121 North Seventh Street / Benjamin Ackerman (beyond the scope of this map).

I: 590 Locust Street / Isaac Wakefield (beyond the scope of this map).

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