I ran across an interesting story from about a century ago as I was going through old letters and other memorabilia from my husband’s side of the family. I believe the older the information, the better it is. I especially like reading about the 1930s and have unearthed some interesting material which I’ll post later.
The following was typed up from the 1940s newspaper. I suppose the little girl’s photograph is in a Stafford, Kansas museum where much of my husband’s grandfather’s photography things were taken. W.R. Gray died seven years later on Aug. 2, 1947. Read on, this might warm your heart if not bring a lump to your throat. I wish I knew who the author of this article was, another “anonymous.”
Taken from the St. John News, Sixieth Edition, 1940
“In the Same Location”
W.R. Gray, Photographer, started with 5×8 camera in 1887
Ten cents spent by a former lad for a circular of bargains resulted in the establishment of three photo businesses, and a life work for six people, one of them holding a Ph.D. degree.
In August, 1887, W.R. Gray asked for his wages a few days in advance so that he might buy a 5×8 camera advertised in a circular for which he had spent a dime. 1940 finds W.R. Gray in a studio he has had in the same location since 1905, and which has outlived all competitors who have attempted to establish studios in St. John. Two brothers, a son and a daughter became photographers. One son is a chemist for the Eastman Kodak company, due to the influence of Mr. Gray and his little 5X8 camera.
Mr. Gray has had his home and studio in the present location all through the years. He has acquired new equipment and is well informed in the new development of photographs. Miss Jessie Gray has devoted much time and study in the art of tinting. Her work on landscapes is unusually fine. The colors are natural and because the scenes are “real” they have true worth. Her portraits are life-like and artistic.
Upon being asked for a special result from his photography, Mr. Gray immediately responded with a story about a little girl who was brought to him in the days before he had established his studio in St. John. He traveled as a overland-photographer for a period of time. The incident occurred at Fall River, Kansas.
A mother and an aunt brought a dark-haired, timid little girl of about four years to the gallery. The child, although willing to have her picture taken, was so self-conscious that she could not pose with her mouth closed. She could not smile with a natural smile but held her mouth open in an unnatural manner.
After being discouraged, and putting the child’s wraps on, the mother and aunt lingered to look at some photographs near the door. The little girl quietly remained near the cameras looking at some button photos. Mr. Gray leaned down to her and told her if she would allow him to, they would surprise her mother by taking her picture now, and he would reward her by giving her one of the buttons she was admiring. The child entered into the conspiracy with Mr. Gray, and posed with shy confidence, her lips closed, but with a half-smile on them. The picture, one of them still in the possession of Mr. Gray, is truly appealing.
A few days later, the child took measles and whooping cough. She died soon afterward. Mr. Gray can never forget how thankful he was that he was able to present a photograph of the little girl to her family.”