The Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum in Abilene, Kansas is proud to announce a new exhibition highlighting the history of three generations of photographers in the Jeffcoat Studio family business.
Before the turn of the twentieth century, Lucy Fritz Jeffcoat trained herself in camera operation and retouching photographs. She quickly found work for several photographers in the Abilene area. Lucy was also the mother of four children, so she did most of her photographic work from her home. Her son, Paul, became interested in the photographic process at a young age. He began delivering his mother’s retouched photographs and was fascinated with the developing process.
Paul went into business as the Jeffcoat Photography Studio in 1921. At the time, the studio was located in a small second story room in downtown Abilene. The business soon outgrew this space, and Paul built a new building for the business in 1925. This building still stands today, and is the current home of the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum.
Paul saw his business through the Great Depression, and was able to supplement his income by partitioning his building and renting half of his property to other area businesses. Over the years, the north side of the building would be occupied by an optometrist, an insurance agency, and a shoe repairman. The sound of pounding hammers repairing shoes could be a bit distracting during portrait sessions, but having these businesses next door helped the Jeffcoat Studio immensely.
Paul passed the trade of photography down to his son, Bill. Throughout his life, Bill was interested in documenting life and events in his hometown of Abilene. Bill photographed several parades, visits from President Eisenhower, and of course, family portraits. He enjoyed photography outside of his professional work, walking around Abilene and snapping pictures of anything that caught his eye. His father, Paul, saw this differently. He once told his son not to take photographs unless he could make an income from the image. Bill would continue taking snapshots, choosing to develop his film at night to keep it a secret from his father.
Though the Jeffcoat Studio was primarily a portrait studio, the Jeffcoats were able to document the history of the Abilene area, creating images that will last several years to come. The Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum’s newest exhibit, The Family Behind the Lens: A Retrospective of the Jeffcoat Studio, begins on September 1 and runs through November 20.
You can learn more about the history of the Jeffcoat Studio and the history of Abilene by visiting the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum at 321 N. Broadway Street in Abilene. For hours of operation or to schedule a private viewing, contact the museum at (785) 263-9882 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to visit the museum’s website at jeffcoatstudio.com and their Facebook page at facebook.com/jeffcoatstudio.