About the Collection
The Collection and its History
Elfie Huntington, the deaf photographer with a sense of humor, and Joseph Daniel Bagley, fellow photographer and business partner, bee-keeper and sometime town wit, received their photographic training from Springville, Utah photographer, George Edward Anderson. In 1892 Elfie was apprenticed to Anderson where she did photographic retouching and possibly studio work. On 10 September 1900, Joseph Daniel Bagley began working for “Bishop Ed. Anderson at the photography for $12 per month.” 1 In 1903 they left Anderson, much to his dismay, and formed their own studio called appropriately, Huntington & Bagley.
This first studio was across the street from Anderson’s. When Anderson left for his mission to England on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1907, Elfie and Joe expanded their business and established a new studio near the Harrison Hotel, 101 South Main Street, in Springville. This was to be their last business home. For more than 33 years, they took thousands of photographs, primarily portraits, of which the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Photographic Archives owns 14,263 negatives and 882 original studio proofs. They followed in the footsteps of their early teacher, George Edward Anderson, and traveled throughout central and southern Utah setting up galleries and documenting the lives of hundreds of Utah residents in early twentieth century small town Utah.
These tent studios were set up throughout the small towns of central and southern Utah. Their collection, therefore, includes family portraits from towns as diverse as southern Utah communities such as Hinckley, Hurricane, and St. George, to eastern Utah communities such as Chester, Spring City, Ephraim, and Manti. Work in Utah County, of course is represented well, from Springville, Provo, Thistle, and Spanish Fork, among other places. Unfortunately only about 4,500 photographs include the name of the individual who contracted for the photograph, and even fewer contain the geographic place where the photograph was taken.
Their collection, known as the Huntington & Bagley Studio Photograph Collection, 1903-1939, is, therefore, primarily a studio portrait collection. It does include the occasional documentary portrait photographed near the barns, the homes and in the streets of their subjects, as well as a sprinkling of photographic character studies exuding humor and humanity.
A common dilemma of 19th and early 20th Century photography studios is to determine who actually took the photographs. Because of this, the photographs in this collection are generally attributed to both photographers. However, there are 244, 4x 5 inch plates that are identified by Rell G. Francis, photographer and George Edward Anderson’s biographer, as having been taken from “Elfie’s albums.” Although it is known that while working for Anderson she began taking photographs in 1894 with her own 4 x 5 inch camera, perhaps all of the 2289, 4 x 5 inch gelatin dry plate negatives in this collection could be attributed to Elfie.
A part of the Huntington & Bagley collection includes twenty-seven business letters spanning the years 1910-1927, with the greatest concentration of letters covering the years 1917-1918. These letters from customers are geographically diverse coming from as far away as Bunkerville, Nevada and as close as Wallsburg, Utah. Although these obviously represent only a small percentage of their business correspondence, they give us an insight into the business relationships within the Huntington & Bagley Studio. For example, fifty percent of the correspondence is addressed to Joe Bagley and these letters clearly demonstrate that he was behind the camera. The customers often commented on the photographs he took as they followed up on their orders. We find that thirty-eight percent of the correspondence is addressed to both photographers and ten percent to Elfie Huntington. Often Joe would write notes to Elfie from the field asking for supplies, clarifications on customer’s orders, and give directions for processing. At least during this window of time we can see clearly that Joe Bagley was an active photographer. 2
In November 1974, the collection came to Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University as a gift from Lynn Wakefield, an employee of Brigham Young University. Previously, the collection was stored for many years in the Huntington & Bagley studio on 101 South Main Street, Springville, Utah. When Elfie Huntington sold the studio to Ralph Snelson, probably in 1939, the plates were included in that sale. Snelson subsequently gave the plates to Lynn Wakefield, and according to Nelson Wadsworth, the plates were stored in various places, including a chicken coop in Provo. 3 In November 1974, Lynn Wakefield gave the plates, over 14,000, plus over 800 original studio proofs to Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
The Digital Collection
The digital collection is composed of over 4,500 of the 15,145 negatives and original studio prints, which represents almost 30 percent of the entire collection. The selection of images to be scanned was based primarily on whether there was a personal name identified with the photograph. The individual as the purchaser of the photograph, may not actually be in the photograph, however. Another important selection criteria was to include the 244, 4 x 5 inch gelatin dry plate negatives associated with “Elfie’s albums,” most of which do not have a personal name associated with the photograph.
Early on in this process, the decision was made to scan the photographic proofs made in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections darkroom, rather than the original negatives. Consequently, 3525 thousand images follow this method, but due to the quality of some of the digitized proofs, approximately 1,000 images were scanned from the original negatives. All of the photographs were scanned on the iQsmart3 CREO with archival TIFF’s created at 800 dpi and JPEG derivatives at 400 dpi loaded as JPEG2000 onto the CONTENTdm server.
- Daniel Bagley, “Daily Log,” 10 September 1900.
- Huntington and Bagley Photograph Collection, MSS P 4, Box 162.
- Nelson B. Wadsworth, Set in Stone and Fixed in Glass: the Mormons, the West, and their Photographers (Salt Lake City: Signature books, ©1992 and 1996), 228-9.