About the Collection
Biography of Elfie Huntington
Elfie Caroline Huntington was born on 27 December 1868 to William Clark Huntington and Emma Elizabeth Boyer in Springville, Utah. In 1872, at the age of four, Elfie lost her hearing due to scarlet fever. After her mother’s death in 1874, she lived for a short while with her grandmother, but eventually came to live with her aunt and uncle, Lydia Boyer and Don C. Johnson of Springville. It was her uncle, owner of the Springville Independent newspaper, who helped her develop lip reading skill and encouraged her artistic interests. In 1892 she was apprenticed to photographer George Edward Anderson where she did photographic retouching and possibly studio work. While working for Anderson, she apparently purchased a small view camera where she continued to develop her photographic skills, and it is believed by some that many or most of the 4 x 5 negatives are Elfie’s work. In 1903 she and another Anderson photographic assistant, Joseph Daniel Bagley, left Anderson and formed their own studio called Huntington & Bagley.
Their first studio was across the street from Anderson’s. When Anderson left for his mission to England 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. In these two studios, for more than 33 years, they took thousands of photographs, primarily portraits, but in addition 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.
Sometimes they traveled around Utah County by motorcycle. A legendary story is told by Cary Stevens Jones “Huntington was at the wheel one day and hit a bump in the road. Because she couldn’t hear, it wasn’t until she had returned to Springville that she realized Joseph Bagley had fallen off the back of the motorcycle somewhere along the road.” 1
At the age of 68, in April 1936 she married her long-time business partner and friend, Joseph Bagley. Joe, who had recently suffered a heart attack, was apparently deeply concerned about his two youngest children, Daniel and Shirley, who might be left without any parents. He died a scant six weeks later, and Elfie was unable to meet Joe’s hope that she mother his children, as she moved back to her apartment adjacent to the studio shortly after his death. After the settling of Joseph Bagley’s estate, probably sometime in 1939, she sold their photographic studio to Ralph Snelson. She was to live another sixteen years. On 24 July 1949 Elfie, at the age of 80, died after a stroke and long illness. Ironically and inaccurately the Salt Lake Tribune reported “she operated the Huntington-Bagley Studios here, although she was unable to hear or see.” 2
- A Woman’s View: The Photography of Elfie Huntington (1868-1949), (Salt Lake City: Utah Women’s History Association, 1988), 5; Brooks Ollis to Cary Stevens Jones, 20 April 1988, Brooks is the granddaughter of Joseph D. Bagley.
- Salt LakeTribune, 27 July 1949, 26, quoted in Nelson B. Wadsworth, Set in Stone and Fixed in Glass, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, c1993, 1996), 205.