PRETTY AND CEREBRAL YOUNG WOMAN IN DES MOINES, IOWA (PHOTOGRAPHER MURDERED AND SENSATIONAL CRIMINAL CASE FOLLOWS)

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The young woman featured in this cabinet card portrait isn’t just another pretty face. She is also cerebral. Her pose indicates that she’s deep in thought. She is reasonably well dressed and wearing a necklace, ring, and a pair of earrings. Wearing all that jewelry when your standing next to a bale of hay seems a bit incongruent, but at least she is holding a handkerchief to wipe away sweat from any farm yard labor she may encounter. This cabinet card was produced by Pearson & Nesbit who operated a studio in Des Moines, Iowa. Research revealed a tragic story associated with one of these photographer partners, Oliver E. Pearson (1857-1896). The website iowaunsolvedmurders.com features an article providing details of Mr. Pearson’s murder. Nancy Bowers is the author of the article. Pearson was pushed from a height at his studio in Des Moines.  The motive for his murder was related to a business dispute. First, some biographical details about Mr. Pearson. As a boy, Oliver Pearson showed much interest and talent for drawing and photography. After high school he obtained a two year apprenticeship with Des Moines photographer George Washington Stiffler. By 1880, Pearson established his own gallery which he named Pearson’s Portraits. In addition to being a talented photographer, he also drew. Some of his art and photos were entered and won honors in art competitions. His most noted photo was that of a small dog named “Doc”. This dog was the mascot of the 23rd Iowa Infantry regiment during its participation in the civil war. In 1895, Pearson joined brothers Charles F. and Henry W. Wilcox in a business deal. Henry sold ads for a local newspaper while Charles managed the Iowa Historical Illustrative Company. The pair published the “Des Moines Illustrated Souvenir”, an elaborate pictorial volume that celebrated the people and the city of Des Moines. A page in the book was devoted to Pearson. The text begins by praising him and his work but than the writer began to denigrate him. For example, some of his work “bearing his name do not do him credit as they were made by his assistants”. It seems that there was some trouble between Pearson and the Wilcox brothers. Just months after the publication of the volume, the Wilcox brothers climbed the outside steps to enter Pearson’s second floor gallery. Pearson was the only one in the gallery to greet his visitors. The reason for the visit and what exactly happened is unknown. However, witnesses did view the end of the meeting because a pushing and shoving match occurred on the second floor landing outside the photography studio (see photo below). Oliver Pearson was seen falling over the railing down to the concrete below. He fractured his skull in the fall and witnesses carried him home and called for medical assistance. Pearson died from his injuries. Charles and Henry Wilcox were immediately arrested. The businessmen and other associates of Pearson were in an uproar about his violent demise. He was a well liked and well connected citizen. His family received much support from the community. The Des Moines Daily News reported that it was amazing that angry community members didn’t raid the jail and lynch the Wilcox brothers. What caused Pearson’s murder? Some local papers reported that the brothers had gone to visit Pearson because the photographer believed that the pair owed him money and they wanted to settle the matter. The Des Moines Daily News interviewed the brothers who claimed that Pearson started the violence and that he had lost his balance, slid down the rail and fell off the landing. Although the coroner believed that Pearson was murdered, a grand jury did not indict the Wilcox brothers due to lack of evidence. The jury could not rule out that his death may have been accidental. Pearson left behind his wife Susie and three young daughters. His widow sued the Wilcox brothers for twenty-five thousand dollars but lost the case. Research concerning Carroll E. Nesbit (1859-1949), Pearson’s partner in the studio that took this cabinet card photograph, tells a pretty tame story compared to Pearson’s sensational story. Nesbit appears in the 1880 US census as a young photographer working in Des Moines. His name also appears in several Des Moines business directories as late as 1903. By 1910 he had moved to South Hood River, Oregon where he worked as a farmer. The 1940 US Census also finds him farming in Oregon. Upon Nesbit’s death, he was buried in Idlewild Cemetery in Hood River.

 oliver-pearson-6th-and-walnut1                                                                                                 Second Floor Landing: Site of Pearson’s Murder

ADORABLE AND BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED LITTLE GIRL IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

A cute little girl poses for her portrait at the studio of Briggs L. Rider, of Chicago, Illinois. The child is wearing a very cute outfit that includes lace and ribbons. The photographer, Rider, was active in Tipton, Iowa (1855), Des Moines, Iowa (1856-1860), and Chicago, Illinois (1864-1896?). During part of his tenure in Chicago, Rider was partners with photographer, Joseph Gehrig. Rider was a daguerreoist and cabinet card photographer. He also copied paintings, drawings and daguerreotypes; and taught daguerreotype art. The address listed on this cabinet card indicates that it was produced sometime between 1878 and 1890.

Published in: on August 17, 2011 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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PRETTY WOMAN IN DES MOINES, IOWA

A pretty woman poses for her cabinet card portrait in Des Moines, Iowa. The photographer is named James; his first name is unknown.  The young woman is wearing a scalloped lace collar and a serious expression.

 

Published in: on November 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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HANDSOME BEARDED MAN IN DES MOINES, IOWA

This Cabinet card  is an addition to this blogs extensive beard category. The gentleman subject of this photograph is identified as Jud Henshaw. The photographer is W. C. Edinger of Des Moines, Iowa. Edinger was an accomplished photographer. His work appeared in the Photo Beacon Magazine (1897) and he is mentioned in Photo-Miniature Magazine (1901). Edinger was also the Secretary of the Photographers Association of Iowa.

Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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THE AIVEY GIRLS: KIDS POSE IN DES MOINES, IOWA

KIDS IN IOWA_0003This cabinet card is an image of two sisters posing for their portrait in Des Moines, Iowa.  The photographer is Lind. The reverse of the card indicates that the girls are named Gady and Jane Aivey.

Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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