39 – The Peasleys – Part 1

In today’s episode, our quest to bring into focus the family history of the photographers behind the Peasleys Studio in Medford Orgeon uncovers many marriages, minor mysteries and even a possible murder.


Here’s the photo of my husband’s paternal grandmother, taken in 1932 at the Peasley Studio in Medford, Oregon:

Photo taken at the Peasleys Studio in Medford, OR, 1932 [Courtesy Stan Culy]
Photo taken at the Peasleys Studio in Medford, OR, 1932 [Courtesy Stan Culy]
Detail of Peasleys name/signature on the photo
Detail of Peasleys name/signature on the photo





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Welcome to Photographs, Pistols & Parasols, the podcast where we celebrate early women artisan photographers.

I’m your host, Lee McIntyre.

In today’s episode, our quest to bring into focus the family history of the photographers behind the Peasleys Studio in Medford Orgeon uncovers many marriages, minor mysteries and even a possible murder.

For more information about any of the women discussed in today’s episode, visit my website at p3photographers.net.

That’s letter “p”, number “3”, photographers “dot” net.


Hi, everybody!

Today’s story is going to start with a photograph.

It’s not just any photograph, it’s a photograph of my husband’s grandmother.

My father in-law, Stan Culy, who has been a great supporter of the project (thanks so much, Stan!) — one day he brought out this picture of his mother, Helene Coke Culy.

And he said, “Hey, do you guys know anything about the studio that took this picture?”

Now, Helene Coke, as she was known before she was married, was living in Medford, Oregon in 1932, and she went into a studio there and had her picture taken.

And it’s a great shot: she’s dressed in this elegant long gown and light or white colored shoes; she’s got her hands on her hips; she’s probably about eighteen or nineteen.

Her youthful exuberance really just flies out of that image!

I mean, she’s staring into camera with a great big grin on her face.

It’s a photo that’s about eight by ten, and it’s been enclosed in this folder that has a gorgeous floral decoration around the edges.

What’s interesting is that the photographer’s studio address and the full name of the studio is not indicated on that folder.

However, written on the photo itself it says “Peasleys” with a little flourish.

So the name of the photographers, then, were the “Peasleys”.

To answer my father-in-law’s question, then, what Chris and I needed to do was figure out who were the Peasleys who were running that studio.

So, our first quest is to find out if there was a photography studio called the Peasleys in Medford, Oregon in 1932.

Turning to the internet, we look for digitized directories from Medford, Oregon — and we run into our first problem.

The digitized directories online don’t start from Medford, Oregon until 1935.

But wait — in 1935, the Peasleys studio is still there.

And, hey, what do you know?! It’s run by a husband and wife!

Which means that we now have a woman photographer to explore in the story.

And we can see if she started her career before 1930, so she can fit into our regular p3photographers project.

But we really need to see if this is the Peasleys studio that Chris’s grandmother could have gone to in 1932.

We don’t have a directory, so we need to see if we could find any other information, maybe in newspapers that are digitized online.

We’re looking for references to the Peasleys studio.

We really want to confirm whether or not Mr and Mrs Peasley from 1935 actually could have started running writing that studio there in Medford early enough to qualify to have been the one that Chris’s grandmother went to.

So, when we look around in the newspapers online … actually we stumble across a notice for a studio called the Peasleys , but in Portland, Oregon in 1918, where it was run by a Mr and Mrs Peasley.

This is really getting interesting now ..and more complicated.

Because … are Mr Mrs Peasley in Portland, Oregon in 1918, are they the same Peasleys who are running the studio in Medford, Oregon in 1935, the ones we can see in the directory?

And .. when we think to the context of the Photographs, Pistols & Parasols project, can we determine if the Mrs Peasley in 1918 [in Portland] is the same one that was running the studio in 1935 in Medford?

To figure all this out today, I’m going to take us backwards in time a bit.

Now, the reason for this is that we want to find out where the Peasleys came from, and the easiest way to do that is usually to start with the man and find out his background, because of course his name doesn’t change like the wife’s name changes.

So, we’re gonna leave the 1930s behind and travel back before the turn of the century to find out the origin story of Mr Peasley; that is Mr Albert E Peasley, the photographer from both Medford and Portland in the 20th century.

If we can figure out where our Albert E Peasley came from, and who it was that he married, then we will get the maiden name of his wife and make it easier to track her story.


Albert E. Peasley was born April 1877 in Dallas, Iowa.

His parents were Albert and Sarah Peasley, and because his father’s name is the same as his name, I will be calling the photographer — who we are going to be tracking across the country — I’m going to call him not Albert but “Bert: Peasley, and leave Albert Peasley to refer to his father, who will enter our narrative [again] later on.

Albert Peasley, the father, [I should not], though, was not a photographer.

By 1880 we find that the Peasleys have moved their family to Kansas from Dallas, Iowa.

Later still, about a decade later, they moved the family to Nebraska City, Nebraska, and that is where Bert Peasley gets married in 1899 to Anna May White,

Bert and Anna wind up having a daughter, Gladys, and in the early part of their marriage they live in Nebraska City for a short time.

But then we find Bert taking his photography career and his family all over the Midwest.

So, they wind up for awhile in Corning, Iowa where Bert buys into a gallery and partners with another photographer, and then buys out the other photographer and runs it for awhile himself, and then sells that studio and moves on.

We see him in Missouri, we see him back in Iowa, we see him back Kansas, and back in Nebraska City.

But then, by 1910 we find that Anna and Bert have up and moved clear across the country to Seattle, Washington.

That’s where Bert is the co owner of a photography studio called Lynn & Co, partnering with the Mr Lynn to run that photography studio for a couple of years, 1910-1911.

It’s interesting that Bert clearly gets along really well with his in laws because Anna May White’s, parents Thomas and Jenny White, actually move across country with Anna, Bert, and little Gladys, and are living there in Seattle in 1910.

Interestingly, Bert and Anna on the move again because in 1912 we find them in Tacoma, Washington where Bert is now working for the F. J. Lee studio.

Before I go on, I should pause for a moment just to point out that Anna White Peasley — Bert Peasley’s wife at this point — she’s not a photographer, at least not as far as I can tell from anything that we found in the public record.

So Bert Peasley isn’t actually working at all with his wife, at least not as far as we can tell.

But that’s about to change.

Well, that is, Bert Peasley’s wife is about to change.

At some point prior to July 5, 1913 … well. hopefully, prior to July 5th 1913, Bert and Anna Peasley get divorced.

You see, on July July 5, 1913, Anna White Peasley actually marries another man, Edgar Courtwright.

Now, he’s not a photographer … and as I said Anna Peasley — or Anna Peasley Courwright — is not a photographer, and I’ll tell you that Bert and Anna’s daughter, Gladys, never apparently works as a photographer, either.

Well, since there aren’t any women photographers in following Anna and her story, we can leave Anna and her new husband, Edgar, in Tacoma, and really continue our journey south down the coast with Bert Peasley.

So, after Anna gets remarried in1913, Bert apparently wanders around.

We don’t find him in a directory in 1913, but in 1914 he pops up working as a photographer in the photography studio of the W.G. Cuthbert in Portland, Oregon.

Now, that studios as it turns out is being managed by a young woman named Alda Bert.

She graduated from high school in Portland in 1908 and studied for a while at the Chicago Art Institute before returning to Portland and apparently taking up photography.

Before 1914 she spent a few years working as an assistant ta various photo galleries there in Portland.

But in 1914, Bert and Alda are working together in the WG Cuthbert studio, because Alda is actually running at studio.

We can imagine that maybe when Bert and Alda met, romance was in the air.

I mean maybe they “met cute” or sparks flew, [I don’t know but} they had to have fallen in love pretty quickly.

Choose your favorite romantic trope.

Because there’s no actual record of their meeting or courtship, but everything happened so fast that by March of 1914 Alda Burke and Bert Teasley are married.

We can get the image in our head of what Alda Berke might have looked liked because the marriage notices say that she’s a pretty brunette who wore blue brocade gown to get married in.

Both Alda and Bert Peasley, after their marriage, continue to work in Portland in different photography studios … but it is in different photography studios, because for the next few years they don’t actually work together again.

But in 1913 they opened “The Peasleys” studio in Portland, Oregon.

That’s the same year, actually, that alda give birth to their son, Ervan Peasley.

So it’s “The Peasleys” studio, but it’s in Portland.

So, is Alda Peasley the “Mrs. Peasley” that’s running the studio in Medford, Oregon [later on] ?

We continue to investigate …

We find a lot of advertising in the paper for the Portland Peasley studio.

It’s got some very fancy ads with pictures of photos, even, i.e. what kinds of photos they do.

They do studio portraits, they do the debutante pictures, photos of events, etc. , that are published in the newspaper.

In the Library of Congress archive there’s actually a photo by the Peasleys studio circa 1920.

It’s a photo of a group standing around a small plane; I don’t know if it’s a biplane, as I don’t know much about planes.

It says in the Library of Congress database that this image was taken either in Washington or Oregon at an airport.

The group is standing around the plane, and the pilot looks like he’s reaching out to get a plaque or something.

It’s a whole group of gentleman standing there.

the date on it is circa 1920, and so that’s definitely a product of Alda and Bert studio .

Their studio is thriving there; the Peasleys are very popular, and they have these interesting notices in the paper.

I mean, in May of 1921 there’s a notice that says that the Peasleys studio, i.e. as studio photographers, are “unexpectedly excellent at taking portraits”.

Which I found an interesting turn of phrase.

In 1921 they’re taking out ads with many photographers in town, urging people to come into somebody’s studio — anybody’s studio doesn’t matter which of them — to get their picture taken for Christmas, like to give this Christmas presents.

But it’s interesting to see that they’re actually partnering on these ads with the other studios.

As I said, the Peasleys studio Portland is doing really really well there in the early 1920s.

But unfortunately we find that the Peasleys marriage is apparently not.
I’m not sure of the exact dates of any of this, but it would seem that by 1923, Alda and Bert Peasleys’ marriage must be over.

In 1923 in Portland, the Peasleys studio is being managed just by Alda Peasley.

Bert is nowhere to be found in the directory

In 1924, Mrs Alda Peasley is still in Portland. but now she’s running a studio just called Mrs Alda B. Peasley.

Ahe’s no longer running that Peasleys studio.

A the end, Bert is nowhere to be found.

So, in 1924 Mrs Alda B. Peasley is no longer associated with the studio called the Peasleys.

So that indicates that Alda Peasley is not the “Mrs Peasley” who is part of the husband-wife couple running the Peasley studio in Medford in 1932.

For the moment, since today were on the hunt to figure out who that woman was, we’re gonna leave Mrs Alda B. Peasley in Portland, working there on her own … and [we’re going to] switch over to just pick up Bert’s trail to see where he wound up.

So we need to figure out where Bert winds up when he disappears from the Portland directory in 1923.

I’m actually gonna back up a little bit, to 1920, while the Peasleys are running the Peasleys studio in Portland, nd by the Peasleys, then, I mean of course all as Bert and {at the same time period). in that same time period there’s a young woman named Lorene Hanners, and she turns out to be interested in becoming a photographer.

In fact in 1920 she’s living with her parents in Portland and already working in a photography gallery in Portland, although working for someone else, not running the gallery on her own.

It’s fun to kind of speculate that maybe she was actually working for the Peasleys studio and that’s perhaps how she and Bert Peasley might have met.

But I have to say there is absolutely no evidence at all have any of that.

[However], there seems to be some evidence that after all Alda and Bert’s birds marriage fell apart circa 1921.

Bert Peasley actually takes off then for a studio in Stockton, California, working there circa 1922.

So, it’s not clear how Bert might have connected up with Lorene Hanners.

But in fact by 1923 Bert is back in Oregon, and we find that he has married young Lorene Hanners (she’s nineteen years younger than him).

They move to Klamath Falls where they open up a studio called “The Peasleys”.

Bert Peasley, of course, had had a previous studio called “The Peasleys” in Portland up until 1921 with his then-wife Alda.

And then in 1923, he opens up a new studio in Klamath Falls called “The Peasleys” with his new wife, Lorene Hanners Peasley.

Now there are numerous ads for the Peasleys studio in Klamath Falls, and they are similar to the kind of ads that we see for the Peasleys studio in Portland, where they’re partnering with other studios to get people to come out and “get your picture taken”, particularly for Christmas.

It’s also interesting that in 1923, that there’s apparently some “photo fakers” going around trying to scam people to get pictures of their babies taken.

In this scam, the claim is that a baby contest associated with “The Peasleys” studio in Klamath Falls, but Mr and Mrs Peasley make sure that they get an interview published in the paper that says they have nothing to do with the scan — their name is just being used without their consent.

For the next 2 years the Peasleys —and again at this point, Mr and Mrs Peasley are Bert and Lorene — well, they’re living in Klamath Falls running that studi.

Unfortunately, in the summer of 1926, the Peasleys’ studio actually gets burned out: there is a big fire and the Peasleys are forced to leave town.

Years later, in an interview, they say they they went to San Francisco for awhile — to the Bay area _ to work in studios there.

But by March of 1927, they have actually come back to Oregon and moved to Medford, where they buy out a studio.

Now, as a side note, the studio [the Peasleys] buy out is actually co-owned by a woman photographer!

But that’s a definitely a story for another day.

Anyway, these are the Peasleys who run the studio in Medford, Oregon, in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

There are various ads [in the newspapers] that indicate they’re running the studio there.

Interestingly, they have a radio show for awhile in 1929.

I kind of wondered what a photography studio radio show would have been like; that was an intriguing thing to find mentioned in the newspaper

Anyway, so, we have from 1927 until the 1936, that’s when Lorene and Bert Peasley are running Peasley studio in Medford.

All right, so we’ve answered our basic question about who were the photographers behind photo that we have of my husband’s grandmother takem in 1932 in Medford, Oregon.

In 1932, when Helene Coke went into the Peasleys studio to get her portrait taken, it is quite possible that a woman photographer like Mrs Lorraine Peasley could have taken that picture  — and that’s kind of fun to figure out.

In terms of what else happened to Lorene and Bert Peasley after they were in Medford, Oregon in the 1930s, well it’s a little hard to say.

I mean, they’re definitely there in 1935, but the 1936 Medford directory is missing.

In 1937 they’re not in Medford anymore … I’m not quite sure where they are …

But in the 1940 census they’re living with Lorene Peasley’s parents, Mr & Mrs Hanners.

[their town] was called in the census “Election Precint Five” in Washington County, Oregon.

That’s probably Tigard, Oregon, where that Hanners had a country home.

In the 1940 census Bert is still a photographer.

Bert and Loreen do pop up in the 1943 directory in Portland: he’s working as a photographer for someone else. but Lorene no longer has a profession.

And in 1943 apparently that’s the time when Bert and Lorene are having some problems with their marriage.

So unfortunately for Bert, his third marriage is not a success, and [Bert and Lorene] wind up getting divorced.

Lorene then remarries.

Now what’s interesting is that her full name was “Mary Lorene Hanners”, and so it turns out that when she gets [re-]married she doesn’t use Lorene anymore, she uses Mary.

But it’s clearly her who marries a man named Bowman in 1944.

Lorene winds up living all the way to 1987, but there’s no evidence that she ever did photography again.

As for Bert, well, he dies in 1948 in Portland, and there’s really no evidence that he did photography between that 1943 directory and 1948, because there’s just no evidence for him between 1943 and 1948 at all.

But I have to think that he probably [possibly?] did still work for other photography studios there in Portland, because he did seem to always bounce around working for others, even if he wasn’t running the studio itself.

So you might think that’s where the story ends.

But today I want to add a little bit more information about Bert Peasley it has nothing to do with his photography.

But it was an interesting story that we stumbled on when we were doing research to figure out about Bert and Lorene.

So it turns out… as I said, Albert E. Peasley, who I’m calling Bert, was the son of a man named Albert Peasley and a woman named Sarah Peasley.

By 1892 the Peasleys have moved to Nebraska City, and that is where the father Albert takes a correspondence course on what’s called “Magnetic Healing”.

It’s something that combines a little bit of being a masseuse [and] a little being a natural healer.

So Albert Peasley — that’s again the father — he starts calling himself Professor Peasley and opens up a business in Kansas practicing Magnetic Healing.

In 1905 I know Professor Peasley and his wife, Sarah, are living in Atchison, Kansas.

I know this because in 1905 there’s an incident that happens that is really quite striking.

You see, Professor Peasley and his wife, Sarah, were living in Atchison, and, as Professor Peasley explained it later, a messenger boy came to the door and delivered a powder from the local doctor for Sarah Peasley to take.

Sarah Peasley took this powder, and she died because that powder was strychnine.

[In otherwords], she was poisoned.

The boy that Professor Peasley said came to the door was never found, and the strychnine was found to have been purchased in Leavenworth, Kansas.

There was a witness who said that Professor Peasley was there at the right time period and hadbought it, but he consistently denied ever having been there

He was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife.

Again, I’m just bringing this up as a side story because these are the parents of Bert Peasley, the photographer I have been talking about.

So, during the trial, Professor Peasley is represented by his brother-in-law, who is also his half brother. Apparently the two half-brothers married sisters.

So, Professor Peasley’s brother-in-law is his defense attorney.

And at the trial, his defense attorney brought in Sarah Peasley’s sister, who maybe was that lawyer’s wife, because the two half brothers had married sisters.

Anyway, Sarah Peasley’s sister claimed that Sarah had mentioned being suicidal/

Now this is an interesting tactic to take because when the Professor was originally arrested, he insisted that he had been happily married for 39 years to Sarah, and she would have had no reason to take her own life … and he would also have had no reason to have killed her.

But the defense strategy was to claim that in fact it was suicide… and the jury believe that suicide theory wound up aquitting Professor Peasley.

So afterwards he goes back to working as a magnetic healer.

And in 1908 he has a problem with one of his clients who don’t pay, and so he sues them.

In 1915, there’s actually an incident that happens when he’s hit by a street car and winds up suing the city, trying to get $15,000, when he says that he’s unable to pursue his masseuse career (i.e. his magnetic healing career) because of the injury he suffered in the car accident.

I don’t know what happened between the time of 1915 and 1927, but there is an Albert Peasley who dies in 1927 in Medford Oregon, and I do think that that is Professor Peasley, the father of Bert Peasley, the photographer who with his wife Lorene are living in Medford in 1927.

It is always fascinating to stumble on these unexpectedly interesting back stories of some of the characters that I profile here on the podcast

But that’s not a photography story.

So, I will leave you today with a preview of what I’m going to talk about in the related Part Two of the Peasley saga.

In that episode, we’re going to take another look at the second wife of Bert Peasley, Alda Burke Peasley, as see what happens to her after she and Bert Peasley break up.

As I said before, Alda stays in Portland, running a studio under her own name/

In fact, what we’re going to discover in the next episode, is that Alda Peasley will become one of the most celebrated portrait artist in Portland’s history.

During her own lifetime she was definitely very well known and was very well regarded.

But it’ll bring you the rest of that story in Part Two of the Peasleys, next time.

I’ll put a copy of that lovely photo of my husband’s paternal grandmother, Helene Coke Culy — that one that was taken in Medford, Oregon by the Peasleys in 1932 — the photo that started us off on a quest today… I’ll put a copy of that in the episode notes at p3photographers.net.

As always, if you have any questions, send an email to podcast “at” p3photographers.net.

You can always follow Photographs, Pistols & Parasols on Facebook at facebooks.com/p3photographers.

I really want to say a big thank you again to my father-in-law, Stan, for sharing this wonderful photo of his mother.

It’s always exciting to start off on a quest with one photo and one photographer that you’re looking for, and then discover all of these other photographers and other stories along the way.

I also want to thank my husband, Chris Culy, who was — as always!— very instrumental in helping track down many of the details as we tred to piece together a little bit more about the lives of Bert Peasley and his three wives.

As I said, the Peasley PC will continue in the next episode when we do a deep dive to learn more about the life and career of Mrs Peasley #2, Alda Burke Peasley.

We’ll see what happens to her after she parted ways with Bert Peasley and stays there in Portland doing photography.

But that’s it for today.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time, I’m Lee, and this is Photographs, Pistols & Parasols

Sorry for the glitches in the transcript this time. As of May 1, 2019 at 10:00pm PDT, The rest of the transcript for this episode is now posted.

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