45 – A Rich Story

In today’s episode, we’re going to meet Delia B. Rich Miracle, a successful photographer from Emporia, Kansas in the late 1800s who had an intriguing encounter with a woman who became notorious as the black widow of Kansas.


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Notes

This episode connects the stories of Frances M. Hurd, aka Frankie Morris (episode 44) and Delia B. Rich, the photographer profiled in this episode.

The connection is through the woman in this photo, Minnie Walkup:

Photo of Minnie Walkup by D. B. Rich (courtesy Lyon County Historical Society)
Photo of Minnie Walkup by D. B. Rich (courtesy Lyon County Historical Society)

Here’s a husband of a man not related in any way that I know of to Minnie Walkup, but it was buying this photo by D.B. Rich in Emporia, Kansas, that led to me Minnie Walkup’s incredible story.

Cabinet card by D. B. Rich (McIntyre-Culy Collection)
Cabinet card by D. B. Rich (McIntyre-Culy Collection)

Minnie Walkup’s story – and notoriety of as the “black widow of Kansas” is profiled in the book  The Adventuress by  Virginia A. McConnell.

 

 


There’s also a writeup about Minnie’s saga on the Murder by Gaslight site.


Lifeline


 


Transcript

You’re listening to Photographs, Pistols & Parasols.

Support for this project is provided by listeners like you. Visit my website at p3photographers “dot” net for ideas on how you, too, can become a supporter of the project.

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

I’m your host, Lee McIntyre.

In today’s episode, we’re going to meet Delia B. Rich Miracle, a successful photographer from Emporia, Kansas in the late 1800s who had an intriguing encounter with a woman who became notorious as the black widow of Kansas.

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 we’re back in Kansas to learn the story of Delia Rich Miracle, a woman who ran a photography studio in Emporia, Kansas, in the 1880s and early 1890s. Her story is intriguing not just for her own accomplishments, but also for the unusual twist that brings her in touch with a woman accused of poisoning.

But first, let’s talk about Delia Rich. But first, let’s focus on the story of Delia Rich, the photographer in Emporia Kansas.

Actually, when she was doing photography, she billed herself as D.B. Rich — that’s the initials, letter “D” and the letter “B” Rich. Her first name at that time was “Delia,” but later in life, she actually reverts back to using her full first name, which was Cordelia.

Now Cordelia Rich, was one of eight children born to a Quaker family in Indiana. In the 1850s, the family moves to Kansas — at first Lawrence, and then after a couple of years, they wind up in Emporia, Kansas.

Now it’s there that a young teenage Cordelia Rich asked her mother for a new calico dress. But, as but as she later explained, her mother said that there wasn’t money.

I mean, the family had arrived in Emporia, Kansas, with just $1 in their pocket.

So Delia is encouraged by her mother to go out and get a job if she wants to get a new Calico dress.

Cordelia takes herself off to the local photographer, a man by the name of Page., and asks to be hired as his apprentice.

Now, Mr. Paige had not intended to hire a girl for this position. And he tells her initially that she’s going to have to work for free for 3 months in order to prove herself.

But fate intervenes when a visiting photographer, who’s in the store, suggests to Mr. Page that he hire Cordelia Rich, to be his assistant because she looks “strong, healthy and intelligent.”

Fast forward a few years and Delia Rich, she’s now known, is the assistant to Mr. Page, and she’s billed as that in the newspapers, and also in the directory for Emporia, Kansas at that time.

She’s advertising in the newspapers, as we seen with so many photographers in that period. She’s advertising tintyped. She’s advertising specials on cabinet cards. She advertises at one point that her specialty is baby pictures.

So she’s really going strong as a photographer, and we can track her in the newspapers and her career right up until 1892, specifically September of 1892, when she sells her studio. Why? Well, she’s about to get married.

A man in town named John L. Miracle recently has lost his wife, and so, in October of 1892, John L. Miracle marries Delia B. Rich.

Interestingly, in 1880, although she is working for Mr. Page at the studio (and she has been for a few years at that point), she’s still living at home with her parents, and it doesn’t list an occupation [for her] in the census.

But any case, Delia Rich, or as she’s professionally known, D.B. Rich, is having success working for Mr. Page.

But then …. another photography studio that was run by two gentlemen … well, that studio is going to undergo some changes when one of the gentlemen leaves town.

Delia, who has saved up her money working for Mr. Page … she’s got the $300 necessary to buy into the studio run by a Mr. Waite. Mr. Waite, and Delia Rich — running the studio of Waite and Rich, are very successful.

And after a couple of years, when another studio [in Emporia] comes open, Mr. Waite encourages Delia to buy that other studio, so that they can basically not have competition, because they’re working well together.

So she does open a new studio on her own, and bills it as “D. B. Rich & Co.”

A couple years later, Mr. Waite retires, and D.B. Rich buys out his portion of the studio they have been running together.

So D.B. Rich has really settled in Emporia and been very successful for about 10 years at this point, running a studio all on her own now, once Mr. Wade has retired.

After their marriage, Delia B. Rich gives up her studio. [She and her husband] seem to go into business, maybe doing groceries for a while, maybe you’re running little store, maybe working for others. It’s not exactly clear from the newspaper clippings that we found what exactly they’re doing.

In the in the 1895 census, as well as the 1900 census, they’re both working [as clerks], but neither in a [photography] studio.

It’s just interesting to see that throughout the early 1900s D.B. Rich is working with her husband [and not as a photographer].

And then when her husband becomes ill, she actually is not working for herself, but working to support the family another way..

John L. Miracle sadly dies in 1910.

And after that, Mrs. D.B. Miracle shows up in the newspapers because she’s very prominent in town.

She’s active at several organizations.

It even turns out that one point where she wins the raffle for a new gold watch at the jeweler’s!

But she’s also doing a lot of good works.

Howevr, she’s also — apparently either because she needs the money or because she’s just really interested in photography again — she turns up in the 1920 census working for another photographer as a retoucher.

The retouching is something she’d actually learned back when she was working for Mr. Page and his gallery back in the late 1870s and early 1880s. That’s the kind of work that she later describes as the thing that she did the most of in those early days.

Now when I say she “describes this”, we have the advantage of having a big interview with Delia published in the newspaper in 1928.

I love the fact that in 1928, the newspaper, The Emporia Gazette, decided to interview, Mrs. Cornelia B. Rich Miracle about her career as a photographer.

She hadn’t been a photographer running a studio for many years at that point, but she was still active, as I said in 1920, when she’s in the census actually working as a retoucher for someone else.

So what I love about this interview is that Mrs. miracle, as she’s known, then, describes some of the aspects of working in a photo gallery in the 1870s and 1880s. describing some of the processes of the photography itself, and also things that she did, and how she ran a business at that time.

I want to just read you from this article, little bits and pieces.

Now, the first anecdote is from when she started working in Page’s photograph gallery, and she was assigned as an apprentice to do a very important job.

Let me explain by just quoting from the article.

“One errand the new apprentice did every morning was to go to the home of Mrs. Tyler Johnson, 5th and Merchant, where each day she bought a fresh egg for five cents. With the egg, albumen was made fresh every day to coat the glass for the wet plate process in making pictures. Tintypes were also made in the Page gallery, 4 on a plate, and on these, Mrs. Miracle got her first lessons in photography. With a small brush she was taught to apply the red coloring — like rouge —  to the cheeks and lips of the tintype pictures, much as girls and women today apply it.

Next, she learned to spread varnish over the rouge, and it was something of an art to hold the tintypes at the exact angle by which the varnish was prevented from streaking the faces. Then the pictures were cut apart and put into paper cases.”

Let me just stop it there for a moment. It’s really interesting to hear somebody talking about that wet plate process. I talked about it a little bit back in the episode about Elizabeth Whittington, who figured out how to do wet plate photography out in the field without a portable darkroom wagon.

Mrs. Miracle (who was at that time, of course, known as Miss Rich”) was working as the apprentice and learning how to do it by first just learning how to coat those wet plates with the necessary materials, including the egg, to allow the wet plate to be used for photography.

Re that description of her with the small brush applying the rouge … you can go into antique stores and actually see some of the tintypes with that kind of rouge and that sort of painting applied on [the tintype]. That was typical of what’s called retouching work.

And when I said that Mrs. Miracle became a retoucher for another photography gallery around 1920, that’s the kind of work she would have been doing. Except because the photography technology has changed at that point, she was no longer working with tintypes, but with more paper type of photos.

Let me read you a little bit more about what happened later in photography. Again, quoting from that 1928 article …

“Later,” Mrs. Miracle continued, “came the dry plate process, and then we did not have to coat our plates every day. The dry plate came ready to use, done up in half-dozen and dozen packages. So we began using Eastman dry plates. I was fascinated with the business and thought of little else.

“My mother said all I knew was the photography gallery, and I lost all the slight interest I once had in washing dishes and making beds. I especially enjoyed making baby pictures and wedding pictures. Now there are grandparents today whose baby pictures I made.

” I stayed at the Pate gallery 8 years and was receiving $3 a week when I quit. Each year I had got a 50 cent or $1 a week raise. I had saved money had taken four shares and Howard Dunlap’s Loan Association. And when I began earning $3 a week, I put $1 in the loan each week. At the end of eight years, I had saved $300 I decided to buy into the weight gallery. As Mr. Willett one of the owners was offering his half interest for $700. I drew my $400 out and paid it on the business. And for the remainder I gave my note with payments to be made each month by sacrifice and self denial. I had that $400 paid at the end of the first year. I made far more than $8 a week, and my self denial paid big returns. Mr. Waite was an excellent photographer. He had come here from Hartford, Connecticut, and he took great pains in teaching me my work improve rapidly, especially in retouching.

I am really intrigued by Mrs. Miracle’s description of her introduction to the business and how she prospered, and was able to save money and buy an interest in an actual gallery, and leave Pages gallery where she was an assistant. It gives us a glimpse into how much people were making. Even as an assistant she was making $3 a week — well, that was the most she was making, but she was able to save $1 a week. I think she was probably still living with her parents at that time.

But she’s prospering as a photographer, and when she gets a chance, after saving her money, she buys into a business.

And then she’s actually able to pay off the loan that she takes out in less than a year, because she is so successful.

I also like that this article gives us a glimpse into this Mr. Waite, who was the photographer who had had another partner, and who then has Miss Rich buy into his business. He is assisting her and helping her become successful.

He actually went must have been very impressed with her because of what happens next. Let me just read you a little more from that article in 1928. Mrs. miracle is still explaining about her business. And she says …

“When the new gallery was built in the Jay Opera House block, corner of 5th and Commercial over the Palace clothing store, Mr Waite suggested that I rent the new gallery and run a business of my own, thus keeping out undesirable competition. Already there were four galleries inEmporia: Page’s Waite’s, Stones, and Hicock’s; mine made the fifth. “

So I think it’s really interesting that Waite thought enough of her skills that she could run a studio on her own. She goes on [in the article] to remenisce about the first wedding picture she took. She really rememberes about the people she took the pictures of. Which is interesting – I mean, Emporia is a small town in Kansas, but not super small, but big enough to support five photography galleries there in the 1880s. But she remembers the people that she took pictures of and she says that she sees grandparents that she took pictures of when they were children. I mean, Emporia is a small town in Kansas, but not super small, and but big enough to support five photography galleries there in the 1880s. But she remembers the people that she took pictures of and she says that she sees grandparents that she took pictures of when they were children.

It’s rare that there are these interviews with these early women photographers where they are reminiscing about their career. And so as a real treat to run across this interview with Mrs. Delia Rich Miracle in December of 1928, where she is looking back at her career.

Mrs. Miracle goes on to live another eight years. She dies in Emporia, Kansas in 1936. Her photography career was at least from 1877 to 1892.

And it’s hard to say exactly how often she was working as a retoucher after her marriage. Certainly she doesn’t show up in the directories as ever having a profession even after her husband dies. But we do see her in the census in 1920 as a retoucher.

Alright, so that’s the story of Mrs. Cordelia B. Rich Miracle.

But here’s the thing … in that interview in 1928, where Mrs. Miracle remembers so many of the people she took photos, she does not mention a woman who was a notorious woman in Kansas around 1885.

And Miss Rich was actually somewhat .. I wouldn’t say notorious… but certainly very well known for having taken a picture of this notorious woman.

Now, the woman who was the subject of that photo was woman named Minnie Walker. I mentioned Minnie Walkup last time, because Minnie Walkup met Frankie Morris, the subject of the last podcast episode, when the two of them were introduced to each other in court during the Minnie Walkup’s trial.

Minnie Walkup was married to the Mayor of Emporia, who was 30 years her senior. Minnie and the mayor get married after … well, we’ll call it a whirlwind romance in New Orleans where Minnie was from.

Minnie and her husband come back to Emporia [in summer of 1885] and less than a month later her husband is dead from arsenic poisoning. And Minnie, who is 16 at the time, is accused of his murder.

So Frankie Morris had had a lawyer who goes to the trial in Emporia to be the lawyer for Minnie Walkup. That lawyer brings Frankie Morris to meet Minnie Walkup during Minnie’s trial. This is, as I mentioned last time, a cause celeb in the newspapers.

When Frankie Morris and Minnie Walkup n Emporia in September of 1885, Frankie Morries had just had her convinction overturned, and she was facing a new trial around November – December of that year.

But while she’s out on bail in September, her lawyer, who was also Minnie Walkup’s layer, brings Frankie to Emporia to meet and chat with Minnie.

Now Minine Walkup, she’s accused of the arsenic poisoning of her husband. I hesitated last time to say that Frankie Morris’ trial was really the “trial of the century”, even though it is covered in all the papers in the summer of 1885. But it was quickly pushed to the background, because now we had a very pretty 16 year-old widow, who was accused of murdering her 49 year old husband. That was the trial of the century! They didn’t leave any stone unturned to write up within a short period of time. I mean, the husband dies in August of 1885. Minnie is arrested in September of 1885. The trial starts and continues until November of 1885. So it’s a period of just a couple of months.

But there are headlines in the papers, including transcripts of the testimony. There are accusations of prostitution, because the defense claims that Mr. Walkup, who had [a reputation] as an upstanding citizen in Emporia, well, the defense claims that he actually had had a secret life where he was going to houses of ill repute in New Orleans, where he would stay in a boarding house, which was not a house of ill repute, of course, since thats that’s where he met Minnie’s mother who ran the boarding house. And Minie was just this young, innocent thing, of course.

And the Mayor fell in love with Minnie and then, just, you know, sparks flew, they got married.

And then it was just a tragic, tragic coincidence that he happened to die of arsenic poisoning a month after they got married.

OK, let me just read you one of the headlines before the trial started: ” Who murdered Walkup?” That’s the headline in the Kansas Daily Republic on August 26, 1885. And so [the newspaper] speculates that maybe it was this beautiful young woman who was so recently made his wife … or was it the jealous Negress in Topeka, Kansas, upon whom he had formerly bestowed his favors?

And then headlines claim that her relatives are coming to her defense … or the dead husband’s relatives are trying to get Minnie hanged for murder. It just goes on and on. The twists and turns are really amazing.

There’s been a book recently written about this. It’s called The Adventuress: Murder, Blackmail and Confidence Bames in the Gilded Age. It’s by a woman named Virginia A McConnell, and I highly recommend it because it is a really remarkable story with all the twists and turns in the Minnie Walkup case.

Now, ultimately, Minnie Walkup takes the stand. She is a very pretty young woman, and the jury is swayed by how vulnerable and young she seems.

So, despite evidence which the prosecution feels really makes their case, things like —she actually bought strychnine over the summer, month before her husband died, and her husband became sick the next day from strychnine poisoning. Just coincidence(?!) and — she was seen buying arsenic, and her husband died of arsenic poisoning. But again, just coincidence (?!).

Despite that evidence, in the end, the jury votes that she is not guilty. So she is acquitted of everything. And again, the papers just have a field day.

Now there are some papers in Kansas who were fervently her supporters, and there are some papers who are fervently not her supporters. And Virginia McConnell’s book lays that all out and tells you more about all the ins and outs of the coverage of this trial.

Minnie is acquitted in November, and the next day she wants to get her picture taken. Now, her detractors say it’s because she wants to keep her name in the paper, since she likes publicity and that kind of thing. Her defenders say no, she just wanted to get her picture taken to send her her supporters so that they would see how well she was doing.

Let me just read you a passage from Virginia McConnell’s book. This is describing the events after the acquittal:

The next day Minnie and the, Jays father and daughter, drove downtown with Minnie dressed up in a “Blue serge dress with scarlet trimmings and a white veil over her small round hat (no widows weeds for her!), and called on some of the people who had remained loyal to her, and had her portrait taken at Delia Rich’s studio. She ordered two dozen herself and told Delia she could make copies available for anyone who wanted them. When people stared at her, she stared right back.

So this mention of Minnie Walkup getting her picture taken at Delia Rich’s studio was my first introduction to the incredible tale of Minnie Walkup. I mean, my husband and I had bought a cabinet card by D.B. Rich of a young man. And it was while researching D.B. Rich, the photographer in Emporia, Kansas, that we stumbled on this story about Minnie Walkup and the photo that D. Rich had taken of her..

There was actually a notice in the newspaper after that picture is taken in November of 1885. It’s a little notice taken out by Delia B. Rich & Co, which was the name of D. B. Rich’s studio during this period. The notice in the newspaper reads:

To the edito: You and others published a statement that Mrs. Walkup was to receive a royalty upon all the photographs of her that were sold. Mrs. Walkup ordered two dozen photographs for herself, which she paid for, and then at my solicitation, and for my benefit only kindly consented to my furnishing them any pictures that might be required. Please, in justice to the lady, publish this statement. Signed, Delia B. Rich & Co.

And the phrase “for my benefit only” is emphasized in italics in the notice.

So, it’s really intriguing. I mean, apparently, D.B. Rich’s studio was actually selling this photograph of Minnie Walkup for profit, like selling a celebrity photo. But in this case, the celebrity was the recently acquitted young widow of the former mayor of Emporia.

Now, after all this happens, anyone who is actually supporting Minnie Walkup started to turn against her. I’m going to refer you to Virginia McConnell’s book about the Minnie Walkup case, because it’s just hard to summarize all the twists and turns in court,… including the moment a couple months later, when Minnie Walkup walk up claims to be pregnant with her late husband’s child [spoiler alert – she’s not!]

But one of the interesting things about these trials in the 1800s is that they’re in such a compressed time frame. They don’t wait years to have the trial. They happen right away.

Again, Mr. Walkup died in August of 1885. And so, Minnie Walkup claiming that she’s pregnant in December, and it’s by her husband — well, that initially is seen as “maybe yes, maybe no”. But ultimately, people are very suspicious. Andiit’s just incredible what happens … people come out of the woodwork saying that they’ve actually slept with her during the trial, when they snuck into the jail. You get the idea.

Now, one of the reasons I think Virginia McConnell actually wrote about Minnie Walkup is because her story continues after Emporia … she ultimately is married several more times. And and again, tragically, all of her husband’s seem to die of poisoning. Just coincidentally (?!). She’s known in some circles as the black widow of Kansas.

Anyway, Minnie Walkup was not a photographer. But she had this intriguing intersection with Delia B. Rich, who was a photographer, and a very successful photographer, starting from a young age as a teenager, and working up into her 30s when she gets married and gives up photography, or at least gives up her studio, but seems to always keep her hand in doing retouching. The odd coincidence of running across Minnie Walkup in the story of Delia B. Rich, and then running across Frankie Morris and her photography career under her married name of Mrs. FM hear and then her own trial for poisoning … well, it was just too good to pass up to bring you these two stories back to back.

I really want to thank the Lyon County Historical Society Museum for giving me permission to bring you that picture of Minnie Walkup taken by Delia B. Rich & Co. It was exciting to discover the actual photograph there and to see it in the Lyon County Museum. I really want to thank the wonderful people at the museum for also working with me to try to find as much as we could in the directories and other newspaper clippings about both Minnie Walkup and Delia B. Rich, and also John Miracle, Delia B. Rich’s husband.

I’ll put the links to the Lyon County Historical museum’ss website, as well as a link for The Adventuress by Virginia A. McConnell, in the episode notes for this episode, which, as always, will be on my website at p3photographers.net. If you have any questions about any of the people I talked about today, or anyone else here on the podcast, drop me an email at podcast at p3photographers.net.

And remember, you can always follow Photographs, Pistols & Parasols on Facebook, at facebook.com/p3 photographers.

Well, that’s it for today about Delia B. Rich and her connection to the notorious Minnie Walkup. And also, of course, the connection to Frankie Morris, aka Mrs. FM Hurd and her poisoning tale in the last episode.

Next time, I can’t promise to bring you another story about a poisoning … but I can promise another intriguing story about another early women photographer.

But until next time, I’m Lee and this is Photographs, Pistols & Parasols.

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