47 – Triumph and Tragedy in Great Bend

In today’s episode, we’re going to meet Mrs. M. Gainsford, a woman who was not only a successful photographer, but also an early entrepreneur and Kansas pioneer starting in the early 1870s.


A few of Mrs. Gainsford’s ads from the newspapers, many of which were found online at Newspapers.com (paid subscription).

Mrs. Gainsford ad, Great Bend Register, July 2, 1874
Mrs. Gainsford ad, Great Bend Register, July 2, 1874
Mrs. Gainsford ad, Great Bend Register, 1876

The following ad is at the top of the page in the April 1877 paper; at the bottom of the same column is an ad by Mrs. F. M. Hurd, the subject of episode #44.   They were competitors in Great Bend for just a couple of years.

Mrs. Gainsford ad, Great Bend Register, April 1877
Mrs. Gainsford’s ad, Great Bend Register, April 1877
Mrs. Gainsford ad, Great Bend Register, Dec 31, 1885
Mrs. Gainsford ad, Great Bend Register, Dec 31, 1885

Look for that full poem that she used in an ad coming soon; I want to do an audio version as well as a transcript.

Here are a couple of examples of Mrs. Gainsford’s work, including an early CDV format (where her name is on the back) to the later, larger Cabinet Card, where her name is on the front:.

CDV with 2 kids (back) by Mrs. M. Gainsford (McIntyre-Culy Collection)
CDV with 2 kids (back) by Mrs. M. Gainsford (McIntyre-Culy Collection)
CDV with 2 kids by Mrs. M. Gainsford (McIntyre-Culy Collection)
CDV with 2 kids by Mrs. M. Gainsford (McIntyre-Culy Collection)
Cabinet card with 2 women by Mrs. M. Gainsford (McIntyre-Culy Collection)
Cabinet card with 2 women by Mrs. M. Gainsford (McIntyre-Culy Collection)

Ballard Reuse in Seattle, Company has lots of interesting old pieces of furniture and other bric-a-brac from old estates. To my amazement, they even had an old White sewing machine in great condition for sale, and they kindly let me take some photos of it:

White Sewing Machine, for sale at Ballard Reuse, Seattle, WA
White Sewing Machine, for sale at Ballard Reuse, Seattle, WA
White Sewing Machine, for sale at Ballard Reuse, Seattle, WA
White Sewing Machine, for sale at Ballard Reuse, Seattle, WA
White Sewing Machine, for sale at Ballard Reuse, Seattle, WA
White Sewing Machine, for sale at Ballard Reuse, Seattle, WA

As I mention in the podcast, I greatly enjoyed meeting with Karen Neuforth at the Barton County Historical Society; she has done a great deal of research on Mrs. Gainsford, and it was fun comparing notes with her one day a couple of years ago. I highly recommend you check out the interesting and informative Barton County Historical Society museum if you’re ever in Great Bend, Kansas!




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’s episode is going to take place mostly in Great Bend, Kansas.

But before I bring you the story of the photographer, first I want to try to set the stage by taking you back in time to the history of Barton County, Kansas (where Great Bend is located) in the early 1870s.

Now, Great Bend really got going around 1872, and really it’s business was the cattle herding that was passing through from Texas on its way to Newton, Kansas.

I found this great biographical history of Barton County, Kansas that was published by the Great Bend Tribune in 1912. Let me just read you a little bit of their story of the early days in Great Bend.

Like all Western towns of that period, Great Bend was a typical border settlement. It was made up of population that included many cattlemen and buffalo hunters. The hunters sold their hides in Great Bend. And the cattlemen loaded their stock on the cars in which they were taken to the markets… The first cattle drive through Great Bend from Texas was in 1872. And that continued until 1874. …

1874, though, was a year that was famous (or notorious) for a plague of grasshoppers. That year has since been referred to as ‘the grasshopper year’. For several days, these pests were in evidence in such great numbers, that at times they obscured the sunlight, and devoured everything with which they came into contact that was not proof against their hunger and ferocity. It is related by old timers that the hoppers would swoop down on a field of corn. and when they rose, there would be nothing left to denote that there had ever been anything in the spot except the bare prairie. The old timers also tell of the pests having often in eaten clothing, and incidents are cited where they actually stopped a railroad train by piling on the tracks in such numbers as to make it impossible for the engines to push their way through them.

Now, the history book goes on to say that during 1874 a change was made in the city administration. D. N> Heiser became treasurer, A.C. Moses, the city clerk, and a man named James Gainsford took William Leaks place as one of the city marshals.

What the book doesn’t mention, but what I want to add to their tale of 1874, is that 1874 was the first year that I found notices for Mrs. M Gainsford’s photograph gallery.

The first mention appears in July 1874. And then there are other notices that made it clear that in 1874, Mrs. M. Gainsford’s gallery was one of two photography galleries in town, the other one run by a Mr. J.B. Miller.

So, who was this Mrs. Gainsford, who was braving cattle and cowboys and grasshoppers there in 1874 in Great Bend?

Minerva Henricks was born in Ohio [in 1853] to Isaac and Sarah Henricks. She had a sister named Mira and a real sense of adventure. Well, both of them did, actually, because by 1870, the 18-year-old Minerva Henricks, and her sister Mira, and her sister’s husband, Samuel Weaver, are all pioneer settlers in Abilene, Kansas.

Now, according to an article in the 1870 newspaper, Abilene really isn’t much of a town yet, but it’s growing. There’s already a newspaper in town, which is where I got this notice about it being a growing town.

And the newspaper has plenty of stories about the exploits happening with the crime that the young police officers are combating there in town, one of those police officers being a man named James.

Now it was funny, that in 1871 paper in Abilene, there’s a sort of a puff piece trying to encourage people to come to Abilene and settle there. And they say that they have a really growing town that has a lot of good things they have 2 school houses they have 2 churches, they really have something of every trade and profession, except what they don’t have is a photography gallery. But that is corrected before very long because in April of 1871, a man named W. Graham takes up that call and opens the first photograph gallery in Abilene, Kansas.

By early 1872, a second gallery is opened in town by a woman named Mrs. H.H. Levi. For reasons which will become a little bit clearer in a bit, I want to focus on Mrs. Gainsford today, so Mrs. Levi’s story is going to have to wait. But I did want to point out that she is actually the second photographer there in Abilene, Kansas, this wild Western town. She has this great ad in the paper that has an interesting headline it says Pictures! Pictures!!, Pictures!!!. It’s kind of eye catching!

But as I said, we really want to focus on Mrs. Gainsford and Great Bend today.

So let’s go back to Minerva Henricks. As I said, in 1870, she’s living in Abilene with Mira and Sam Weaver. That’s her sister, Mira, and her brother-in-law Sam.

Sam, if I haven’t mentioned before, he’s a baker.

Now at some point in 1871 19-year-old Minerva Henricks marries the dashing James Gainsford, that law officer whose exploits and shootouts with the bad guys are always covered in the newspapers. James and Minerva have a daughter named Ada, who was born in 1871.

Now it’s not clear when or where Mrs. Gainsford actually got into photography.

Most contemporary sources say she moved a Great Bend to follow her husband, James Gainsford, who had actually left Abilene and moved to Great Bend in 1872 to take up a job policing Great Bend, because that city was just being established.

And of course, there was lawlessness there, too.

Minerva and their daughter, Ada didn’t follow James to Great Bend until 1874. When James is elected the second Marshall in Great Bend. We can, as I mentioned, see notices in the newspaper that by 1874 Mrs. M. Gainsford is running a photography studio in Great Bend. She’s not the first photographer there — that was that J.B. Miller, but she is the first woman running a studio in Great Bend.

It’s funny, there’s a blurry scan I found online of a CDV, done by Mrs. Gainsford. And it’s of three cowboys or maybe buffalo hunters posing in Mrs. Gainsford Studio. That of course, was her early clientele – the settlers that the history of Barton County book talks about as populating the town in the early 1870s.

Now Mrs. Gainsford had that respectable business, as did Mr. Miller, the other photographer. In the same newspapers with the photograph gallery ads, there are also listed some other equally respectable businesses in town, including a milliner and a dressmaker, both of whom are women.

But in 1876, the town officials in Great Bend decided that there were just too much debauchery and undesirable elements in town as a result of having the cattle drive actually going through the downtown of Great Bend. So they move that [the cattle drive] outside of town to clean up the town.

But [as a I said] even before that happens, Mrs. Gainsford is successfully running her studio. So she doesn’t need to wait for the town to clean up in order to have people who want to come and have their pictures taken!

I should note again that I don’t know where she actually got her start in photography. I would really like to think that she started when she was living Abilene and learned from that Mrs. Levi in 1872 or 1873 before she moved to Great Bend. But of course I have no evidence of that.

But I do know that Mrs. Gainsford at least, was very supportive — when she was a photographer — of teaching young women who wanted to learn how to do the profession of photography. There are numerous mentions over the years of young women coming to work for Mrs. Gainsford, and then later going off and establishing their own studios.

For example, there’s a Mrs. Coan in Medicine Lodge Kansas who actually comes to study with Mrs. Gainsford in Great Bend in 1880, and then goes back to Medicine Lodge and gets her husband to build her photography studio that she can run one there.

Mrs. Gainsford advertises extensively in the newspaper, and her ads chronicle her changing styles and changing types of work, everything from studio work to eventually taking pictures of places in town and selling them presumably as the forerunner of a postcard of things in town. Her ads can be really standard, just talking about the kinds of photos, e.g. CDVs or “gems”, the little tiny photos that were much of the fashion in the 1870s.

There are also some very creative ads in the paper for Mrs. Gainsford’s gallery, ones that tout her as the popular photo artist who is really incredibly talented, and who “really knows what she’s doing.”” At one point, she even puts an ad in the paper that’s a poem.

“Let me just read you a little this (this is also from 1880). The first stanza is:

This election is over and all settled down,
Mrs. Gainesford’s for his gallery is still in a town, then bring in the lessees, the use and the maids and have their bright faces before the bloom fades. My light is the best my chemicals new. So give me a call, I will try to please you by making nice photos of you for your friend. So when you receive one, you have one to send.

And it goes on. I’ll try to transcribe this whole thing for the Episode Notes that you’ll find on the web. But it is striking to have that kind of creativity.

Other ads talk about all the different kinds of services and styles and things that she’s done in her gallery to make it look new, e.g. repainting and having new scenery [backdrops] and new frames available, and all of those kinds of things.

One thing that she mentioned early on is the importance of what she calls “retouching”. And we’ve talked about this on the podcast – it’s that idea of adding some color to the black and white images. In one of her early ads, Mrs. Gainsford defines retouching as, “the art of removing defects from photographs, and giving the picture a lifelike appearance instead of the expressionless cast of the ordinary photographs.”

There’s even a mention that is put in the paper that one of her retouched photos makes the sitter look so gorgeous, that the husband prefers the photograph to the original!

Anyway, Mrs. Gainsford is really pushing the her skill at all kinds of photography from the moment she starts taking out ads in the newspaper in 1874.

ABy 1876 she started talking about retouching more and more, and therefore it’s probably not a surprise when she announces in November 1876 that she has lured a man named L.O. Ives to come to work for her. He is desribed as the very talented retoucher who she’s bringing all the way from Michigan to work for her in Great Bend.

So Mrs. Gainsford Gallery is going really strong. Her business is flourishing, even though in 1876 she’s only been in business for a few years.

But life is about to change.


Before I get to that, though, I want to take a step back to the early 1870s.

Again, back in Abilene, there was another man named Arthur A. Hurd, who worked as a law clerk in Abilene. Just like James Gainsford, Arthur Hurd decides to move to Great Bend, where he becomes one of the first settlers of Great Bend as well and winds up being the first mayor of Great Bend.

But what’s really critical for our story today is that Arthur A. Hurd gets married on February 12 1875, to a woman named Ellen Francis Johnson Morris … well, her name actually is rather complicated, as I’ve already talked about here on the podcast, because we know her best as Frankie Morris. I refer you back to the previous episode about Frankie Morris; pf course, she interacts with our story today when she was known as Mrs. F.M. Hurd, the wife of Arthur A Hurd.

As I said, Arthur and Francis Hurd get married in 1875.

And there’s not really any mention of them again until August of 1876, when Mrs. Frankie Hurd is mentioned in the newspaper as having cultivated a melon patch the summer, growing a musk melon that measured 36 inches in circumference. And this is emphatically a Great Bend melon raised in town, which apparently was a big deal in 1876.

But Mrs. Hurd apparently isn’t that interested in farming. By April of 1877, she’s turned her sights in a different direction. She is going to become a photographer.

So, in April of 1877, Mrs Hurd opens her gallery with an ad on the same page that Mrs. Gainsford has an ad. In fact, Mrs. Gainsford’s ad is at the top, Mrs. Hurd’s ad is at the bottom.

And as Mrs. Hurd’s ad actually kind of models itself on that earlier Pictures!, Pictures!!, Pictures!!! , pictures pictures ad that we saw Mrs. Levi do in Abilene (and Mrs. Gainsford actually copied that at one point, too). But now Mrs. Hurd is copying that style, but changing the text to Photographs! Photographs!!

Anyway, in the early days of 1877 when Mrs. Hurd had been planning her studio, she had poached that LO Ives, that retoucher who had just been brought from Michigan to work at Mrs. Gainsford’s studio in November of 1876. Mr. L.O. Ives starts working for Mrs. Hurd instead of Mrs. Gainsford in February 1877.

Of course, it turns out that Mr. Ives wound up as bit of a crook and a fraudster. So I think that Mrs. Gainsford was probably better off in the end without his services, although it may not have struck her that way at the time, since she had paid for him to come all the way out from Michigan to work for her.

But in January of 1877 and the early days of Feb. 1877, this was probably the least of Mrs. Gainsford’s worries.

There’s an innocuous notice in the newspaper that in the early days of January 1877 Mrs. Gainsford is off in Abilene visiting friends and family. That sounds like it could be fun, but the reason was actually far more serious. Because Mira Weaver, Minerva Gainsford’s sister, dies in January of 1877.

Let me read you a little bit from Mira’s obituary that’s in the newspaper on Friday, January 12 1877 (that’s in the Abilene Weekly Chronicle).

Mrs. M.H. Weaver of Abilene departed this life January 3 1877 in her 27th year. Mrs. Weaver settled in this place with her husband, Samuel Weaver, in the year 1870.

After talking about her religious background and her activity in the local churches in Abilene, the obituary concludes,

…she leaves a husband and two small children to mourn her loss. The children, two bright little boys, aged respectively five months and four years, will be taken by their aunt, Mrs. Gainsford, to Great Bend, who as a loving sister of the absent mother will no doubt do all in her power to fill in the mother’s place.

So that’s really what Mrs. Gainsford was occupied with in the beginning of 1877, at that moment that Mrs. Hurd poached Mr. Ives from her gallery.

Mrs. Gainsford’s sister Mira died at the age of just 27 and left those two young sons, one an infant and one aged four. Although Mira Weaver’s husband, Samuel Weaver, was still alive, this is not the first time we’ve seen a single father not being able to raise his small children.

So it’s certainly possible that Minerva Gainsford took both of those little boys back to Great Bend, as the obituary says.

But in the 1880 census, just three years later, Minerva and James Gainsford are living in Great Bend with their daughter Ada, age nine, and Jesse Weaver, their nephew, age three. There’s no other little boy. Given the preponderance of notices in the paper that talk about little children dying of variety of elements at this time, we can’t rule out a possible scenario that Jesse’s older brother, the older nephew, had died by 1880.

But I like to hold out hope that it was possible that the older boy actually didn’t go with Mrs. Gainsford, but instead went back to Ohio with his father (that’s where Sam Weaver’s family was from), and could have been raised by Samuel Weaver’s mother somewhere back in Ohio. I’ve got no evidence to support either theory; I haven’t even been able to track down that older nephew’s name.

But you know, sometimes you just want to hope for the happy story instead of sad one…


Mrs. Gainesford’s business continues to thrive after she brings back at least her youngest nephew, Jesse, and she continues to live with her husband James and their daughter Ada, there in Great Bend. I

Her ads are in the paper all the time — all kinds of notices, as I said.

I mean, I love the one that’s in the paper in 1879 that says “Mrs Gainsford, the proprietor of the finest photograph rooms this side of Topeka. They are well adapted to the business and so arranged as to enable her to secure at all times the most desirable light.”

Because, of course, we’re talking 1879 when there was no electric light or anything like that. And these photograph galleries were carefully provisioned with windows and skylights so that there would be a lot of light in the rooms when she was taking pictures.

And Mrs. Gainsford didn’t only do studio photography.

There also notices later on that she’s doing things like taking pictures in town and that kind of thing.

So she really is doing photography that runs the gamut of the kind of photography that was done in this period.

There’s also a fun notice in 1884 that describes Mrs. Gainsford’s gallery and gives a little bit more of a hint into what the business was like. Let me just read you a little bit of this:

Mrs. M. Gainsford, at the old and reliable Great Bend photograph gallery, received yesterday the largest enhanced lines of Christmas photograph goods ever displayed in the Arkansas Valley! The stock embraces mats, mounts, and frames of all sizes and descriptions. Those vary from the smallest up to those suitable for 8 by 10 pictures, and from plain and unadorned up to those that are models of beauty and elegance, among which are guilt frames for panel pictures, velvet frames, and all colors and patterns, including the palette and brush pattern.

So we get a sense that Mrs. Gainsford really is understanding that she needs to modernize circa 1884 and offers everything that photographers offer. She is really excelling in presenting this to her public there in Great Bend.

What’s interesting though, is that she’s not limited just to making money from photography. She actually is an entrepreneur in other areas as well. (Mrs. Levi, back in Abilene, also had this model. In addition to running her photograph gallery in Abilene, Mrs. Levi also offered organs for sale as well.) Mrs. Gainsford, though, turns to other types of business endeavors, offering sewing machines, becoming one of the authorized agents for the White company sewing machine in that part of Kansas in the late 1870s and early 1880s.

Mrs. Gainsford also opens an ice cream parlor.

Both the sewing machine salesroom and the ice cream parlor adjoin her photograph gallery.

So these other ventures are in addition to her photographs, not instead of her photographs.

By the way, her notice for the ice cream parlor in 1877 is kind of funny. The headline is “Crystallized Ice Cream”. The notice says,

Mrs. Gainsford has opened an ice cream parlor, adjoining her photograph gallery and is prepared to furnish the public day or night with a very superior article of cream made on an improved scientific plan.

Now, while Mrs. Gainsford it is successfully running her gallery and the ice cream parlor and the sewing machine shop, what about James Gainsford?

Well, he was a marshall, but that’s just an elected position in Great Bend, and it was just for a couple of years. After he stops doing that, he turns to some other things, but in 1882 we actually find a notice in the paper that he has been cited for breaking the law as a bootlegger. In the newspaper article it says that there were five gentlemen that were the authorities were looking for in conjunction with the bootlegging operation, but James Gainsford couldn’t be found, as he “has gone somewhere is for the present at least.””

I don’t know whether he leaves permanently at that point, but he does leave town for a while at some point, and so by 1885, when the Kansas census is done, Minerva Gainsford has apparently decided that James isn’t coming back. She lists herself as the “widowed” head of household. That household now consists of Mrs. Gainesford herself, her daughter, Ada, who is now 14, Jesse Weaver Gainsford, her nephew, and a young woman named Rettie Shira. Rettie Shira, like Mrs. Gainsford, is listed in 1885 Kansas census as a “photographist”. They’re actually living in the neighboring town of Elinwood, which is not right next to Great Bend, but it’s not that far away. Mrs. Gainsford continues to run her studio in Great Bend even though she’s living in Elinwood.

OK, so that was 1885: Mrs Gainsford thinks she is a widow, and she’s still doing photography.

In fact, her photography business is going really, really well.

She’s taken up big as in the newspaper, and in February she’s thinking of building a new brick house and studio that will replace her existing, original wooden one there in
Great Bend.

But then in March, suddenly the unexpected happens and James Gainsford is back in town.

We don’t really have a lot of information about what happened when he presented himself back at home.

Thee news instead focuses on Mrs. Gainsford continuing to run that gallery.

And then in May, she’s leaving town for a little bit, leaving her gallery in Great Bend in the hands of another woman, while Mrs. Gainsford and yet another woman go to St. John and set up a new business for that woman.

Now that photographer – the one who winds up in St. JOHN, is that Rettie Shira, the woman who was living with Mrs. Gainsford in 1885.

In June of 1886, Mrs. Gainsford comes back, and Ada, her daughter goes to St. John to help Miss Shire, I suppose.

The ads for Mrs. Gainsford’s studio continue all through that summer. Once again, they’re big, they’re boxed, and they proclaim “Mrs. M. Gainsford, the leading photographer, established in 1873, Great Bend Kansas.”

But then there’s a little notice in August of 1886 that Mrs. Gainsford is on the sick list.

Which brings us to September 2, 1886, Aand this notice in the newspaper:

Died, at herresidence in Great Bend on Monday, August 30 1886, at 6:30am, Mrs. Minerva Gainsford, wife of James Gainsford, age 33 years, seven months and 11 days, of peritonitis. After four weeks terrible suffering, everything that medical skill and nursing could do was done to save the life of the deceased lady. And when her death was announced, a cloud was cast over the community. Mrs. Gainsford was married in Abilene in 1871. Mr. Gainsford came to Great Bend as a deputy, and Mrs. Gainsford followed in 1874. She opened a photograph gallery and by perseverance and determination built up a good business as one of the foremost artists in the state.

So, Minerva Henricks Gainsford is dead of peritonitis by September 1886.

There’s another obituary in another paper the following day that is a little bit over the top – but let me just read you a little of that one. It says:

Died. The death of Mrs. Gainsford Monday morning was very sad news in the city. She had been sick about a month, and last week the impression prevailed that she was improving. She was among the first settlers here and was highly esteemed by all who knew her. She leaves an only child, a young lady, and a little boy, a sister’s child, whom she had taken when an infant to raise. These children are suddenly left alone in the world, bereft, almost without a moment’s warning, of one who was all the earth to them, and their burden in this untimely affliction is most melancholy.

It was interesting that the children are portrayed as being orphans in that obituary, since James Gainsbourg was, of course, back in town.

And as I said James Gainsford is back in Great Bend when Mrs. Gainsford dies. James becomes the executor of the will, and he sells Mrs. Gainsford’s studio to Mrs. S. B. Hale.

I’ll have to tell you more about Mrs. S. B. Hale in another podcast episode.

Mrs. Gainsford’s daughter Ada, is only 15 when her mother dies; she puts her own notice in the paper thanking everyone for all their kindness in trying to take care of her mother when she was ill and for helping the family after she died.

Well, Ada is mentioned in the paper in October; she’s gotten a job as a clerk at a news agency there in Great Bend.

But then in November 1886, there’s another notice: Ada Gainsford has eloped with Will Evans.

Now, I got to wondering. Was that true love, really?

Or was she just trying to get out of the house because she just couldn’t stand having to live with her father again?

But it turns out that Will and Ada Evans wind up married for many decades, until he dies unexpectedly in 1920.

But they seem like they’re happy before that.

So I’m going to say it was really true love.

In March 1887, there are two curious notices about James Gainsford and his daughter, though.

One mentions that James Gainsford is the executor of his wife’s will, and that he’s given his daughter a lovely elegant gold watch.

There’s another notice that same month that says James Gainsford has built a brick house for his daughter and her new husband, Will Evans.

And of course that brickhouse mentioned brought to mind that brick house that Mrs. Gainsford had dreamed of building to house her studio. Is that the same house —  is that something that James Gainsford finished and then gave to his daughter?

Of course, I don’t have any way of knowing that part of Mrs. Gainsford’s story.

But as for the rest of her story, I find it really compelling. I was really struck how, at such a young age, she starts building this photo gallery in a town that was truly something out of the Wild Wild West movies and TV shows that I grew up watching. This was a rough and tumble place from every description that I’ve read in the newspapers, as well as in in that history book that I read from the beginning of this episode.

The fact that Mrs. Gainsford was able to build her business successfully during that period, and of course continue to build it after the town sort of cleaned up its act — well, that just speaks to her prowess as a businesswoman and photographer, plus the fact that she eventually was able to expand into businesses even beyond photography, while still running a thriving photography gallery.

Can you only imagine what Mrs. Gainsford could have done if she hadn’t died so young? I mean, her business was thriving. Right before she died, she was dreaming of expanding her studio and building that beautiful brick house and studio.

Mrs. Gainsford dies in the mid 1880s. And that’s just when a lot of her contemporaries are really starting to take off, building up their businesses with multiple locations, some of them even eventually expanding into photo cars. (For example, remember Mrs. Vreeland, who I’ve talked about here on the podcast; she really was able to build her “empire” over the time period after the year Mrs. Gainsford unfortunately passes away.)

And so I’m left wondering what Mrs. Gainsford could have accomplished had she not been struck down so tragically young.

So, even though this is a very sad story in the end, in terms of how Mrs. Gainsford dies, I find the story of Mrs. gainsford inspiring for what a woman could do in the early days of photography, in a town where there wasn’t a lot of support services or facilities.

A town where you really had to use your own resources to build and make a life and business all your own.


Today’s episode notes will include some of those ads that I mentioned by Mrs. Gainsford from the newspapers, as well as a couple of photographs that my husband, Chris, and I own that were done by Mrs. Gainsford.

I’m also going to include a picture of a White sewing machine that I happened upon. Yesterday, the day I was actually preparing my notes for this podcast, I visited a place called Ballard Reuse here in Seattle, Washington.

I mean, talking about a coincidence!

There I was, just having read about Mrs. Gainsford selling the White sewing machine, and then I walk into that store, which sells all kinds of things that come from old houses.

And there in front of me is a White sewing machine!

I really want to thank Ballard Reuse for allowing me to take pictures, which I’m going to share, as I said, on the podcast notes today.

All of that will be in the Episode Notes for today’s episode which, as usual on, will be on my website at p3photographers.net.

If you have any questions or just want to drop me a line, send an email to podcast “at” p3 photographers.net.

And remember, you can follow Photographs, Pistols & Parasols on Facebook at faceboom.com/p3photographers.

I’d like to give a special thank you to Karen P. Neuforth of the Barton County Historical Society. Karen has done a great deal of research on Mrs. Minerva Gainsford, and it was fun when my husband and I were in Great Bend a couple of years ago, to have a chance to talk with Karen and compare notes about the wonderful (yet tragic) story of Mrs. Minerva Gainsford. It’s always fun to find a kindred spirit, someone who’s also interested in these early women artisan photographers. So I really want to thank Karen for taking the time to share her knowledge with us that day.

The Barton County Historical Society also has a very cute museum, and I highly recommend if you’re passing through Great Bend that you check it out.

And a special shout out to Ballard Reuse here in Seattle once again for their kindness and letting me take pictures of that white sewing machine. I also want to thank the young man at Ballard Reuse who works there (but who never did tell me his name – his name tag just said “sale””.) But he was really special to take the time to act as a sort of assistant as he set up the sewing machine so I could take the pictures that I’m sharing on the website today.

Anyway, I’ll put a link to both to the Barton County Historical Museum and also to the Ballard Reuse website in the Episode Notes along with all the photographs, etc. by Mrs. Gainsford.


Finally, just a quick note.

Today marks the end of Season 4 here on the podcast. As I announced in the last mini episode a couple of days ago, I’m going to take a little hiatus before the start of Season 5.

Although I was originally planning to start Season 5 in October, due to some travel and other commitments this fall, I’m going to actually push back the start of Season 5 to November 1st.

My plan is to post a couple of quick updates along the way in September and October, but probably not on a regular schedule.

Remember, if you subscribe to the podcast via Spotify, or Apple podcast or any of the podcast directories, you’ll be sure to be notified of anything that gets posted outside the normal schedule.

As always, I want to thank everyone for your ongoing support of this project.

It’s amazing that has been four seasons so far – a total of 50 episodes!

I truly appreciate all the feedback, encouragement and support.

Plus, a special thank you, as always, to my husband Chris Culy.

In addition to enjoying the benefits of all his technical expertise for creating our database and other research tools, I always find it so much fun to go on the hunt together to track down details for yet another new-to-us early women artisan photographer!


Anyway, that’s it for today. Look for the next full season of regular Photographs, Pistols & Parasols episodes to kick off November 1st.

Until then, I’m Lee and this is Photographs, Pistols & Parasols.