100 years ago today: Resurrecting a photo taken 55 years earlier

100 years ago an article in the Portage Daily Register celebrated the photographic prowess of local photographer Janet Townley and her talent at successfully restoring a faded photograph from 1869.

Headline from an article about Janet Townley restoring an old photo taken in 1869. Article from Portage Daily register, April 25, 1924
Headline from an article, Portage Daily Register, April 25, 1924
Click here to see full article (opens in a new window))

We need to appreciate the considerable talent Miss Townley had for doing this type of restoration work in 1924, when the only tools at her disposal would have involved chemicals and her darkroom. It wasn’t anywhere near as easy as it would be today with computer-tools like Photoshop!

Janet Townley was a successful and very popular photographer in Portage, Wisconsin for over 10 years, opening her studio in 1915 and closing up shop in 1927. From the very beginning, she apparently believed in the power of advertisements in the newspaper, judging from how many advertisements we can find of hers in the old newspapers from Portage. Below is just a sample of some of my favorites of the Townley Studio ads I found, but it is a very small sample.

First ad for the Townley photograph studio in Portage, Wisonscin
First ad for the Townley studio
Portage Daily Register, March 23, 1915
Christmas-Themed ad. in the November 30, 1914 Portage daily register for Townley Studio with a drawing of a woman in a fur and fancy hat.
Portage Daily Register, November 30, 1915
The_Register_Democrat newspaper ad, 1923
The Register Democrat, November 27, 1923


Townley studio ad: "There is one gift that is your and yours only to give: Your Photograph", The Register Democrat (newpspaer), October 22, 1926
The Register Democrat, October 22, 1926

Miss Townley did studio work, including taking individual photos of the high school graduating class at her studio. In 1916, tall the graduating senior headshots made it into the newspaper:

Photos Portage High School graduating class, published in the Portage Daily register, June 16, 1916
Portage Daily register, June 16, 1916

I haven’t found many examples of her regular studio work. However, someone posted a photo of her great aunt, Margaret Ferrier Hume Ellis, on the Find a Grave website, and this beautiful portrait has the studio stamp of Townley Studio in the lower right of the photo.

Studio portrait of Margaret Ferrier Hume Ellis, great-aunt of Janet Townely, taken at the Townely studio, posted on Find a Grave
Townley Studio portrait of Margaret Ferrier Hume Ellis,
the great-aunt of Janet Townely

In 1927, there’s a notice in the newspaper that Miss Townley is taking a break and closing up her studio in order to take a well-earned vacation. After that, although she pops up in Portage doing photography while working for someone else in the 1930s, she apparently never ran a photography studio again. Her 1967 obituary doesn’t mention any of her success as a photographer. As I have mentioned, this is an all too common omission in the obituaries of early women photographers.

But clearly, Miss Janey Townley had talent and business savvy which led to a thriving photographic career that was in full swing 100 years ago today.