100 years ago today – Remembering Mrs. B. Kalin, photographer

100 years ago today, if we were in Kansas reading the Longford Journal newspaper, we would have run across the sad news that Mrs. Brita Kalin Rosenquist had died. Mrs. Brita Kalin was widowed in 1900 when her husband, the photographer Hans Kalin, died. She married B.A. Rosenquist in 1914, the man to whom she was still married at the time of her death.

Brita Kalin Rosenquiest Obituary – Clip #1.
Longford Journal, April 17, 1924
Brita Kalin Rosenquiest Obituary – Clip #2.
Longford Journal, April 17, 1924

What they neglected to mention in that obituary is that in those 14 years “during which time she worked hard for the education of her two sons”, the work she was doing was running a photography studio in Clay Center, Kansas.

Now, that is one of the frustrations I often have with the obituaries written about these early women photographers – their professional accomplishments running a photography studio are rarely celebrated in their death notices. Humph.

But here on Photographs, Pistols & Parasols we have a chance to enhance the written record about Mrs. Brita Kalin Rosenquist.

Brita Swenson married Hans Kalin in 1885, shortly after she emigrated to the U.S. from Sweden. Hans had come over from Sweden earlier, and his Kalin’s Photo Studio in Clay Center was already established by the time of their marriage.

By 1900, Hans’ studio in Clay Center, Kansas is thriving. He heads back to Sweden with his brother to visit their parents, leaving his wife, Brita, to hold down the fort in Clay Center. Sadly, Hans dies while on his visit back in Sweden, leaving his wife a widow with two young sons.

By 1901, the Kalin Photo Studio is fully operational again, run by Mrs. Kalin. In 1904, there is briefly a partnership between Mrs. Kalin and another photographer named J.H. Ostlund.

Clay Center Dispatch, May 6, 1904

But by 1906 the studio is just called Kalin’s Studio, run by Mrs. Kalin alone, as we can see in the Clay Center city directory listings below:

Note that the Oscar Kalin listed in that 1906 directory, the one working as an artist at the Kalin Studio, is Mrs. Kalin’s son. He works for his mother for a few years, but he eventually goes off and becomes a doctor, leaving the photography profession behind.

Anyway, throughout the years, we can find notices in the newspaper for Mrs. Kalin getting contracts to take photos for the local school yearbooks, as well as traveling to go to photography conferences and visit studios in other towns, like this notice from 1907:

Clip about Mrs. B. Kalin having paid a visit to the Squires Studio, in Lawrence, Kansas, described in the clipping as one of the "most famous studios in the middle west". from the Clay Center Dispatch, April 4, 1907.
Clip from a longer news item in the
Clay Center Dispatch, April 4, 1907.

How fun to see that she went to visit the Squires studio in Lawrence; the Squires studio was run by the married couple Eliza and Con Squires. Long time followers of Photographs, Pistols & Parasols might recall that we “met” Mr. and Mrs. Squires a few years ago in the podcast episodes about studios run by women in Lawrence, Kansas: postcast episode on Lawrence photographers part 1 and postcast episode on Lawrence photographers part 2.

Mrs. Kalin suffered a setback at the beginning of May 1913 when her studio in Clay Center was destroyed by fire, but it doesn’t take long before she has the studio remodeled and reopened:

Notice about Mrs. Kalin's studio reopening after fire and taking photos of the 8th grade class
Clay Center Dispatch, May 19, 1913

I like to think that the photo of the Kalin Studio I ran across on the Kanasas Memory website is from this time. The photo is thought to be of Mrs. Kalin standing in her studio in Clay Center (she is in the middle on the left in the photo, standing behind the camera). I can imagine that we’re seeing Mrs. Kalin proudly showing off her newly remodeled studio, complete with the new skylight on the right.

Later in 1913 she starts selling off her multiple studio branches in various towns in Kansas, including her studio in Clay Center. My guess this was in preparation for moving to Topeka and marrying Mr. Rosenquist in 1914. As far as I can tell, she never runs a photography studio again after her 1914 marriage.

So now you know — (and with apologies to Paul Harvey) — the “rest of the story” of Mrs. Brita Kalin’s hard work on behalf of her sons’ education during the period 1900-1914.