100 years ago today: “So completely satisfying”

If we were to travel to Chapel Hill, NC 100 years ago today and get a copy of the Daily Tar Heel newspaper, we might not be surprised to see that Miss Katie L. Johnson has placed one of her regular ads for her photography studio in the newspaper today:

Daily Tar Heel, March 15, 1924

Miss Johnson has been advertising her studio regularly in newspapers both here in Chapel Hill as well as in nearby Durham ever since she opened her Durham studio circa 1904. She knows the power of branding, always consistently using her full name, Miss Katie L. Johnson, as her brand.

But her name is actually about to change – her clients may or may not have known in March of 1924, but Miss Johnson is getting married in just a couple of months! She’s going to be marrying Thomas Edgar Rigsbee, a local widower with 2 children in May 1924. According to the marriage records, she was a single (never-before-married) 45-year-old marrying a 60-year-old widower.

(By the way,. Katie dies in 1964, and her tombstone records her birth year as 1874, which would have made her 50 years old when she tied the knot in 1924, not 45 years old.)

But I digress.

After Kathie L. Johnson gets married, she becomes Mrs. Rigsbee in her private life, but professionally her photography studio continues the Johnson Brand as the name of the studio:

Durham Morning Herald, December 3, 1924

Now, I often run into people who believe a modern misconception that married ladies in the early 20th century didn’t continue to work after they got married. But as we’ve already discussed here on Photographs, Pistols & Parasols, marrried ladies didn’t necessarily give up their (outside the home) day jobs. For example, Mrs. Vreeland (active 1881 – 1913) starts her studio as a married woman, and when she gets remarried several times throughout her career, she continues to run studios bearing versions of her Vreeland name/brand.

Anyway, Katie Johnson Rigsbee continues the Johnson studio after her 1924 marriage, but In January of 1926 she annouces she’s retiring after nearly 22 years in business.

Durham Morning Herald, January 10, 1926

However, by July of that same year, Katie is back running the Johnson Studio again:

Starting again in July 1926, Mrs. Rigsbee continues to run the Johnson Studio for the several more years. During this time, she continues including her previously established pattern of taking out ads in the newspapers. Here’s one of my favorite examples, when two of her ads appeared side-by-side, targeting two very different target markets:

The Herald, October 04, 1927

Interestingly, there’s no big announcement in the newspapers when Mrs. Rigsbee retires for the second time. But according to what’s published in the the Durham city directories, Katie Johnson Rigsbee stops running the Johnson Studio circa 1929, turning over the reigns to a Mr. Charles Sasscer. Sasscer runs the Johnson Studio for several more years(he later re-brands it as The Johnson – Sasscer studio). In 1938 Mr. Sasscer moves to Virginia; a classified ad in the Raligh newspaper in July 1938 indicates that Katie Johnson Rigsbee may had continued to have a financial interest in the Johnson Studio under Mr. Sasscer’s management, since she’s the one to contact about the studio that’s for sale there in Durham:

The News and Observer, July 5, 1938

As far as I can tell, Mrs. Rigsbee is never associated with a photography studio again.

However, it’s fun to look back 100 years ago today, and catch a glimpse of Katie L. Johnson Rigsbee, a highly successful early photographic entrepreneur for for more than 20 years.