54 – All in the family

In today’s episode we meet a mother-daughter paid who both worked as early women photographers, but who probably never worked together.


This cabinet card is from the Crow studio in Astoria, Oregon, possibly during the period when Samuel and Matilda A. Swope were both running the studio. There’s no date on the photo.

Cabinet card by the Crow studio in Astoria, Oregon (date unknown). (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)
Cabinet card by the Crow studio in Astoria, Oregon (date unknown). (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)

In the audio of the episode, I misspoke; the second cabinet card from the Crow studio that  Chris and I own is from the Crow studio in Portland, Oregon, a studio Samuel B. Crow runs in the late 1890s and earkly 1900s. This is not the studio he co-ran with his daughter Minnie, but Minnie could have worked for her father at this studio before they ran the Crow and Crow  studio together.

Cabinet card by the Crow studio in Portland, Oregon (date unknown). (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)
Cabinet card by the Crow studio in Portland, Oregon (date unknown). (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)

We don’t have any examples of M.A. Swope’s photographs, but here’s that creative ad for her studio from the 1904 Astoria, Oregon directory:

1904 Astoria Directory: Ad for M. A. Swope's Up-to-Date Studio.
1904 Astoria Directory: Ad for M. A. Swope’s Up-to-Date Studio.



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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 meet M. A. Crow Swope and her daughter, Minnie Crow Bader Oliver. They were a mother and daughter,  both of whom were photographers and both of whom ran studios, but as near as I can tell, they never actually worked together.

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. Welcome back to Photographs, Pistols & Parisols.

Today I want to introduce you to a couple of the women that I mentioned in the lecture that I gave last month in Port Townsend, at the Jefferson County Historical Society Museum’s First Friday lecture series. I really want to thank the Jefferson County historical society museum for inviting me to give that talk.

It was great fun to go and introduce the audience to not just the women photographers that I’ve talked about here on the podcast from all over the country, but also to introduce them to a couple of early women photographers with connections to Port Townsend, Washington itself.

And one of the curious things is that the stories that I covered about one of the women who was active in Port Townsend actually started while I was looking into the story of one of the early male photographers in Oregon. By the 1910’s, this male photographer, Samuel B Crow, was active in Port Townsend. And I noticed that he opened his studio sometime in the early 1900s, but the exact date is actually a little bit hard to determine. Unfortunately the Port Townsend directories that survive from the early 1900shundreds have a bunch of gaps, and they don’t really start until 1907 when Samuel B Crow or “S.B.Crow”, as he was known, was active, in Port Townsend.

But in looking into his story, as I said, we started to discover that he actually has connections to a couple of women photographers. That first starts to emerge once we trace his story backwards to the 1880s when he’s active, not in Washington state, but in Oregon, in a little town called Astoria, Oregon. In Astoria, he’s running a studio in the 1880s and the 1890s, and where it starts to get really interesting is when it starts to emerge that he and his wife Matilda A. Crow, born Matilda Borg, were both running the studio in Astoria, Oregon. Well, at least by the 1890s they’re both running it together.

But then, as with so many of these stories, in the mid 1890s Samuel and his wife, Matilda, get divorced.

And the next thing you know though, Mrs. M. A. Crow is running that studio in Astoria, Oregon alone.

Now, Samuel sticks around for a while in Astoria, but then by 1900 he’s turning up in Portland, Oregon, running not one, but two different studios, one with his brother.

As for his ex-wife, Matilda: well, she does appear – i.e. she pops up in the directory in 1900 in Portland, but she’s still sort of still in Astoria, to running a studio. It’s a little hard to work out, as there are some gaps in the Astoria directories, but by 1902 she turns up re-married, to a man named John C Swope.

That’s in Astoria, Oregon, where John C Swope has become famous locally as a “sign painter”. Although, he’s really more of an artist, like a mural artist, that kind of big splashy side of the building kind of sign – I think that’s the kind of “signs” he’s painting. It’s tantalizing, though, because we can’t find any of the marriage records for Matilda and John Swope.

But they are definitely married by 1902, when she’s running the studio in Astoria, Oregon now under her married name. M a Swope. But she’s not using the “Mrs” title for her photography anymore. So, if you look in the directory, you don’t get the sense that M. A. Swope is a woman until you dig into the story. She’s what my husband, Chris, and I have started to call a “hidden woman photographer” in the directory.

Because when you look at the directory, you see M.A. Swope. You don’t realize that that’s a woman because she’s not listing herself as “Mrs” or by a name that’s clearly female.

Interestingly, in the newspapers around that time, it actually refers to a “Mr and Mrs Swope” as being the proprietors of a studio, that is briefly rebranded the Up-To-Date studio. That’s in Astoria Oregon.

But John C Swope is never referred to as a photographer anywhere else, except in this one little mention, and I’m just wondering if that was just for convenience that the newspaper decided that – well, he’s an artist, maybe they were both working out of that studio. But make no mistake – it’s Mrs Swope – i.e. M. A. Swope – who is the photographer in the family.

Now, she continues running that studio in Astoria until 1911, when unfortunately John C Swope passes away. The studio continues with M.A. Swope, proprietor; she’s a a widow of John C Swope and continuing to live and operate a photography studio there in Astoria until about 1920, when she suddenly disappears from the record for a few years.

Trying to trace her after that is a challenge. She pops up in Portland, Oregon in the mid 1930s, when it’s mentioned that “she’s too ill” to go to her mother’s funeral in Portland. M. A. is also living in Portland at the time. Someone on Ancestry.com says that she is the Matilda A. Swope who dies in Portland, Oregon in 1948. Unfortunately, the ancestry.com person who put that together doesn’t give any direct evidence as to why they think that that Matilda A. Swope is the Matilda A Swope who was in Astoria and who ran that studio was the widow of John S. Swope.

But I don’t have any evidence for or against it being her; it’s certainly plausible that the woman who dies in 1948 in Portland is the woman who had been the photographer.

As a photographer, she was a photographer with her husband, Samuel in Oregon in the 1880s and in the 1890s. She runs the studio in Astoria on her own starting in the mid 1890s, up until about 1920. So she as a fairly long career.

I’ll share in the episode notes of the great ads that’s from an Astoria directory in 1902; it’s a really cute, boxed ad with a little artistic drawing, for that Up-To-Date studio that she was running.

Anyway, that’s Mathilda A. Crow Swope’s story.

But as I said, looking into Samuel B. Crow’s story as a photographer uncovered <em> two </em> different female photographer stories.

One was his ex wife Matilda, and the other one was actually their daughter, Minnie Crow.

Now in 1900, Minnie Crow, at the age of only 17, is living with her aunt and uncle in Port Townsend. She, of course, would have been expected to be living with her parents in either Astoria, Oregon (where her mother was) or in Portland, Oregon (where her father is in 1900), but she’s not living in either one of those places.

She’s actually living with her aunt and uncle in Port Townsend, Washington,m where she is working as a photographer.

Now, it says she’s working as a photographer for someone else, but unfortunately there’s no surviving directory of Port Townsend from 1900, so we don’t know exactly who was running the photography studios in 1900, and so we dan’t tell who Minnie might have been working for.

Certainly, it seems like her father was still in Portland in 1900 and not necessarily running a studio yet in Port Townsend, but we just don’t know.

And it’s further intriguing to discover that by 1901 and 1902, we actually see that Samuel and Minnie, his daughter, are running a studio <em>together</em>: the Crow and Crow studio in Portland, Oregon.

Now that’s really interesting that she’s listed as running the studio there in Portland. under her name Minnie Crow. Because, we can tell separately from some other mentions in the newspaper that she is actually <em>married</em> at that point to a man named Bader in Port Townsend. She and Edward Bader have a son, Lavant Bader, who’s born in 1901.

So where was she really and what was she actually doing? What studio was she really running? I’m not quite sure, but I am confident that she was working as a photographer in this period.

If we fast forward a little bit of time to 1906, we see that the Baders have separated and divorced at that point, because Minnie Crow Bader, the photographer, is getting remarried to a man named Oliver, and she and Mr. Oliver are moving to California.

Looking for her in California as photographer only turns up the evidence of her in the 1910 census in San Francisco, when a Minnie Oliver, photographer, is living and working in San Francisco.

The problem is, according to the directories for San Francisco in 1910, we haven’t been able to find any trace of her. So maybe she just had just gotten to San Francisco in 1910 and listed herself as a photographer in the census, but hadn’t been there long enough to make it into the directory.

She also is listed in the census as being divorced from Mr Oliver, so that marriage apparently didn’t last very long either.

Now, when we try to find her in the 1911 directory in San Francisco, thinking, well, maybe she’d show up as a photographer working for someone or working on her own there, it turns out that tragically Minnie Crow Bader Oliver, at the age of less than 30 years old, passes away in 1911.

So that was quite sad to see. Her story is therefore cut short, and so we don’t have more evidence of where she worked as a photographer.

But it certainly is intriguing to run across these little bits and pieces of seeing that she worked with her father. And that her father actually moves to Port Townsend in sometime in the early 1900s when she’s living there, potentially as early as when she’s first married to her first husband and when she’s has her baby. H

After her remarriage, by the way, Minni’s baby stays in Port Townsend living with his father. Certainly Samuel Crow, the grandfather, is in Port Townsend until the late 1910s as well. So maybe that’s why he stuck around there – i.e. to be closer to his grandson.

But of course, this is all pure speculation.

All I can tell you for sure is that unexpectedly looking into Samuel B Crow or (S.B. Crow) in Port Townsend —— a place where he ran a studio for over 10 years ——looking into his story led us to not just one, but two different women photographers, women who were related to each other, but who, as I said in the teaser, never seem to have work together. While Minnie may have worked with her father, there is no evidence that she ever worked for or ran a studio with her mother in Astoria, Oregon.


I n the episode notes, I’ll share a couple of cabinet cards, [one] by the Crow studio in Astoria  [and one by the Crow studio in Portland] that  Chris and I have run across. There’s no way to tell for sure who was running the studio called “Crow studio” in Astoria when the photograph were taken, because Sam B and his wife Matilda A Crow ran the studio in the 1890s in Astoria up until their divorce. And then the Crows were both running studios separately in Astoria of for a short time until Samuel moves to Portland.

Matilda A. Crow, when she is listed in the directories, is usually Mrs M A Crow in the 1890s. So it’s possible that’s how she branded the photos that she produced at that period. But I don’t know that for sure.

And, as for Minnie, of course, we don’t know exactly where she worked other than the Crow and Crow studio in Portland. [And so it’s likely that the Crow studio photo from Portland that we have was taken by Samuel].  And unfortunately we haven’t yet run across a Crow and Crow photograph … but I’m sure we’ll find one someday.

But I’ll include what we’ve got so far in the episode notes, plus that beautiful Up-To-Date studio ad of M.A. Swope from Astoria.

The episode notes as usual, will be on the website at p3photographers.net, that’s letter “p”, number “3” photographers.net.

Also, remember, you can check out any news and updates on the facebookPage at facebook.com/p3photographers.

Or, drop me an email at podcast “at” p3photographers.net.

Well, that’s it for today, for the story of Mrs M A Crow Swope, and her daughter, Minnie Crow Bader Oliver.

I really want to thank you for stopping by, and I hope you come back in May when I’ll have some more stories from Washington and beyond of early women artisan photographers.

Until then, I’m Lee, and this is <em>Photographers, Pistols & Parasols</em>.