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Rare Texas Photographer's Account Book from Small-Town Texas

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477.     [PHOTOGRAPHY]. TOEPPERWEIN, Emil. Account book for Toepperwein’s photography studio. 172 hand-numbered numbered pages of ruled paper, of which approximately seventy have entries in ink or pencil. Tall 12mo (28.5 x 13.3 cm). Cloth spine over tan paper wrappers, with Toepperwein’s “Photographer” ink stamp on upper cover and page 1. Leon Springs, Texas, March 3, 1891-October 26, 1895. Covers stained and worn, damage at bottom costing some text, a few pages torn, paper browned because of inherent vice. Two further accounts on slips pasted inside lower cover. Texas photographer account books are very rare.

     An extremely detailed account book from the first period when Toepperwein was an active Texas photographer. The book records that he went into business on March 3, 1891, with assets of a $30.00 camera and a cash debt to Adolph Toepperwein for an equal amount. The first year, recorded on pp. 3-4, was filled with numerous purchases, indicating that Toepperwein must have been attracting customers. Included are repeated orders for “sensitized paper” ($1.70, $1.00), one dozen 6-1/2-inch x 8-1/2-inch “dry plates” ($1.65), “card mounts” ($1.65), “plate holders” ($3.40), “lens” ($25.00), “shutter” ($6.00), “silvered paper” ($1.50), “burnisher” ($10.00), and “chemicals” ($2.75). Business seems to have been brisk and provided income to offset the constant outlay for supplies. For example, he charged R.R. Russell for “1 doz baby” pictures ($3.00) and “1/2 doz bust” pictures ($2.00). Other lists of customers may also be found in the book (e.g., pp. 12, 19, 25, 31). Interestingly, he also seems to have either attracted customers from out of town or travelled, because he has accounts in Grape-Creek (p. 40), Navarro (p. 44), and Castroville (p. 165). He also took images of military personnel (pp. 166-168). The range of services he offered also expanded into portraits in crayon and framed materials (p. 155). In many cases, the accounts are detailed enough to determine exactly how much he charged per image.

     At the time of this account book, Leon Springs was merely a small town outside San Antonio, and Toepperwein was a young man of just twenty-one years old. That Toepperwein could make a living there as a photographer is an interesting commentary on the need and desire for such services in even the smallest Texas towns. Given the dozens of individual customers he lists, it seems clear that he also drew many clients from the surrounding area, as well. The account book ends in 1895 because that year he moved to Menard.

     Toepperwein (1870-1959), initially worked for photographer A.A. Brack in San Antonio. After leaving Brack’s employ, he was an itinerant photographer before opening his business in Leon Springs, although one account in this book states that the images were “finished by A. Brack” (p. 44), indicating that he still had a business relationship with his former employer. After moving to Menard in 1895, he also established a saddlery business and hired his brother Ed to help him with the photography business. He rose to be a prominent Menard citizen. See Item 465 herein.


Sold. Hammer: $2,400.00; Price Realized: $2,880.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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