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Photographic First Family

May 2024
1min read


In the August/September 1981 issue the authors of “Loveland Summer” speculate that James and Nancy Ford Cones might have been the “first husbandand-wife team in the history of American photography.” They were not. John H. Fitzgibbon’s second wife, Maria Louisa Dennis, worked actively in his St. Louis studio after their marriage in 1869. By the late 1870’s she had taken over the daily operation of the gallery, while he devoted himself to editing a magazine.

Fitzgibbon’s journal, The St. Louis Practical Photographer , featured peppery editorials, lyric poetry, practical articles on equipment and techniques, and examples of the work of photographers around the nation. The September 1880 issue spotlighted a portrait of a local debutante, taken at the Parlour Gallery by Mrs. J. H. Fitzgibbon.

Nearly twenty years older than his wife, John Fitzgibbon had begun studying his craft just two years after the invention of the daguerreotype. A pioneer in his field and a progressive by nature, he supported equal opportunities for female photographers. In the January 1877 issue of his magazine he wrote, “To the ladies in the profession, we would say, don’t be bashful, for we believe in Woman Rights, in so far as they are right and shall at all times be most happy to let the world know that some things are as good as others, even if a woman has a hand in it. …”

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