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The Origins of the Lozo-Needles Photograph Collection Pt. 1

One of the unique items the Reference Department has in its collection is the Lozo-Needles Photograph Collection. It is comprised of four volumes of photos of prominent men in the community at the time they were taken. Many of the photos are identified, though there are still a few mystery men among them. We have the stories of many of these men, and know the histories of photographers Alexander Lozo and J.T. Needles. But one question remained: How did the library end up with this collection? That part of the story had been lost as the generations went on. The provenance, or the origins, of an item can often be just as important as the information it contains. So, as librarians do, we sought out to find its story.

Bailey, Townsend, & Co. S.E. Corner of 5th and Felix Sts. 1875

The collection began in 1875, when a traveling photographer, S. D. Mitchell came to St. Joseph and took several photographs of notable buildings in town. The photograph collection consisted of over sixty photographs of buildings taken by Mitchell, some of which still stand today, including the Gazette Building. Prominent citizen Ripley R. Calkins purchased the photos and the negatives, and entrusted the negatives to J. T. Needles. This spurred Calkins to commission more photographs, this time of the “pioneers of St. Joseph.” J. T Needles was commissioned as the photographer for this project and these were the beginning of the series of portraits that we now know as the Lozo-Needles Photograph Collection.

The collection of citizens and structures were featured in the Main Hall at the St. Joseph Industrial and Agricultural Exposition of 1875. The collection was christened “The St. Joseph Art Gallery.” Calkins had been chair of the planning committee for the Exposition. He had also been chosen by the Governor to represent Missouri at the Centennial Exposition of 1876, what was to be the first World’s Fair. Calkins had intended for the photo collection to be exhibited in the Missouri Building, but it was not completed in time.

September 7, 1875 St. Joseph Gazette

After the Exposition ended, Calkins moved the photos to the office of the St. Joseph Fire and Marine Insurance Company at 2nd and Francis Streets, of which Calkins was affiliated. Calkins was an interesting man, and in addition to being heavily involved in the civic affairs and welfare of the city, he had numerous careers throughout his lifetime. He was a teacher in the early history of the public schools in St. Joseph, and dedicated to education. He even served as the Public School Librarian and Principal of Washington School for a time. Calkins was also notable for his many patented inventions and for establishing the first illustrated newspaper in Buchanan County. So it was fitting that he established this photograph project that would endure into the Twenty-First Century.

Check back soon for Pt. 2!


Related Sources:

September 15, 1875 St. Joseph Gazette

October 1, 1875 St. Joseph Gazette

August 3, 1879 St. Joseph Herald

Lozo-Needles Photo Collection Vol. 1

Lozo-Needles Photo Collection Vol. 2

Lozo-Needles Photo Collection Vol. 3

Lozo-Needles Photo Collection Vol. 4

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