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PC 60

Beals, Jessie Tarbox. Photographs of Jessie Tarbox Beals, 1896-1941: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: PC 60
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Jessie Tarbox Beals, 1870-1942
Title: Photographs of Jessie Tarbox Beals, 1896-1941
Date(s): 1896-1941
Quantity: 7.75 linear feet (5 cartons, 1 file box, 1 folio box, 1 folio+ box)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Photographs of Jessie Tarbox Beals, first American woman photojournalist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 82-M122, 83-M38
These photographs were given to the Schlesinger Library by Nanette (Beals) Brainerd, daughter of Jessie (Tarbox) Beals, in May 1982.

Processing Information:

Processed: February 1988
By: Marie-Hélène Gold, Nancy Falk

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the photographs created by Jessie Tarbox Beals is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.
Copying. Photographs may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Jessie Tarbox Beals Photographs, 1896-1941; item description, dates. PC 60, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Jessie Tarbox Beals, 1866-1989 (MC 602). Photographs of houses and gardens were given to the Frances Loeb Library of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Four photographs (from #18, 29, and 56) have been given to the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard.


Jessie Tarbox Beals was the first American woman photojournalist. She was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on December 23, 1870, the daughter of Marie Antoinette (Bassett) Tarbox and John Nathaniel Tarbox. Her father, an inventor and entrepreneur, failed in business and Beals, after completing her education at the Collegiate Institute of Ontario, took a teaching position in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, in 1888. That same year she acquired her first camera, and in 1889 established Williamsburg's first photography studio on the front lawn of her house, using her weekends to take pictures of friends, students, family groups, barns, houses, and animals. In the fall of 1893 she moved to Greenfield, Massachusetts, to take up a new teaching position. There she met Alfred Tennyson Beals, whom she married in 1897.
In 1900, convinced that she could make a successful career out of her hobby, Beals gave up teaching and started traveling as an itinerant photographer, with Alfred Tennyson Beals as her assistant. In 1901 the couple moved to Buffalo and Beals joined the Buffalo Enquirer and Courier as staff photographer. She took hundreds of photographs of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World's Fair) in 1904, and the following year covered President Roosevelt's Rough Riders' Reunion in San Antonio, Texas.
Later in 1905 she and Alfred Tennyson Beals moved to New York, where she stayed until 1928. These New York years were probably the busiest and most interesting in her life. Moving almost every year, she managed to photograph a wide variety of subjects, among them the inauguration of President Taft, suffrage parades, poor children of the Lower East Side, celebrities, and Greenwich Village and its Bohemian society. Her only child, Nanette, was born on June 8, 1911. In 1917 Beals separated from Alfred Tennyson Beals (they were divorced in 1923) and opened her own photo gallery in Sheridan Square.
By 1926, although quite well known and regularly published in such fashionable magazines as Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Town and Country, and the Ladies' Home Journal, Beals had to face the steady decline of her income. In 1928, in the hope of finding more lucrative returns for her labors, she moved to California. The crash of 1929 having deprived her of most of her rich Santa Barbara and Hollywood patrons, Beals decided to return East. She was back in New York in 1931, but stayed only briefly. In 1932 she moved to Chicago, where she photographed mostly gardens and estates. By the end of 1935 she was again in Greenwich Village, living very near the studio where she had started her first New York business. She died in Bellevue Hospital in 1942. For more information about Beals, see Jessie Tarbox Beals, First Woman Photographer, by Alexander Alland, Sr., New York: Camera/Graphic Press, 1978.


The collection is arranged in three series:


The collection of Jessie Tarbox Beals's photographs consists of approximately 2500 original prints, 1100 duplicate prints, 780 film negatives, and 110 glass negatives. With the exception of a few tintypes, cyanotypes, and autochromes, positive images are silver prints.
The dating of many photographs is uncertain. Visual evidence of a date on a photograph is not always conclusive, and a date written on the back of a print may have been assigned long after the event; some duplicate prints in fact bear different dates. Nor is an address stamped or written on the back necessarily a reliable clue, since Beals often made a print long after taking the photograph. The student of Beals's work may be helped toward the dating and/or identification of some of her problematic photographs by referring to her papers in the Schlesinger Library. These include daybooks and correspondence relating to her photographic business.
Photographs have been arranged in three series:
Series I, Family (#1-14), consists of photographs of a few of Beals' relatives, of Beals herself from 1887 to ca.1940, and of Nanette, ATB, and some of Beals' homes. It has not always been possible to arrange these photographs in strict chronological order, because some are in albums put together by Beals (see #2f, 3f, 4f, 13f).
Series II, Professional life (#15-94a), follows the various stages of Beals' professional life and has been arranged chronologically as far as possible. It includes some of her first experiments with the camera, such major assignments as the World's Fair in Saint Louis, Missouri and the children of the Lower East Side, cityscapes, political events, the cafe society of Greenwich Village, travels in the United States and abroad, and parties and balls. The dating of some of these photographs may be open to question: for example, it is likely but not absolutely certain that the photographs taken in the South (#32-37) date from early 1905.
Series III, Portraits (#95-187), consists of formal and informal portraits. Identified subjects have been arranged alphabetically; unidentified subjects, according to gender, occupation (when visible in the picture), age, costume, setting (indoors, outdoors), and number (couples, groups). Some overlap among series proved unavoidable. For example, Series II includes portraits, especially in the folders (#61-65) from Greenwich Village; it seemed sensible not to separate a gallery, a restaurant, or a shop from its owner. In Series III, #124 and 125, which show the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, were kept with the two folders (#122-123) of portraits of Marian MacDowell, founder of the colony.
Negatives without prints have not been cataloged; they may be viewed and printed upon request. Most of the negatives (with or without prints) are in reasonably good condition; it should therefore not be necessary to make a copy negative when a copy print is needed. Each folder or volume description in the inventory is followed by two bracketed numbers: the first indicates the number of positive prints in the folder, the second, the number of unprinted negatives that, according to what they depict, belong there (although they are stored elsewhere, with other negatives).
Some of Beals' photograph numbers proved useful for purposes of identification and dating, but on the whole her numbers presented too many gaps and inconsistencies to be integrated into the library's numbering system. There is, however, a record of the changes from Beals' to the library's numbers.
Photographs of houses and gardens were given to the Frances Loeb Library of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Four photographs (from #18, 29, and 56) have been given to the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard.



This is a selective index, containing names, places, subjects, and events. For some photographs there are several entries. Most names in the index are of people who appear in Who Was Who, Notable American Women, or in the Schlesinger Library manuscript catalog. Included as well are people who were part of Beals's family, or of her professional or social life.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

African American children
African Americans--Social conditions
Boston (Mass.)--Buildings, structures, etc.
California--Description and travel
California--Social life and customs
Cape Cod (Mass.)--Description and travel.
Carnival--Louisiana--New Orleans
Chicago (Ill.)--Social life and customs
Children--Social life and customs
Domestic animals
Florida--Social conditions
Greenwich Village (New York, N.Y.)--Social life and customs
Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 : Saint Louis, Mo.)
Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.)--Social conditions
New Orleans (La.)--Social life and customs
New York (N.Y.)--Social life and customs
Panama--Social life and customs
Photography of cats
Photography of children
Photography of families
Photography of men
Photography of women
Photojournalists--United States
Presidents--United States
Saint Louis (Mo.)--Pictorial works
Santa Barbara (Calif.)--Social life and customs
United States--Description and travel
Washington (D.C.)--Social conditions
Anderson, Judith
Auslander, Joseph, 1897-1965
Beals, Alfred.
Belmont, August, 1813-1890
Blasco Ibáñez, Vicente, 1867-1928
Booth, Edwin, 1833-1893
Borglum, Gutzon, 1867-1941
Boylan, Grace Duffie, 1861?-1935
Brainerd, Nanette Beals, 1911-
Bryan, Isabelle
Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925
Burroughs, John, 1837-1921
Campbell, Joseph, 1879-1944
Clarke, Caspar Purdon, 1846-1911
Coman, Charlotte Buell, 1833-1924
Crothers, Rachel, 1878-1958
Duveneck, Frank, 1848-1919
Eberle, Abastenia St. Leger, 1878-
Federal Writers' Project
Fokine, Michel, 1880-1942
Fokine, Vera
Francis, David Rowland, 1850-1927
Geddes, Norman Bel, 1893-1958
Goodwin, Grace Duffield
Griffin, Lillian Barnes
Hayakawa, Sesshū, 1889-1973
Hassam, Childe, 1859-1935
Herrick, Myron T. (Myron Timothy), 1854-1929
Herter, Albert, 1871-1950
Hobbes, John Oliver, 1867-1906
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964
Hoover, Lou Henry, 1874-1944
Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
Hurst, Fannie, 1889-1968
Illington, Margaret, 1881-1934
Jefferson, Joseph, 1869-1919
King, Francis, Mrs., 1863-1948
La Guardia, Fiorello H. (Fiorello Henry), 1882-1947
Lie, Jonas, 1880-1940
Lincoln, Joseph Crosby, 1870-1944
MacDowell Colony (Peterborough, N.H.)
MacDowell, Marian, 1857-1956
Mayhew, Ralph
National League of American Pen Women.
O'Neill, Rose Cecil, 1874-1944
Pen and Brush Club (New York, N.Y.)
Pendleton, Isabelle
Post, Emily, 1873-1960
Potter, Grace
Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963
Reed, John, 1887-1920
Rippin, Jane Parker Deeter, 1882-1953
Rives, Amélie, 1863-1945
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919
Ross, Ishbel, 1897-1975
Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968
Seton-Thompson, Grace Gallatin
Smith, Alfred Emanuel, 1873-1944
Smith, Frances Grace, 1871-
Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930
Tarbell, Ida M. (Ida Minerva), 1857-1944
Tarkington, Booth, 1869-1946
Teasdale, Sara, 1884-1933
Terhune, Albert Payson, 1872-1942
Troubetzkoy, Pierre, 1864-1936
Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
United States. Army. Volunteer Cavalry, 1st
Urner, Mabel Herbert, 1881-1957
Walker, Mary Edwards, 1832-1919
Wheeler, Candace, 1827-1923
Wiggam, Albert Edward, 1871-1957
Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith, 1856-1923
Winter, Alice Ames, 1865-1944
Woodin, William H. (William Hartman), 1868-1934