Saturday, May 4, 2013

In Search of Madame Ihrig

Spokane Daily Chronicle March 1, 1934

New Mexico and the unique name Ethyle Ihrig helped me find Hattie Chapin (Madame Ihrig).

I study both the history of photography and the history of the Pacific Northwest and I became curious about a Spokane photographer with just a few photographs found on the Internet. All I knew is that the Ihrig studio was in Spokane at some point (Portraits have the inscription IHRIG - Spokane).

Erna Pielke (1896-1977) by Ihrig
Image courtesy of Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
 Used with permission.
I did a search for "Ihrig Spokane" at Google News and found that there was a very interesting woman photographer who called herself "Madame Henriette Ihrig". In the newspaper portrait of her from 1934 she is dressed in a man's tuxedo with a slicked-back men's style haircut. Was she part of a fringe or counter culture group in Spokane? I'm interested. She obviously made up the name "Madame Ihrig" just for Spokane - she was using the name "Mrs. Henriette Ihrig" in Tacoma. I wanted to know more. I entered Henriette Ihrig in the Chronicling America search engine and got several hits for early Tacoma, Washington. It appears Mme. Ihrig started working in Tacoma before coming to Spokane. She described herself as an "artistic photographer". I think you'll agree that the portraits we have by Ihrig do show an artistic quality.

I then tried to find her in the census with no luck. I did find a curious entry in a Spokane city directory dated 1919.

Ihrig -
Ethyle Mrs finisher Shiveley & Ihrig r 511 Kuhn bldg
Harriet Mrs opr Shiveley & Ihrig r 511 bldg

Who is this Ethyle Ihrig working with Harriet Ihrig? I did find her on the census. In Spokane, in 1920, she is living with her stepfather Wendell W. Phillips and Harriette Phillips - a photographer. (This has to be our Mme Ihrig.) As a finisher in a photo lab Ethyle would have done developing, retouching and framing. [Although Ethyle would have only been about 16 in 1919, I think Harriet gave her a title "Mrs." as some kind of protection, that's my guess. Or it's a typo.]

Wendell Phillips 31 photographer
Harriette Phillips 36 photographer
Ethyle Ihrig 17 stepdaughter

Earl by Ihrig
Image courtesy of Mirabilia at Flickr
Used with permission.
Apparently Mme Ihrig married Phillips in Spokane but kept her maiden name, Ihrig,  for professional reasons. I found their marriage certificate and learned some interesting things: she states she is a widow, uses the last name Thompson, maiden name Chapin, born in New Mexico. New Mexico? Well this does confirm the two census forms I have for Ethyle - in both 1910 and 1920 she lists her mother's birthplace as New Mexico. And because of the low population of New Mexico it is really going to stand out as an identifier on any other records I find for Harriet Chapin.

In the 1910 Tacoma, Washington census:
Kezzie Chapin 59 head of household, divorced
Hattie Tustabury 26 daughter, photographer born in New Mexico
Ethyle Ihrig 7 granddaughter

Hattie is a nickname for Henriette. I don't know where Tustabury came from! But this census gives us 5 confirmations for guesses I had for Mme Ihrig - 1. mother's name is Chapin 2. born in New Mexico 3. photographer 4. daughter named Ethyle Ihrig and 5. we know by newspaper accounts she was working in Tacoma at that time so it makes sense she would show up on the Tacoma census. I think that both Kezzia Chapin and her daughter Harriet Chapin lived outside mainstream society when it came to marriages. Sometimes Kezzia is listed as a widow and sometimes divorced. Mme Ihrig lists herself as widowed when she married Phillips but her husband, Mr. Ihrig (more on him later), I'm pretty sure, lived on in California until 1961. Where did Tustabury come from? I think there's more to learn about how Harriet, as an artist, living on the Western frontier, protected and defended her right to define her own terms.

Now that we have Mme Ihrig's mother's name we can look her up in the census. And I found her.

Leonard Olsson by Ihrig Tacoma Times 1912

          1880 Santa Fe New Mexico Census
          Employee's in U. S. Quartermaster Depart.
G. P. Chapin 40
K. H. Chapin 30
Matie 6
Minie 3

1885 New Mexico Territorial Census
G B Chapin Head
Kate H Chapin Wife
Mattie Chapin Daughter
Missouri Chapin Daughter
Hattie Chapin Daughter

The 1908 Tacoma city directory lists Kezzia Chapin as the widow of Gilford P. Chapin. We now have Hattie's father's first name.

Missouri "Minie" Chapin
I was curious if I could find Hattie's sisters. I looked up Minie Chapin and what do you know - I found her in 1900 Spokane. Living all by herself, 22 years old, occupation -  "artist". Artist! When I read that I knew I found Hattie's sister. At 22 years old did she blaze a trail to Spokane for the rest of the family? How could she possibly make a living as an artist in this frontier town? I think the Chapin sisters were bold and adventurous. I wish I could have known them. In 1905 she married and this is the announcement I found by Googling her name:

Little Girl by Ihrig
Tacoma Times 1913
Cards have been received in Portland announcing the marriage in Seattle on Tuesday last of Miss Minnie Chapin, of this city, to Dr. Joseph Warren Dunning, of Spokane. Mrs. Dunning is the daughter of Mrs. K. H. Chapin and has lived here with her mother for several years past. She is an artist by profession, and some of her clever sketch work has appeared in The Oregonian, and has been much admired. Mrs. Dunning has many warm friends in Portland, who know her best as "Chap" Chapin. They regret her going away to live, at the same time giving her many cordial and hearty good wishes. Dr. Dunning is a leading dentist in Spokane, where he is building a home for his bride. Dr. and Mrs. Dunning will be at home in Spokane after the first of January. [Note that the mother - without a husband, "Mrs. K. H. Chapin" confirms what we know about Hattie's mother.] ~ The Sunday Oregonian, Portland December 17, 1905

The 1905 Portland, Oregon city directory-

Chapin Chap, artist Oregonian, bds 131 E 16th
Chapin Keziah H (wid Wilford), res 131 E 16th

Otto M. Ihrig
Now what about the father of Ethyle Ihrig? I entered a search at for anyone with the surname Ihrig who married a Chapin. The 1901 California marriage of Harriet H. Chapin (born in New Mexico) to Otto M. Ihrig popped up. I believe this is our Harriet. Primarily because of the New Mexico birth place. The Los Angeles city directory for years 1900-1902 show Kezzia Chapin. I believe Harriet was living with her at that time. These girls really moved around! By 1910 Kezzia, Harriet and Ethyle are living alone in Tacoma. Harriet and Otto must have gotten a divorce because he is shown in city directories staying in California where he died in 1961.

The Death of Mme Ihrig

Mme Ihrig died in San Bernardino, California in 1954. I know this is our Harriet because the death certificate lists her birthplace as New Mexico and her mother's maiden name as Thomas (the same mother's maiden name she listed when marrying Phillips). I have not found a Find a Grave listing for Harriet.

Notable Subjects
Eltinge by Ihrig
From Marisa M.
I have not found any baby photos by Ihrig even though Mme Ihrig was a baby photographer for YEARS. And I haven't found any photographs with her name embossed. The only photographs we have, signed, are the ones with the hand drawn "IHRIG" signature, with the addition of "Spokane". In 1919, the studio Shively & Ihrig established
Two Guns White Calf
by Ihrig (WSU)
copyright for an image of Julian Eltinge, a female impersonator. Eltinge was hugely popular at that time and it must have been a big deal to be able to photograph the star.
In 1934 Ihrig studios photographed Two Guns White Calf, one of several men thought to be the inspiration for the profile on the buffalo nickle.
I'm hopeful that more images by Ihrig will be found. I hope to find the "sketches" by Minie Chapin in The Portland Oregonian. If you find any photographs by Ihrig please let me know! I think one problem is the hand-drawn signature is difficult to read. Maybe with this blog post someone will discover they have an un-discovered Ihrig portrait to share with the rest of us.

More photos
New York Public Library

Courtesy The Niepce Gallery at Etsy
used with permission

I use WeRelate to organize facts about people I am studying. Please join WeRelate and collaborate with me there! Entry for Henriette "Hattie" Chapin.

Here I will keep a list of mis-spellings for the search engines:
Harriet Thwig

August 2016 : Found a link to some ads by Ihrig at Vintage Spokane blog.

This post written by Catherine dee Auvil in April 2013.

UPDATE August 2016 I did find more information about her sister Chappie Dunning, she married a dentist and I guess that is why she had the resources to begin collecting local Native American art. I know, I know, that could have turned out horrible if she took it all to New York City and auctioned it off. But she did not. She donated all of it to the Cheney Cowles Museum (now the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture). I have volunteered at the museum, printing from their glass photo negative collection. I can't believe I didn't know about Chappie Dunning. In this Spokane Daily Chronicle article about her daughter, it says Chappie's mother was an artist! I need to know more about her! You can read the full article here.

Read an article in the Inlander about Chappie Dunning and William M. Manning, early Spokane collectors: Living with the Legacy

1 comment:

  1. I have a photograph from a relative in CA who recently passed away. Among the pictures was a head shot with "IHRIG Spokane" on the front. On the back there are 2 stamps: "Truth Center of Hollywood 1642 N. Cherokee, Hollywood, Cal." and "NOTICE This Photograph is released for publication in magazines and news-papers if credit is give Ihrig. PHOTOGRAPHY BY IHRIG" Do you know anything about this?
    T Evans