JULIUS CAESAR STRAUSS
A SUN OF ST. LOUIS
1857-1924 by Thomas G. Yanul
Julius Caesar Strauss - known professionally and personally as "J. C. Strauss,
was a guiding light in his chosen photographic profession. Not only did he become
a famous personage of the City of St. Louis, but his reputation was both national
and international. He was both a "son" of St. Louis - having adopted St. Louis as his
home, and of course St. Louis welcomed him - especially after becoming a "sun" of
the city by his luminous personality attracting the notables of the city,America and Europe. [UPPER R/PHOTO OF STUDIO, 1920'S -COURTESY OFGRANDSON J.C. STRAUSS -CLICK ON PHOTO FOR LARGE IMAGE OF WATERCOLOR]
Strauss's background has not yet been thoroughly researched, but one published
report stated the following:
" Mr. Strauss has had an eventful experience in professional
photography. He began as a boy of twelve in a tin-type gallery in Cleveland.
afterward he worked in St. Louis, migrating to Chicago in 1876, and returning
to St. Louis a year later. Here, in 1880, he started a business with Mr.Ed Guerin
as partner, and the first day's receipts amounted to 25 cents. After a few weeks
Guerin retired, and since that time Mr. Strauss has worked alone, winning success
against many of the cleverest workers in the profession, such as Sholten, Fox,
Seed, Cramer, Benecke and others of equal repute."
Wilson's Photographic Magazine-Apr.1900
Other articles state 1879 as a starting date in St. Louis, but even a date of
1876 was used in reference to old negatives that escaped the disastrous
studio fire of 1900.
J.C. STRAUSS II
WHO KEPT HIS
FATHER'S & GRANDFATHER'S
MEMORY ALIVE, FIRST HAND
Strauss in 1897
Wilson's Photographic Magazine
Bits and pieces from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Magazine, June 12, 1927 and
Wilson's Photographic Magazine-various years.
Julius Caesar Strauss was born in July of 1857 in Cleveland, Ohio.
In the early 1870's J.C. and a cousin "struck out for St. Louis". "Our first
job was selling brooms for the Samuel Cupples Woodenware Co".
J.C. soon wearied of this job and found work as an assistant in a
photograph gallery on Fourth St., and there he decided he had found
his life's career. He became a proficient and dedicated employee,
learning his trade well. By 1879, at age 22, Strauss had enough self-
confidence and had saved enough money to open his own gallery at
1313 Franklin Av. (later re-numbered to # 1245)
Having obviously become successful at his trade, Strauss moved to a
new custom-designed studio building in 1896; a very luxurious
structure designed by St. Louis architect Louis Christian Mullgardt,
located at 3514 Franklin Av.
The dedication and grand opening occured March 4, 1897.
On the night of January 31, 1900, the studio suffered a severe fire
gutting the interior space, including its literal treasure of artworks
and decorations. Fortunately, a fireproof vault in the basement preserved
the studio's negatives. Strauss immediately took up his work at borrowed
spaces while the studio was rebuilt. A little over one year later another
grand opening, March 4, 1901, celebrated the re-constructed
Strauss Studio - it became known as the "Castle".
In almost all professions, certain individuals, through sheer power of personality,
become the gathering places of their peers and others. In St. Louis it was Julius
C. Strauss as the social magnet.
ED NOTE:this is not to impune Gustav Cramer, that most beloved
photographer/plate maker known as "Papa Cramer", welcomed
throughout the country with open arms. A truly wonderful person and
business man. But Cramer's backyard was the entire country, while
Strauss' was his studio. Both could exist simultaneously in St. Louis because
their constituencies were diverse and not at cross-purposes. Besides, they
were the closest of friends that included skinnydipping, fishing & photographing.
In Chicago Strauss' good friend and colleague Mathew J. Steffens was
the magnet...in Philadelphia it was William Rau. In Detroit it was Frank Scott
Clark. And in most other large cities around the country certain individuals
held court in their own places or associated locations. The nations professionals
were a tight-knit group that fed on social and professional interaction.
These were truly the days of hospitality. Maybe it was a carryover from
Europe - when visitors were deemed very important persons. Before all of
our current electric and electronic entertainments, it was people who
provided the most joyful form of relaxation and enjoyment.
Strauss' basement was called the "Growlery". Rau had his "Coal Bin". Places
where not only photographers, but artisans, thinkers, poets, writers, and
patrons of the arts gathered, as if they all belonged to the same club.
There were meetings of the minds across the country...and around
the world as late 19th and early 20th Century minds co-mingled. Photographers
in many instances were still aligned with artisans and thinkers...business was
important but so was comradship and social intercourse.
Strauss, like his friends and cohorts, was very active in the professional
associations of photographers. Lecturing at local and national meetings,
displaying works at exhibitions, and offering themselves and their studios
as joyful meeting areas when conventions were held in their cities.
I doubt if most smalltown photographers attending a convention in
St. Louis were not awed by the grandness of studios like Strauss'
or Steffens' in Chicago, or Falk's in New York City. These were elegant
baroque masterpieces in miniature in some cases, equal to what some
royalty had in Europe. Of course these were houses of wealth because
they're customers in most cases were the carriage trade...a class that
expected to not only be serviced for their needs, but done so in style.
Actually that aspect remains a trueism for today's "carriage trade".
J.C. Strauss had a brother named Benjamin who was also a photographer
but little is known about his days in St. Louis. little of which is known.
In 1900 Ben moved to Kansas City, Missouri to start his own studio.
Ben took on an employee named Homer Peyton who, according to legend,
was so well liked and important to the operation that Strauss made him a
partner in the company and the name was changed to Strauss-Peyton.
That studio became quite famous in its own right for its portraiture of
theatrical & cinema people. Peyton in particular created very artistic images
not just through the camera but by physical manipulations on the negatives
and even on the final prints. Some were exceedingly handsome and artistic.
A west coast collector has a large number of these portraits and hopefully
they will soon receive a long overdue exhibition and possible publication.
Peyton left the firm in the 1920's. Ben Strauss never married so his
Strauss family line ended with him.
Ansco "Portrait" Magazine
From leading American Photographers
American Photographic Textbook co.
Strauss, top- H.H. Pierce, right
M.J. Steffens, left - F.S.Clark, bottom
Photo by Steffens
Photo collection author
To see larger image with
info on other photogs see page 2
EARLY STRAUSS CARTE DE VISITE
WITH ADDRESS OF 1245 FRANKLIN ST.