Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Meet Willis Leiter Part 1

The first Willis Leiter Studio at 310 Broadway
If you asked a person over the age of 50 who grew up in Lorain to name some well-known photography studios in town from the old days, they would probably answer with the names Rudy Moc or Michaels. This wouldn't be too surprising, because Rudy Moc is well-known for his great collection of photos taken of the damage caused by the 1924 Tornado, and both longtime firms provided Lorainites with treasured family portraits over the years.

However, as we now know, there was another Lorain photographer who isn't as well known as the others. That will undoubtedly be changing with the publication of Lorain: The Real Postcards of Willis Leiter. Although Leiter's studio did not have the longevity to match Rudy Moc or Michaels, his body of work in documenting the Lorain of the early 1900s through real photo postcards has contributed immeasurably to keeping the history of our beloved town alive for future generations.

Paula Shorf, one of the authors of Lorain: The Real Postcards of Willis Leiter has kindly provide me with some biographical material about the photographer, which I now present in two parts.

Leiter Studio was established in Lorain in September of 1901, when Willis A. Leiter and associate, Mr. Sayre, purchased the photography gallery of J. B. Hoff. 
Article from the front page of The Daily Democrat
of Wednesday, September 18, 1901
Leiter moved his wife, Nettie, and their children to Lorain from Findlay, Ohio, where he had first developed his photographic skills.

Lorain provided Leiter with plenty of photographic subjects. The city in 1901 was a thriving industrial town, with the newly built shipyard and a booming steel mill.

Courtesy Paula Shorf Collection
Leiter documented the development of the city by creating real photo postcards of ship launchings, the activity at the steel mill, new buildings that were opening up on Broadway, and a variety of community events. He also photographed other locations in Ohio and neighboring states. More than 2,000 of these types of photographs have been identified.

But Leiter's main business was studio portraiture, and the studio was known for its quality work. The photographer’s sons, Warren and Earl, assisted their father in the business.

Leiter believed in advertising, and his promotional ads appeared in a variety of publications.

1904 ad from Lorain Cook Book
1908 advertisement


Anonymous said...

Book arrived today!


Dan Brady said...

Wow--that was fast!

Drew Penfield said...

Mine did too. I'm torn between reading the book and reading your blog.