Saturday, December 21, 2019

Harry J Purnelle


(#01) photographer
H. J. Purnelle Rail Road Photo Car
On reverse: Mrs H. J. Kelley
216 A st. S. W. Ardmore, Okla
14X20 -Crayon Bust of x

example from LOST GALLERY


Atcheson, KS, 26 Sep 1872


(#02) photographer:
H. J. Purnelle (Seneca, Kansas)
Rail Road Photo Car

Harry J Purnelle
(1859 - 13 Oct 1919)

Not much has been found so far on this photographer. Research was plagued by record keepers who shifted back and forth between H. J., Harry and Henry for a given name. Sometimes it was the same person; sometimes it was a fork in the road.

His Railroad Car Photo Studio moved around often and so there are few city records of him. He visited smaller towns which often didn’t even have a city directory. And even if they did, the Railroad Studio didn’t stay long enough to get a listing in one. There are some little bits in newspapers but they don’t tell much about the photographer except his location on a specific date. One paper in 1894 even calls him Mrs. Purnelle and indeed his wife may well have been working with him.

H. J. Purnelle was also not the ONLY photographer using a railroad car as a photograph studio. Traveling in the same era also were several other railroad itinerant photographers, one source even claims there were hundreds. Here are a few names: Hutchings Brothers, J. B. Shane, J. J. Pursiey, Frank Jay Haynes and his Palace Railroad Photo Car, J. B. Silvis, Fallman, Orris Hunt, Wilson, Frederick W. Jorns, W Fischer, M V Rowley, and William L. Harrod.

The time line here is assembled mostly from small news items from local newspapers. Since the cabinet cards he produced are imprinted only with “H. J. Purnelle, Rail Road Photo Car” it is unknown where he was when the photographs were finished.

1959 born Harry J. Purnelle in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England
1880 Living in Seneca, KS
1884 Photographic Times news item that H. J. Purnelle of Seneca, KS, has sold out
1891 May 29 Cherryvale, KS, suggests partnership with Willett
1891 Dec 15 Pittsburgh, KS
1892 Jan 19 Pittsburgh, KS
1892 Dec 16 Wellington, KS, sued the City of Caldwell, KS
1894 Oct 03 Ardmore, OK
1894 Oct 06 Ardmore, OK
1896 Dec 16 Belle Plain, KS
1910 May 12 Larkin, KS
1919 Oct 13 Dies in Syracuse, KS


Cherryvale, KS, 29 May 1891

Cherryvale, KS, 03 Jul 1891

Pittsburgh, KS, 12 Dec 1891

Pittsburgh, OK, Daily 19 Jan 1892

Lakin, KS, 06 Oct 1894

Note that in a town that perhaps has an established local photograph studio, the arrival of an itinerant competitor is not always good news. In the above clipping, the portion on the left is apparently a paid advertisement.

Wellington, KS, Voice 16 Dec 1892

Ardmore, OK, Daily, 06 Oct 1894

Belle Plaine, KS, 17 Dec 1910

Lakin, KS, 12 May 1910


At the right are two more examples of the work of the Purnelle railroad car.

Note the backdrop scene in the first example is the same as the three in the next row.


(#03) photographer: H J Purnell
Railroad Photo Car
example from Portal to Texas History

(#04) photographer: H J Purnell
Railroad Photo Car
example from Portal to Texas History

The three cards at the right are from one family collection. They are unidentified but it is quite likely they are all related in some way.

Note the backdrop scene is the same in all three and the chair is the same in the first two.
Examples #01, #02, #03, #05 and #08 are the same imprint design.

Note also that the third example has a different imprint design. It is probably the same studio however as the backdrop matches those used in cabinet cards identifying Purnelle as photographer. Of course it could have been done by another photographer after Purnelle gave up the railroad studio.

There were many such railroad galleries. There was one in Gainesville, TX, in the summer months of 1892 operated by the Saint Louis Art Gallery.

Gainseville, TX, Daily Hesperian - 26 May 1892


(#05) photographer: H J Purnell
Railroad Photo Car
example from contributor
Megan Green McWilliams

(#06) photographer: H J Purnell
Railroad Photo Car
example from contributor
Megan Green McWilliams

(#07) photographer: Railroad Photo Car
example from contributor
Megan Green McWilliams


(#08) photographer: Railroad Photo Car
backdrop same as #03, #05, #06, #07
example from contributor
Patricia(Neighbors)Kinder

The card at the right is owner dated on the reverse "1848" which is probably not accurate. The cabinet card format began around 1862, 14 years later.


(#09) photographer: Railroad Photo Car
Probably NOT Purnell
example from Portal to Texas History

Not the one you were looking for? Here's the photographer's INDEX by name. Listed here are all the Cabinet Card photographers of the 19th century found in LOST GALLERY. This is a work in progress. For a look at the original postings go to LOST GALLERY.

Some examples on this page have been enhanced or restored for clarity and presentation here.

This page is free for educational and research purposes only but, as always, if the original owner of any of these examples objects to the use on this page, they will be immediately removed.

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