Friday, September 14, 2018

John K Stevens

Photographer: Stevens Art Studio
McVickers Theater Bldg, Chicago

John K Stevens
(1838 Jul - )
Over 700 ads were found for the Stevens studio the name varying between J. K. Stevens, J. K. Stevens Co. and J. K. Stevens and Son. They seem to overlap between 1881 and 1900. There is some evidence that J. K. Stevens himself died as early as 1901 though no documentation has been found. His son Lester probably kept the business going. It appears the studio name carried on until 1905 when it was changed in court to Gibson, Sykes and Fowler studios.

1838 July
Stevens born in Erie, NY
Stevens starts as helper in Alfred Pattiana’s old portrait studio at 75 Lake; res on State st
1858 Jul 04
marriage to Mary Brown in Knox, IL
Stevens opens own studio at West Madison st, Chicago, IL
1863 Dec 15
Son Lester Webb Stevens born in Chicago, IL
Misawaka, IN, gazetteer as photographer on Main
daughter Mary Grace born in Indiana
1870 - 1874
Chicago city directory as photographer; res 163 Halstead, Chicago, IL

1876 Jul 24
Chicago Tribune news item announcing J. K. Stevens to retire turning the studio over to W. A. Armstrong at 75 Madison st

Chicago (IL) Tribune Sun - 24 Jul 1876

Chicago (IL) Tribune Sun - 1876 Oct 08

1877 Jan 27
Inter Ocean news item his “retirement” obviously a ruse, J. K. Stevens opens new location at Madison and Robey sts

Chicago (IL) Inter Ocean - 7 Dec 1887

1877 Jul 08
Chicago Tribune as for studio at 85-87 Madison, opposite McVickers Theater
1878 Mar 10
Chicago Tribune Sun party at residence of J. K. Stevens, 271 Park av
1878 Jul 13
Inter Ocean ad studio at 85-87 East Madison st over Hershey Music Hall; 271 Park
Chicago Tribune 3 ads for studio at 786 West Madison
Chicago Tribune 20 ads for studio at 108 Dearborn, Chicago, IL

1881 Oct 25
marriage to Addie B. Cater
1881 Apr 10
Chicago Daily Tribune ad studio at 108 Dearborn and 786 W Madison
1881 Aug 07 - 1882 Jan 08
Chicago Daily Tribune ad as JK Stevens, studio at 108 Dearborn st
1883 Jun 17
Chicago Tribune ad/news item puts Stevens studio at 108-110 Dearborn st
1885 Jan 13
Inter Ocean ad for studio 106-108-110 Dearborn st; later same year moves to McVickers Bldg
1887 Jan 27 - 1892 Oct 12
Inter Ocean many ads for J K Stevens at McVickers Building
1887 Jan 27 - 1892 Oct 12
Inter Ocean ads for J K Stevens at McVickers Building
1889 Oct 04 - 1900 Jul 18
Inter Ocean news ads now as J. K. Stevens and Son
1890 Jan 18 - 1900 Aug 13
Inter Ocean ads Stevens and Son at McVickers Building
1892 Jan 31
Chicago (IL) Tribune Sun news item establishing photographic business incorporated, J. K. Stevens, Charles H. Stevens and Addie B. Stevens (The relationship of Charles H. Stevens to the rest of the family is unknown at this time.)

1895 May 30
Chicago Inter Ocean Sun son Lester Webb Stevens opens gallery at 699 Washington blvd
1900 Jun 01
Chicago, IL, US census lists photographer John K. Stevens, wife Addie B. and son Harry K.
1901 Feb 10
Chicago Inter Ocean news item short bio about J. K. Stevens
Chicago, IL, city directory NO listing for any of the family; odd entry in business section as Stevens and Son, 78 Madison
1904 Jan 12
Chicago Inter Ocean news item death of Harry Kimble Stevens, aged 20, funeral at residence 690 Washington blvd
1905 Apr 12
Inter Ocean news item J. K. Stevens & Sons, Chicago; Name changed to Gibson, Sykes and Fowler studios

The cabinet card represented here must have been finished between 1885 and about 1900.

Chicago (IL) Inter Ocean - 10 Feb 1901

Photographer: Stevens Art Studio
McVickers Theater Bldg, Chicago
example from auction site

Photographer: Stevens
McVickers Theater Bldg, Chicago
example from Flickr member T Conrad

reverse of the cabinet card on the left

Photographer: Stevens
McVickers Theater Bldg, Chicago
example from Flickr member T Conrad

reverse of the card on the left

photographer: Stevens
McVickers Theater building
example from T Conrad on Flickr

reverse of the card at the left

photographer Stevens, Chicago, IL
example from the
Pierce/Vaubel genealogy website
owner's estimated date c 1880

photographer Stevens, Chicago, IL
example from the
Pierce/Vaubel genealogy website
owner's estimated date c 1885

photographer: J K Stevens
"Elite Studio" Dearborn and Washington st "Branch Gallery"
example from Slices of Time
Finished between 1881 and 1885

photographer: J K Stevens and Son Co.
McVickers Theater Building
example from Slices of Time
Finished after 1889 when Stevens son was added as partner

photographer: Stevens
McVickers Theater Building
example from Slices of Time
Finished between 1885 and 1889 before Stevens' son is added as partner

photographer: Stevens
McVicker's Theater Bldg, Chicago, IL
example from Flickr member William Creswell

photographer J K Stevens
CDV example from auction site

photographer: Stevens
McVickers theater, Chicago, IL
example from Flickr member James Agnew

reverse of card at left

photographer: Stevens
McVickers Theatre Building, Chicago, IL
example from RedLead

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.


  1. Found and bought a photo of a mix race family taken by Stevens. I will be happy to send a digital copy of it and even the original.

    1. Thanks much! A good scan including the edges would be appreciated and added to the page with credit to you in any way you like. phase65 at yahoo dot com

  2. Are thesehoto cards valuable i have a photo album full???

    1. To a collector an album full of cabinet cards can be quite valuable. To a family member they would be priceless.

  3. On the off chance that somebody needs another household item, the principal intuition is to stroll in to a readymade furniture store and simply collect it when conveyed. Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer

    1. Sorry. I do not understand how this is related to old photographs.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Is there any significance to where John K. Stevens placed his logos? I have a copy of cabinet card photo that places the "McVicker's Theatre Building" on the lower left side of the photo, followed by Stevens Chicago". Many are labeled "Stevens" on the left side and "McVicker's" on the right. I'm trying to date the photo and I'm just wondering if this has any significance.

    1. Good question!

      So far I have discovered three basic ways that the cabinet card blanks were developed. The blank cards were often ordered pre-printed from a photo supply company or a printer. The printer has all the equipment necessary to cut the cards to size and print the desired identification and information on each. These cards often have a border line all the way around the edge of the card or have significant printing on the reverse side.

      Another way was to print each card as needed with a small hand operated press similar to a notary public’s seal. For photographers that moved from town to town, this would be a requirement. The logo or monogram could be pre-cast at a foundry or a print shop equipped for such work. Other parts, like town names, could be added with movable type or pre-cast slugs of a particular name, using the same ink color. These static parts could be moved left or right in the frame of the hand press and the cards printed as needed.

      A third method would combine pre-printed cards purchased in bulk, with hand printed parts added later. It appears Stevens had most of his mounting cards pre-printed on the reverse with additional identification added to the face of the card later.

      Your variation might have had a significant run of several months or was just a whim of the day. Stevens worked at the McVickers Building beginning January of 1885. By 1887 he was advertising as “Stevens and Son”. Best guess would date your card within those two years.

      No example like you describe has been found so far. If you send a clear scan or photograph of it, including the edges, I will add it to this page. Use the email address in the profile, link at the bottom of this page. Perhaps someone else will have the same version with a known date.

      Thanks for your question!

    2. Thank you so much for your quick response. Great information and I really appreciate it!

      I have one more question for you if you don't mind. I have a digital copy of a cabinet card photo that I obtained from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Massachusetts. It's a photo labeled Alexander Hancock (great grand-father of author Ernest Hemingway) and it was published as him in the book "The Hemingways Past & Present and Allied Families" by Patricia S. Hemingway.The problem is the photo has the "McVicker's Theatre Building" logo on it and Alexander died in 1864. This raised a red flag for me. My question is could someone in the family have taken an old photo of Alexander and had it remounted at a later date by Stevens while he was in the Theatre Building (explaining the logo on the photo). I'm not sure if this was common practice or even possible back then. If not then this is not Alexander in the photo. I appreciate any help!

    3. Making additional prints from filed negatives was big business. Also, copying an old print for reprinting in different format was also done a lot.

      And a popular item was a portrait with a “Ghost” of a deceased loved one hovering in the background. It was done in the darkroom combining the new negative with an old one in separate exposure times. The “Ghost” might be a current negative shot for the purpose of that print or more likely a copy of an existing print or a negative that could be 20 years older. Here are some examples of both:

      And copyright laws were somewhat lax back then. Photographers were known to do copies of other photographer’s work and sell them as “views” in the lobby of their own galleries. Famous people, events and buildings were popular subjects. Remember in that day, just a photograph was a novelty, regardless of subject.

      It sounds like a reprint to me. That’s about all I can add without seeing the actual item. I hope this helps.


    4. Thanks for the information! I really appreciate it and this helps a lot. The "Ghost" images are a little creepy lol....but very interesting.




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