Introducing the Aultman Studio Collection

With the Winter Prather collection finished, I’m pleased to introduce the massive Aultman Studio collection, the next set of materials up for processing as part of the NHPRC 20th Century Photograph Collections Grant Project. In comparison to the two NHPRC Project collections that I’ve already processed, (the David DeHarport collection and the Winter Prather collection), this one is monstrous in size. Unprocessed materials in the Aultman Studio collection are a whopping 87 linear feet, the largest photograph collection in History Colorado’s holdings, and will take about nine months to process. So expect to hear much, much more about the Aultmans in the coming months!

The size of the collection is a testament to the longevity of the Aultman studio, which operated continuously out of Trinidad, Colorado from 1890 to 2000. The Aultman Studio got its start when a Trinidad photographer, J.F. Cook, fled Colorado with a $1500 loan he had received from a young bank clerk named Oliver E. Aultman. To recoup his financial losses, Aultman took over Cook’s photography business and opened the Aultman Studio.

The untrained Aultman taught himself photography, began to take customers, and quickly became a success. In 1902, Aultman hired a young woman, Susan Jane Rowland Snodgrass (known as “Jennie”,) as a receptionist and hand-colorer. A recent widow,Jennie found that working in the studio helped distract her from her grief. Aultman and Jennie were eventually married in 1904. Their son, Glenn, would later work alongside his parents in the studio. He took the business over from his father in 1952 and remained its chief photographer for the next fifty years.

The Aultman Studio collection is not only remarkable for its size but also for the diversity of the subjects depicted in its portraits. Oliver Aultman was never one to discriminate against a paying customer, and as a result, the Aultman studio collection is a unique visual record of Trinidad’s early residents. Trinidadians of African-American, Japanese, Hispanic, Native-American, and European descent all posed for Oliver and Glenn Aultman in their studio.The Aultmans also documented citizens of various professions including miners, bankers, shopkeepers, ranchers, and even prostitutes.

Also included in the Aultman Studio collection are the family’s personal photographs. Family get-togethers, trips to California, and explorations of the Southern Colorado have all been lovingly documented in countless negatives, prints, and hand-made albums. In addition, images created by Oliver Aultman’s brother, Otis, can also be found in the collection. With help from Oliver, Otis opened his own photography studio in Trinidad in 1892. In contrast to his brother, Otis preferred to shoot town events and take portraits outdoors. Otis left town in 1909. He was later employed as a news photographer and became known for his images of the Mexican Revolution.

Interested in checking out some Aultman images? 1900 of the Aultman studio negatives have already been digitized and available on History Colorado’s Online Collections. In addition, researchers can search the Aultman studio registers via an online database. The database lists the names of people who either appeared in the photos or ordered them from the studio.

— By Adrienne Evans, Colorado 20th Century Photo Collections Project Archivist


Originally published at historycolorado.org on April 19, 2016.