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Detail of Frances Benjamin Johnston business greeting and calendar for 1904, with photo. 1904. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.23959

New Year Greetings from Photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston

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“Greetings and Hearty Good Wishes for the New Year from Frances Benjamin Johnston” reads this combination business card, greeting card, and 1904 calendar from photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston. In 1904, Johnston was thirty years old, had a home photo studio in Washington, D.C., at 1332 V Street, and was already well-established in the capital city. She started photographing U.S. presidents and their families starting with Benjamin Harrison in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Her career evolved for decades, and by the time of this card, she was working as a photojournalist, and would later specialize in architecture and landscape photography. But in this moment, she was sending good wishes to friends and potential clients alike, with a photo of herself taken during a trip out West:

Frances Benjamin Johnston business greeting card and calendar for 1904, with photo. 1904. Frances Benjamin Johnston Supplemental Archives. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.23959

My curiosity led me to view this original item. It’s a trifold paper card that was closed with an embossed orange seal, as seen below:

Exterior of Frances Benjamin Johnston business greeting card and calendar for 1904, with photo. Frances Benjamin Johnston Supplemental Archives. Photo by P&P Staff, 2024. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.23959

I focused in with one of my colleagues, who spotted Johnston’s initials embossed on the torn seal – F and B. Presumably J was on the missing part:

Detail of exterior of Frances Benjamin Johnston business greeting card and calendar for 1904, with photo. Frances Benjamin Johnston Supplemental Archives. Photo by P&P Staff, 2024. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.23959

My quick perusal of additional ephemera in the Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection turned up a match for the rest of the seal’s imagery. The logo is used on the cover of this small pamphlet from the Curtis Publishing Company, which advertises an 1897 article written by Johnston for The Ladies’ Home Journal, entitled “What a Woman Can Do with a Camera”:

Amateur Photography. Pamphlet by Curtis Publishing Copany, circa 1897. Frances Benjamin Johnston Supplemental Archives. Photo by P&P Staff, 2024.

The central symbol of the graphic used on the cover shows the front of a large camera and lens from that era. Note the presence of such a camera in the very home studio Johnston mentions in her greeting card, bringing us full circle:

Interior of Frances Benjamin Johnston’s studio at 1332 V St. NW, Washington, D.C., showing a large camera and props arranged for a portrait. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, circa 1900. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04831

I’ll echo Ms. Johnston – 120 years later – by sending you all hearty good wishes for the new year!

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Comments (2)

  1. Nice photos. Thanks for sharing them.

  2. This is great fun to see — an unexpected perspective on a photographer we all admire. I will now see sunflowers as, um, flashguns! Many thanks.

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